TEN YEARS WITH GURU DUTT — Abrar Alvi’s Journey: Sathya Saran; Penguin Books Pvt. Ltd., 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Enclave, New Delhi-110017. Rs. 499.
When one of India’s most celebrated film-makers ended his life abruptly, it shook the film firmament in particular and the country at large. Some believed it happened because of his troubled relationship with his wife, while others believed he was just disillusioned with life itself. Well, the truth? Nobody knows for sure. For Guru Dutt, a man of few words, had but a few friends. But those few could read him like an open page. One such was scriptwriter-director Abrar Alvi. His ten years with the film-maker were filled with happy moments, bitter fights, plenty of fun and of course, the fracas over who directed “Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam”. It is his recollection of those unforgettable times that fill the pages of veteran journalist Sathya Saran’s book, “Ten Years With Guru Dutt: Abrar Alvi’s Journey”.
It was an interview with Alvi in a newspaper that got Saran thinking about getting Alvi to put down his memories on paper. Though hesitant initially, Alvi eventually decided to revisit his past and tell the story of his friend, perhaps, one of Indian cinema’s most creative auteurs. Alvi’s association with Dutt saw the coming together of two creative artistes who complemented each other beautifully through the making of such classics as “Aar Paar”, “Mr. & Mrs. 55”, “Pyaasa”, “Kaagaz Ke Phool”, “Chaudhvin ka Chand” and “Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam”.
Every chapter is mostly a first person account by Alvi interspersed with Saran’s comments. Alvi talks about Dutt’s association with other friends — actors Johnny Walker (who was often considered a lucky mascot) and Mehmood, his constant cinematographer V.K. Murthy, his chief assistant Raj Khosla, and his muse, Waheeda Rahman, among others.
There are many interesting titbits that make for an interesting read. Alvi met Gulaboo, a nautch girl, whose life caught his fancy. He then put down her life on paper and what came from it was the character of Gulabo, immortalised by Waheeda Rahman in “Pyaasa”. What many may not know is that Dilip Kumar was the first choice for the poet’s role finally played by Dutt himself.
A large part of the book is devoted to “Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam” which many believe was Meena Kumari’s finest performance. Who directed the film? Though most critics feel Dutt’s stamp was very obvious throughout the film, Alvi says emphatically, “I did”, and goes on to tell the world about his clashes with Dutt and how he got to make the film the way he had written it. The song sequences were directed by Guru Dutt, though. (“Nobody directed sequences quite like Guru Dutt”). In fact, Alvi’s relations with Dutt soured considerably after that, so much so he was bitter for a long time that he did not get his due, despite having “ample proof that I had directed it.”
Saran adopts a simple, no frills style, which is effective. The chapter titles are cleverly done, with lines picked from some evergreen melodies from Dutt’s films. If the chapter on events that led up to Dutt’s death is titled “Bichde Sabhi Bari Bari”, the one on his relationship with Waheeda Rehman and his wife Geeta Dutt is simply called “Kaisa Pyaar Kaisi Preet Re”!
The book may not unravel the mystery that was Guru Dutt. But it paints a picture of creative partnership, which resulted in an invaluable contribution to Hindi cinema. The book is “for every film goer who has been enchanted by the magic of Guru Dutt films.”