July 10, 2007

A Tribute To Guru Dutt On His Birth Anniversary

Filed under: India n Me,Movies,Of men women and Eunuchs,opinions,Random — Kaveeta Oberoi Kaul @ 2:57 pm
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Kaveeta Kaul

Guru Dutt..the mere mention of the name conjures up a memory of those eyes, which seemed piercing but simultaneously hypnotic, romantic, questioning therefore, melancholic.They were as if making an assertion of having seen it, lost it as well, realising en route. the futility of it all !

In the short span of 39 years that he graced this planet, Guru Dutt has left an indelible mark on Indian cinema..never to be replicated or bettered but perhaps only imitated.

He began his career as a choreographer at the age of 21 which led him to meet Dev Anand via ‘exchanged shirts’ at the ‘Dhobi’ ( Laundry) This proved a turning point, for both. Guru Dutt went on to give Navketan its first hit in ‘Baazi’, which marked his debut as Director, displaying immense chutzpah at the age of 26..There was no looking back. In the genre of crime thrillers of that era Guru Dutt began his trilogy and continued with ‘Aar Paar and ‘Jaal’.

Marriage came soon after with beautiful lissome Geeta Roy in 1953, who went on to becoming his heroine and also a singer par excellence. Her mellifluous voice, effortless and as if wafting through, inherent with melody left many a listener enthralled. Their marriage however could not withstand the uncertainties that life often presents. His early success, passionate ambition, restless angst, coupled with his alleged liaison with his discovery Waheeda Rehman led to its disintegration.

Reflecting the changing scenario of the 50’s when Industrialization in its nascence had as if shaken up the structure of social thought, Guru Dutt went on to make ‘Mr and Mrs 55’, ‘Pyaasa’, ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’. Not remotely interested however in being didactic, he reacted to his environs through the prism of a poetic, sensitive soul.Every director worth his salt has at some time or another bowed in deference to the genius of Guru dutt as evident in these films.

‘Pyaasa’ went on to becoming a runaway hit. It has been rated one of the best 100 films of all times by Time magazine.The protagonist struggling against the philistines on one hand as a budding writer and insanely holding on to the passion of his writings on the other, set against the backdrop of a life caught between a jilted love and a disloyal brother, was insidiously meant to juxtapose his anguish as a film maker caught in the pangs of a commercial web where his talent was if gasping for life, choked by antithetical powers.

The last scene of the inherent ‘crucifixion’, although lost on the populace, pulsating with emotion, backed with lyrics ‘”Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaya to ky hai” ( if one gets the world to what avail) turning his back on the aberrant ways of a whimsical audience, opting instead for the love of a street walker, is a moment in Indian cinema which will be remembered for aeons, if not one fervently and piously hopes.

Talent, genius, creativity does not always meet with applause, recognition, rewards in direct proportion. Oftentimes, rejection is its fate and a heartbroken soul its destiny. Only to be catapulted generations later into the realm of legends, with their works of art under scrutiny then sung paeans to. This has happened with Mirza Ghalib, Van Gogh and to a large extent with Guru Dutt.

‘Kaagaz ke phool’ many like me opine is his best work . It spoke of the tragedy of a film maker and the effervescence of fickle fame, shifty and unpredictable. If art be a marriage between conscious and unconscious, then this piece of work was only a narration of his state of mind strung together, interwoven through the words of his characters. The amalgamation of its songs, lyrics and picturisation which were by now Guru Dutts forte, brought a lump to ones throat.

Showing a keen sense of cinematography, the play of shadows and light in his films has been as if a University in story telling for some makers.

The ‘beam shot’ which caught the fancy of every maker then, in the song ‘ waqt ne kiya kya hunsi situm’ had always perplexed one as to its execution and I was curious to know the details of its picturisation. The cinematographer V.K. Murthy in an interview explains thus:

Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam was a milestone in terms of lighting. We were shooting a difficult scene in Natraj Studio in the afternoon, and the light came through the ventilator. The beam looked so good that I showed it to Guru Dutt. He said we would use that in our film, but it was complicated.

