Tribute to Guru Dutt by Shaishavi Kadakia

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Guru Dutt

A man rejected in his lifetime, revered after his death. 

Guru Dutt was a strange man – an enigma. He was like grains of sand, one can hold them, but never grasp them. Guru Dutt did not just make movies, he conjured them. Unfortunately, no one gave him his due when he lived, not even he himself. The hunger for love, appreciation and perfection drove him to despair and alcoholism and finally consumed his life.

 Gham is qadar badhe ke main ghabrake pee gayaIs dil ki bebasi pe taras khake pee gayaThhukra raha tha mujhko badi der se jahanMain aaj sab jahan ko thhukra ke pee gaya.

Pyaasa, 1957.

 Guru Dutt’s Childhood: 

Gurudutta Padukone was born on the 9th of July, 1925, in Karnataka. He was not Bengali, as most people believe him to be. Yet, he was so enamoured by Bengal, where he stayed for a few years, that he changed his name to Guru Dutt (Dutt being a Bengali surname).

After learning dance from Uday Shankar’s dance academy at Almora, he set out for Bombay where he got his first break as a dance director in the 1948 movie Hum Ek Hain. Incidentally, this was Dev Anand’s first movie, too. And, as fate had it, Guru Dutt and Dev Anand met in strange circumstances (at the dhobi’s where their clothes had got exchanged), began a long friendship and a professional union.

 Guru Dutt’s First Brush with Films: 

Dev Anand had promised Dutt that if he ever made a movie under his own banner, he would sign him as director. He stayed true to his word and appointed Dutt the director of Baazi in 1951. There was no looking back for either of them after this.

Over the next 13 years Guru Dutt would make numerous memorable movies – some box-office hits, some bombs, but each one different from the other, each one a rare gem.

 Guru Dutt’s First Love:  

In the meanwhile, Guru Dutt fell in love with and married playback singer Geeta Roy and continued his Bengali fixation. Although, both were deeply in love and had 3 children together, theirs was a doomed relationship, one that would leave them pained souls finding solace only in the bottle.

 Success & Failures:  

As Guru Dutt’s list of hits grew, he gained confidence. His early movies were mainly breezy romantic movies. He dabbled in easy thrillers and soft comedies. His films and songs were of the light variety, possibly reflecting his care-free youthful days and a contended domestic life. But, he was soon to shock the audience with a hard-hitting, sombre and powerful movie – probably a movie borne out of some turmoil in his life.

 Two Notable Films:

  Pyaasa (1957) 

Although, Guru Dutt intended his later Kaagaz Ke Phool to be autobiographical, Pyaasa ended up being closer to his life in some senses. Pyaasa was a tale of a young Urdu poet, Vijay (Bijoy in Bengali), who preferred to die a hungry death than let his precious poems be sold to non-appreciative and cynical publishers. He refused to play to the gallery. He wrote about hunger and despair and poverty and strife, and not about love and lovers as people wanted him to write.

He was in love with a rich girl from his college, but of course, she left him as he had no money or means to support her lifestyle. Disillusioned with life, and frustrated with the growing poverty and inequality all around him, and disowned by his two brothers, Vijay vented out his emotions in his beautiful nazms.

 Tang aa chuke hain kashmakash-e-zindagi se hum

Thhukra na de jahan ko kahin bedili se hum

Hum ghum-zada hain, laye kahan se khushi ke geet

Denge wohi jo payenge is zindagi se hum…

Lo aaj humne tod diya rishta-e-umeedLo ab kabhi gila na karenge kisise hum.  

In the meantime, a prostitute, Gulabo, singing one of his own songs to solicit him, falls in love with him. For the first time in her life someone addresses her as aap.

It so happens that Vijay is mistakenly proclaimed as dead after a rail accident. In reality, he is alive in a hospital, without any reason to live. Gulabo decides that the least she can do for her lost love is to give him the recognition he deserved. She collects his poems and gives them to Vijay’s former girlfriend (who by that time had married a wealthy book publisher and gained material comfort, but could never forget Vijay). The book was published – was an instant success and shair Vijay became the toast of the town. Suddenly, this everyone wanted to be associated with Vijay. Everyone wanted to cash in on his success. After all, they believed he was dead. But, he wasn’t dead.

