The thirst for perfection

Remembering Guru Dutt through his timeless classics

Published - October 13, 2017 01:40 am IST

MASTER AT PLAY Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman in ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool'

MASTER AT PLAY Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman in ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool'

To masters of film making, he remains the quintessential Guru of cinema! Else, what other sobriquet can you give to a man who, before his death at the age of 39 (On October 10, 1964), gave us the finest bouquet of Indian films? Genius too could be another epithet to define the prowess of Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone but the change of his name to Guru Dutt was probably destiny’s way of stamping its approval on his innate brilliance.

A sensitive magician unravelling “telling” images out of his hat, Guru’s cinematic mirror was simple yet profound and his films entrenched our inner screens like evergreen poems that gently reside in memories forever. Everlasting works of arts are woven like poems; personal dilemmas, injuries and interactions are painstakingly scripted to resonate universal truths and inspirations! Greater the artist, the greater is the personalised interpretation imbued with rarest of insights and universality of an experience.

As a master cinematic painter, Guru Dutt knew that unlike a photograph, a painting was an inspired creation of reality and that is why his films are poetic visions on celluloid canvas. Guru used light, shade, silences and songs as tools to create outstanding cinematic metaphors.Rewinding just a few scenes would show why Guru Dutt is held in such high esteem by the film fraternity.

With all its pathos and heart breaks, “Pyaasa” would not have made such a telling impact in the end if poet Vijay had not been put up like a crucified Christ across the doorway. Guru’s backlight provides a halo to the poet rendering “Yeh Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaaye To Kya Hai” and the anguished cry explodes the filth of capitalism, the futility of achievement and the steam rolling of labour like a tight slap upon the society by an individual. The crescendo of the Sahir-Rafi-SD Burman combine is possibly one of the greatest songs of Indian cinema but its mesmerising effect is heightened by brilliant shot taking whereby viewers are made to realise of being the exploiters as well as victims of the system. It is to Guru's credit that all sympathies are with the poet when he bids adieu to the commercial world and while many have attributed this as a defeatist attitude, what isn’t understood is that it is the rejection of an unjust system by a strong and noble character. Results did prove Guru’s overruling of writer Abrar Alvi’s scene to script a new end was correct as most saw it as a powerful indictment of the system.

Guru Dutt.

Guru Dutt.

Film folklore

While his directorial genius abounds in all his films, refer to the “twin souls” merging scene of “Kaagaz ke Phool” that has become part of film folklore and enunciates the affinity in more effective manner than words could ever do. It is akin to the delicate scene of “Pyaasa” wherein the heroine’s soul is torn apart by Geeta Dutt’s haunting “Aaj Sajan Mohe Ang Laga Lo” but the poet is oblivious of her affections. The contradiction of the lyrics vis-à-vis their helpless situation is a poignant depiction of love and its many splendoured facets.

Before turning to the dark side of love and longing, Guru Dutt explored the noir in his crime thrillers “Baazi” and “Jaal” and presented a morally ambiguous hero much before ‘angry young man’ took birth.

Be it romance, comedy, action or suspense, Guru had an unerring edge over his peers and his song picturisations are still marvelled at for their style, grace as well as breathtaking visuals and intercuts. It is well known that even in films like “Sahib, Biwi aur Ghulam” and “Chaudhvin ka Chand” which he didn't direct, the captivating song sequences were his creations. That is why it is difficult to fathom why a man who could feel the lyrics and rhythm in his breath or was an anchor to many friends like Rehman, Dev Anand, V.K. Murthy, Abrar Alvi, Johnny Walker and who had a great love for life and its myriad images would ever commit suicide. One tends to agree with his son that it was a bad cocktail of liquor and sleeping pills that went awry… ah, if only he was directing rather than living the “scene”, we would have had many more celluloid creations rather than the tragedy that lingers on even after the long hiatus. But didn’t they say that those whom Gods love more, die young?

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