He asked me to use sunlight. So we brought two huge mirrors and kept one outside the studio in the sun, that reflected the light onto another mirror, kept on the catwalk, and opened the balcony door to the studio. Light reflected from one to the other and the beam was created. We added some smoke to it, and that scene became a phenomenal craze in the history of cinematography!

Yeh daulat yeh takhton yeh taajon ki duniya’ bespoke of the genius of Sahir Ludhianvi as much as it did of the maker Guru Dutt. It is unforgettably poignant. Never again has this story been re-made although one is almost certain of the Universality of the sentiment portrayed. Is it because the memory is yet fresh despite having unfolded more than half a century ago? Or is the Original so rich that the copy will always be second best? Or is it because filmdom steeped as it is in superstitions, shied away from one which suggested that ‘films on film makers ..flop”.

Yes this film failed so miserably at the box office that Guru Dutt lost his confidence forever and never went on to lending his name as Director to a film again.. although Chaudhvin Ka Chaand’ and ‘ Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam’ which he produced and acted in, were rumored ostensibly to bear his stamp.

A man peremptory in his demands as a maker, paradoxically chose deathly silence when his expectations from life proved tangentially in opposition to how events unfolded. Dismal over the lack of control in life and its sequential occurrences, Guru Dutt gave up fighting. Bereft of strong emotional anchors, his family had left, his friends had moved on and loneliness as if the final inevitability, he succumbed to the vagaries of a depressed mental state.

The nihilism theory so creatively propounded in his films proved prophetic, or were they intended to be autobiographical? He is reported to have told his cameraman

em> Pyaasa: Agar yeh duniya mujhe mil bhi jaye to kya hai. I asked him why he said that suddenly and he said, ‘Mujhe waise he lag raha hai. Dekho na, mujhe director banna tha, director ban gaya; actor bana tha, actor ban gaya; picture achcha banane tha, ache bane. Paisa hai, sab kuch hai, par kuch bhi nahi raha [I feel this way. I wanted to become a director, I became one; I wanted to become an actor, I became one; I wanted to make good films, I made them. I have money, I have everything, yet I have nothing]

A film maker who pioneered the use of close ups in emotional scenes, perhaps had seen life at close quarters ‘ up close and personal’ and decided one day to shake off his enchantment with it…

Guru Dutt died of an overdose of sleeping pills on October 10th 1964.

P.S. It would hve been a shame not to include a vignette from Guru Dutts repertoire in the vodpod. Accordingly have added “ Jaane woh kaise log the jinko” from “Pyaasa” and the film “ Kaagaz ke phool” in Kavee’s vodpod. Although this viewing will in no manner replicate the experience of seeing his films in a theatre, the right way of seeing films made by these masters, nevertheless, it might afford you a glimpse into the genius that was Guru Dutt.

Wiki page on Guru Dutt

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  1. I wonder if good DVDs of Guru Dutt movies are available ?

    Comment by Shaan Khan — July 10, 2007 @ 7:14 pm | Reply

  2. Kaveeta moving tribute to one of the greatest film makers of India. I often see his movies on a sunday afternoon without tiring of repetitive viewing which to my mind speaks for itself.

    Comment by dilip — July 10, 2007 @ 7:16 pm | Reply

  3. Yes they are available..all his films are a big deal on the dvd circuit.. atleast in India. He is revered.

    Hi dilip..True.. repeat value is such a rare attribute. I have in my entire life seen repeatedly only Guru Dutts films, Sadma with Kamal hassan, Mr. India, Chupke chupke, Hum dil de chuke,Arth, Lamhe, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Sholay, Abhimaan..thats all I can remember off hand..

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — July 10, 2007 @ 10:26 pm | Reply

  4. Guru Dutt and Geeta Dutt. Why did they leave so early? It is difficult to find a movie maker like Guru Dutt now. I still remember when I saw , Kagaz Ke Phool the first time, I could not resist seeing it again. Kagaz Ke Phool is a repeat for me , so many times. Every time I see that movie , I see something new to interpret. You can do a PhD thesis on this and many of Guru Dutt movies. There is no Alvida for Guru Dutt’s movies. I feel that these new film makers should be given some course work or paatshala type lessons in making movies like Guru Dutt. Ekdhum tough exams hona hai for the new film makers on Guru Dutt’s movies. Agar fail ho gaya Guru Dutt ka course work me, tho pass hone thak , film nahi banana (asli banana nahi) ka.