Vijay came back only to see people jostling like animals to snatch a piece of his fame and fortune. Suddenly, Vijay no longer wanted anything that he had yearned for all his life – success, popularity, money and his ex-girlfriend. He had seen enough of this world, and he was disgusted. He wanted no part of this manipulative and capitalist world. A mortal blow had been dealt to his soul. He left this aalam-e-badhawasi, never to return.

 Yahan ek khilona hain insaan ki hasti

Yeh basti hain murda parasto ki basti

Yahan par toh jeevan se hain maut sasti

Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye toh kya hain.  

Pyaasa was a monumental work. It challenged society and her norms. It challenged the culture that gave more importance to money than human dignity. It challenged the system that produced alcoholics and prostitutes and encouraged brother to exploit brother. Pyaasa was the embodiment of the disillusionment and frustration which 10 years of captive independence had brought among the masses. It challenged Nehruvian socialism. Pyaasa was a pathbreaker and elevated its director to the realm of great movie-makers.

 Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) 

Regarded by many as Guru Dutt’s finest work, and possibly one of the finest movies ever made in India, Kaagaz Ke Phool finds its name in most movie directors’ list of top 5 Hindi movies, and in the curriculum of every course on cinema appreciation.

Kaagaz Ke Phool was Dutt’s magnum opus. It was meant to be a reflection of his life. He exhausted his energies behind this movie, and when it bombed at the box-office Guru Dutt was left completely disheartened and surging with self-doubt. If not the best movie ever, KKP is definitely the best movie not to be a popular success.

During the making of this movie, his affair with Waheeda Rehman (who made her debut in his movie CID) was at its peak. After the failure of KKP, their relationship disintegrated. He was an unsuccessful spent director and she was an upcoming young prodigy. Already hugely affected by his professional failure, Guru Dutt could never recover from his personal tragedies.

Kaagaz Ke Phool is the story of a movie director who discovers a crass, yet beautiful girl and transforms her into a moviedom’s objet du desir. They fall in love. He is a divorcee with a teenaged daughter. Their movie is a huge hit, but he is jealous of her popularity that soars over his. His next film flops and so does his stock. Soon he is rejected by everyone and he has no work in his hands, whereas, she is rapidly climbing the ladder of success. Their romance falls apart and the film director finds himself all alone in this cruel world, with nothing but his solitude and spirits to accompany him to his grave. The director is soon forgotten – the world waits for no man, let alone an unsuccessful man. He finally ends his life on the very same director’s chair that had once given him immeasurable adulation and later unbearable pain.

 Kya le ke mile ab duniya se,

Aansu ke siva kuch paas nahi

Ya phool hi phool the daaman mein,

Ya kaanton ki bhi aas nahi

Matlab ki duniya hai saari,Bichhade sabhi baari baari.  

KKP is like poetry in motion. Guru Dutt’s ingenious use of lighting and camera placement make every frame of this movie like a picture postcard. The pristine song Waqt Ne Kiya is considered by many to be one of the best examples of song picturisation. Guru Dutt’s innovative capacity and ability to bring to life his innovations is also seen in the song Saqiya from the movie Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam where the faces of all the dancers, save the main dancer, are covered by a shadow.

After KKP, Guru Dutt was emotionally a spent force and never directed a movie again, though he shadow directed movies such as Chaudvin Ka Chand and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. As the years progressed he became increasingly impulsive, short-tempered and reclusive. He began many movies and later shelved them. His relation with his wife was at an all time low. Unable to pick up the pieces of his crumbling life, he decided to give it all up. If he could not live with this world, this world must live without him.

 Ud jaa ud jaa pyaase bhanware

Ras na milega kharo me

Kaagaz ke phool jahan khilte hain

Baith na un gulzaro pe.  

On 10 October, 1964, Guru Dutt finally found the peace he had desired all his life.

 (Written by our member – Shaishavi Kadakia)

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