It was fun. Bunking school to watch “Guddi” where the protagonist mirrored many in the audience. It was early 70s and the beginning of a decade which was enriched with the best of Indian cinema. Rajesh Khanna had attained a super star status and Amitabh Bachchan was in the process of making his presence felt strongly.

“Guddi” preceded “Mili”, both characters striking an immediate bond with the viewer. “Guddi” was a challenging role for Jaya Bhaduri, an accomplished artist, and she did not fail her fans. The mischievous Kusum, fondly called Guddi, pampered at home, has a weakness for films, constantly exploring avenues to catch up on Dharmendra starrers, some more than once, twice, thrice.

Here, the hero is a fading star, who steals the young lady’s heart, her infatuation and the subsequent atonement of her folly a pleasant acceptance of reality. Chasing her dream man, Guddi watches the dark side of the film industry to discover the bitter truth of cinema. It is a cruel make-believe world where time does not wait for anyone, reducing stars of yesteryear to mere extras.

From the time the opening frames capture “Guddi” (Jaya Bhaduri) rushing to join the school assembly, with “Hum ko man ki shakti dena” lending a melodious touch to the proceedings, to the closing moments when she takes the decisive step to lock the man of her life is a delightful journey. There is Dharmendra as Dharmendra, Guddi as his silent admirer, and Samit as the lover who pines for her attention. And then there is Utpal Dutt in a cameo which only Utpal Dutt could deliver. The effortless ease with which he slipped into his characters made Utpal the lovable legend that he was. This was lively evidence.

“Guddi” was a Gulzar creation shaped by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. What a combination. Could cinema ever be mundane with these two in charge? Probably never! The story is simple. Guddi secretly loves Dharmendra the actor, not missing any of his movies. Her obsession with movies leaves Guddi’s family worried.

A chance encounter with her favourite actor leaves her certain that Dharmendra is her man. But Guddi’s sister-in-law (Sumita Sanyal) has her plans. Her brother Navin (Samit Bhanja) is a choice acceptable to everyone in the family. But how to win over Guddi, who reveals her one-sided attachment to Dharmendra to Navin. It is here that her maternal uncle Gupta (Utpal Dutt), a professor, and a delightful one at that, plays the match-maker, with tacit support from Dharmendra as they plot to show Guddi the difference between real and reel life.

Utpal Dutt, the affable mama, finds a way to reach Dharmendra, convinces him to influence Guddi’s thinking, using the medium of his profession to unite the young lovers. Guddi has just finished school and Navin is on the verge of landing his first job. Vacations take Guddi to Bombay. And uncle takes her to Dharmendra. Guddi is obviously in a trance but soon emerges from it to realize the importance of Navin in her life. Her transition from the skirt-wearing Guddi to a sari-clad Kusum is a well-conceived tale with Jaya Bhaduri playing the role to perfection, at her best when singing “Bole re papihara”, a timeless rendition by Vani Jayaram.

There are many excellent instances of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s direction. He gets each character to deliver, getting the best out of Jaya Bhaduri and Utpal Dutt. A family entertainer, “Guddi” is a movie that deals with the impact of cinema on people from all walks of life, highlighting the relationship between a star and a fan and a wannabe like Kundan (Asrani), who runs away from home chasing glamour but ending up a pauper.

The razzmatazz of cinema is exposed subtly by the director through a couple of incidents but the audience is regaled by fleeting guest appearances by Dilip Kumar, Pran, Om Prakash, Ashok Kumar, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan. Hrishikesh Mukherjee is the silent star of the movie even as Utpal Dutt steals the show on screen.

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

Genre: Family drama

Director: Hrishikesh Mukherjee

Cast: Dharmendra, Jaya Bhaduri, Sumita Sanyal, Utpal Dutt, Samit Bhanja, A.K. Hangal, Asrani, Keshto Mukherjee.

Story, dialogue and lyrics: Gulzar

Screenplay: Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Gulzar and D. N. Mukherjee

Music director: Vasant Desai

Lyricist: Gulzar

Box office status: Successful

Trivia: Jaya Bhaduri nominated for Filmfare Award for Best Actress. Cameos by several actors in the film.