    Comment by gajanan — July 11, 2007 @ 5:12 am | Reply

  5. Gajanan ..if that be the yardstick..koiee bhi pass nahin hone ka 🙂

    Comment by dilip — July 11, 2007 @ 12:10 pm | Reply

  6. I believe he directed all the songs in the other films..cant forget ‘chaudhvin ka chand ho’ it was so pure and romantic.,,and in Shaib bibi the whole look of Meena Kumari and the character, it was so beautiful. Only a master like they are making a re make of it..with priyanka me how can you reproduce that? they tried on tv too.. have u seen it raveen playing the was pathetic..went off air within no time. I think it came in sahara and that too becoz she has made Subroto her brother. otherwise who would think of re making so lavishly for tv and that too with raveena!

    Comment by Neha — July 11, 2007 @ 12:29 pm | Reply

  7. Dilip saab, some sense and sensiblity is required in Hindi films. Guru Dutt was a great experimentalist and a theoretician packed in one. This dich ku, dich ku music and irrelevant pomp can be removed if told in, a la Guru Dutt style. You can call him the IIT of film making or even extend beyond India and call him the Harvard of film making.

    Comment by gajanan — July 12, 2007 @ 4:32 am | Reply

  8. Hi Kaveeta ,

    Thanks for the post.It was interesting knowing the maestro , i haven’t seen any of his films , i just heard about Pyaasa ,Sahib biwi aur ghulam .I don’t know much about the veterans and the old films , so for me it was really nice knowing the ‘Genius Guru’ .

    Comment by Laxmi — July 13, 2007 @ 1:30 pm | Reply

  9. Kaveetaji,

    you have written a very beautiful article on Guru dutt. It is very touching! The depression of his life reflected in his movies. The sad poetic lyricism and haunting images of his movies leaves you in a state of flux. Film making was an obssession with him and this extra passion ultimately drove him to the point of no return. He had reached the zenith of his career after “Pyaasa” and “Kagaz ke phool”, After these two movies, there was nothing better to be achieved and this created a vaccum in his life. Perhaps this emptiness caused him to take his own life.

    Comment by arun bajaj — July 13, 2007 @ 6:39 pm | Reply

  10. Hi Laxmi,

    If there was one Director whose work is a ‘must watch’ it would have to be Guru Dutt. To me this is what films and film making is all about. An experience which satisfies all the senses. leaving you sufficiently moved. Do watch and let me know what you felt.

    Hi Arun ji,

    Thanks a ton for your kind words.

    Yes its true that his passion/obsession with perfection towards his craft made him unhappy to the extent that he was not really able to enjoy his successs. I guess this is the price a creative mind sometimes has to pay for its extreme sensitivity. The element that keeps you going is like a double edged sword, which also has the power to destroy you.

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — July 14, 2007 @ 10:16 am | Reply

  11. Hey Guys..have added ‘jaane woh kaise’ from Pyaasa and the film Kaagaz ke phool in the vodpod. Even this minimalistic viewing, over your comp will not fail to afford you the genius and the soul of Guru Dutt.

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — July 14, 2007 @ 1:50 pm | Reply

  12. Your site has won a Blog of the Day Award (BOTDA)

    Award Code

    Thank you,

    famous quotes

    Comment by quotes — July 16, 2007 @ 7:16 am | Reply

  13. Hi kaveetaa,

    Congrats! on winning “Serendipity Sunday Blog of the Day Awards for Sunday July 15, 2007 ” .Keep up the good work …hoping many more pleasant surprises in the future….God bless you .


