Forty years after his baffling suicide, here comes a collection of letters written by one of Indian cinema's greats
Love does not help anyone survive. The loved one always leaves - The words may be of Agha Shahid Ali, a writer not so well known in this part of the world, but they mirror Guru Dutt's Weltanschauung. A man who faced the cruel turns of fate, desolation in life, crushing loneliness - his short life experienced it all. A lover not revived by love finally took his own life.What began as a spark ended in ashes as the 26-year-old filmmaker met the beauteous playback singer, Geeta Roy, in 1951. A long courtship, troubled marriage, and finally tragic suicide lay in wait. (Geeta also died early, her exceptional talent ruined by the tormented marriage and alcoholism.) But then Guru Dutt's tragic romance with Geeta Roy, then controversially with favourite actor Waheeda Rahman, was never a sad song all his own, according to author Nasreen Munni Kabir, who has brought some intimate letters of the legendary filmmaker to the public eye. They tell us what we always suspected: the man in love with Geeta courted tragedy. In his sorrow lay his craft; his art was just an extension of the artiste. Fine. But is it fair to dig into the life of a man not around to defend himself?Having just put together Yours Guru Dutt: Intimate Letters of a Great Indian Filmmaker, Nasreen says: "Guru Dutt's son, Arun, showed me the letters two years ago. We deliberated for a while. Some of them were so personal they were only meant for Geeta. Should they be seen? Then we realised that if we did not do anything, in another 20-odd years, they would be no more. They were folded and crumpled. It was a privilege to see these letters. I have not added any masala to them. It is more than 30 years since Geeta passed away. I did not want her to be trivialised even in memory. Nobody will be affected by the contents." She elaborates: "The very beautiful letters mirror the same personality as we have got used to on the screen. They are a major source of knowing the man, considering there are no long articles by him. From the letters it is clear that he was depressed. He had suicidal feelings since he was five! But he was able to articulate his pain through his films."Indeed, Guru Dutt could transmute the mundane into the magical on screen, the triumphant into the tragic. He died young, perhaps inevitable for somebody who courted death through the written word. Reasons Nasreen, whose work traces Guru Dutt's letters to his wife and two sons: "Most artistes are not sure of what they are making. When Guru Dutt was making films, it was the golden period of Hindi cinema. We had legends like Bimal Roy and Mehboob in the same decade. Guru Dutt then was an emerging young filmmaker. It could have led to certain complexities of character."
Handwriting shows it
Indeed, dissecting his handwriting, she states: "He was ahead of his times. But he was brooding, and living with a troubled genius was not always easy for anybody." The point is supported by men who lay stock on the points and slants of handwriting. "His handwriting shows that he was a depressed man," they insist. However, Nasreen has stayed clear of them in her 168-page book brought out by Roli Books. "People would have found it a bit gimmicky. But I have analysed the letters myself. By 1956-57 the letters became more matter-of-fact. That was the time anxiety went Even in this age of multiplexes and airhead stars, the lady believes sorrow, and indeed Guru Dutt still have takers. "He has an extraordinary number of fans. People who read and love cinema will love the book too."ZIYA US SALAM