    Comment by Laxmi — July 16, 2007 @ 3:09 pm | Reply

  14. Thanx Laxmi..This did come as a surprise! and I was quite amused that you knew more than me about the award and ‘Serendipity Sunday’..You see I hadnt scrolled down o the award page.But well the bottom line ( read para) was kinda flattering.. so felt all gooey and warm inside.I am quoting it here in case you missed it and also to show off a bit…after all days such as these dont come often in the lonely life of a blogger..sigh.. Gosh just how filmi can one get 🙂

    Blog of the Day Awards offers the best selection of weblogs and famous blogs on a variety of topics. Selection of Best Blogs of the Day is usually done a few days ahead of time based on nominations up to that point. Criteria include content, quality, creativity, and the personal opinion of the judges. Judges grant up to four awards each day in recognition of outstanding nominees who are recommended by visitors to the site and by a panel of judges who bestow the honor of a Daily Blog Award upon the recipients. Being named a Blog of the Day Awards Winner can be the crowning achievement of a lifetime of work or it can be the beginning of a new chapter in the life of a blogger. Presentation of these awards can bring acclaim and notoriety beyond their wildest imaginings. The accolades and praise heaped upon winners of these prestigious awards can be best described as fabulous and the stuff of legends. We don’t care what blog hosting platform your weblog is hosted on. We want the best blogspot blogs, the best wordpress blogs, the best typepad blogs and so forth. .”

    Not bad!

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — July 16, 2007 @ 3:27 pm | Reply

  15. Hey Kaveetaa..thats great. Another feather in ur cap!! good on you… deserve it..but what no acceptance speech like last time?lol

    Comment by Neha — July 16, 2007 @ 6:12 pm | Reply

  16. gurudutt mesmerizing pure and simple!!!!

    Comment by hem — July 18, 2007 @ 9:26 am | Reply

  17. Thanks Neha..LOL..just like that wonly!! no speech. Amazed you remembered.


    Comment by kaveetaakaul — July 18, 2007 @ 12:02 pm | Reply

  18. i have heard a lot about him…but never got the chance to see his films… he must be a great person on his own to be able to make great films!

    Comment by malaika rizwi — September 7, 2007 @ 7:31 pm | Reply

  19. hey , though the article is well written, the yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaye song is from Pyaasa, not K K P.
    Just a correction.

    Comment by sathya saran — January 18, 2008 @ 7:02 pm | Reply

  20. But it has been mentioned as ‘Pyaasa’.

    Whilst referring to Pyaasa in the para above this, is the quote “The last scene of the inherent ‘crucifixion’, although lost on the populace, pulsating with emotion, backed with lyrics ‘”Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaya to ky hai” ( if one gets the world to what avail) turning his back on the aberrant ways of a whimsical audience,…..”

    Btw arent you The Sathya Saran..erstwhile editor of Femina ?

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — January 18, 2008 @ 7:31 pm | Reply

  21. […] I grew up amidst film crazy cousins; my father was a big fan of Guru Dutt, Nargis and Dilip Kumar. Hrishikesh Mukherjee is the most loved filmmaker in my extended family. So […]

    Pingback by Kamla Bhatt Blog » Books, Movies, Music, Televison Bollywood India Interviews People YouTube Videos » Interview: Film Critic Namrata Joshi — August 21, 2008 @ 10:03 am | Reply

  22. hello kavita
    it was so wonderful to visit yr website
    i regard GURU DUTT as the best film maker of that time and today also,he cant be compared with other people,even i am very frank to comment raj kapoor never had that sort of depth what GURU was having,though people talk more of rk movies than him,this is unfair,the beam shot of kagaj ke phool will support my comment,he was indiciplined charecter in his personnal life and he paid heavy price for that,but to me PYASA is one of the best film produced in bollywood.

    Comment by ashish chakraborty — September 19, 2008 @ 3:01 pm | Reply

  23. Thanks Ashish.

    Rk and Guru Dutt are two totally opposite kind of makers. Rk was more mass oriented so his grammar was different. But Yes Guru Dutt was in a league of his own and quite incomparable 🙂

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — September 20, 2008 @ 11:16 am | Reply

  24. Sorr Malaika..missed your comment. GD’s films are a must watch if you have to know the timber of Indian makers…go for it 🙂

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — September 20, 2008 @ 11:18 am | Reply

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