Guru Dutt was undoubtedly the genius of Indian cinema. His untimely demise (at the age of 39 years only) did not dilute his greatness in any manner and in fact, a few decades after his death, his fan-following increased like anything and it is still continuing to increase. In this way, he has emulated his own brain-child, Vijay, the Shaayar (Urdu poet) of Pyaasa (1957) whose work gets appreciated properly after his (apparent) demise only.
Around four decades back, I had read a series of articles in the Hindi cine-magazine – Maadhuri whose title was – Guru Dutt, Mera Beta (Guru Dutt, my son) and it was penned by none other than Vaasanti Padukone, the mother of Guru Dutt. Since the mother herself shared a lot of things about her immortalized deceased son, the stuff was impressive as well as authentic.
In the new millennium, a lady-author – Nasreen Munni Kabeer did a lot of research on Guru Dutt and wrote a book – Guru Dutt : A Life in Cinema . I have read the Hindi version of the same book, titled as – Guru Dutt : Hindi Cinema Ka Ek Kavi (Guru Dutt, a poet of Hindi cinema). I am reviewing this book because I have found it not only an authentic account of Guru Dutt’s life and work but also a thoroughly impartial stuff in which, at no place, has the authoress been judgmental about the personality she is writing about.
Through the book, the reader comes to know about the family background, the childhood and growing-up of Guru Dutt. It narrates his struggling years in Bollywood also. Thereby, it makes the reader understand how Guru’s personality took shape and he became what the world knows of him.
The book very skillfully deals with the different facets of the legendary actor-producer-director whom the world could not understand and perhaps he too, could not understand the world. His life was just like – GHAM KI BAARISH, NAM-SI BAARISH (the rain of pain, a kind of wetness in the heart). He loved two women in his life (his wife – Geeta and Waheeda Rehman) but was not understood perfectly by any of them and when he laid down his life on the night of 9th October, 1964, he was feeling totally lonely within himself.
Guru Dutt understood the strength of the reel life very well in which he was able to establish with conviction and authenticity that in the real life, mostly the society is the villain and not the individual. The authoress has dedicated one separate chapter to each of his classic movies and made the reader see the vision of the great visionary. Guru Dutt was definitely much ahead of his time because our country and society has actually taken the form which he had visualized decades back. And the number of his admirers today is manifold higher than what it was when he was alive and active.
Since Guru Dutt’s (supposed) muse – Waheeda Rehman is still alive, it would have been incorrect to pass strictures regarding their relationship which was very very intricate and can’t be understood accurately by any third person. And, therefore, the authoress has depicted her better sense by not delving too much into it. Sometimes, the relationship between a male and a female is so deep and intimate that they two only can understand it properly. And that exactly was the case with Guru and Waheeda. The book touches this issue at surface only.
The book does not tell much about the relationship of Guru and his wife Geeta as well. They made a great pair and perfectly complimented each other as far as art and creativity is concerned. Their joint efforts culminated into masterpieces like Pyaasa and Kagaz Ke Phool. What wrong transpired between them is something they only knew exactly. Resultantly, both these great artists met untimely death. If only they were able to resolve their mutual differences ! Alas !
The authoress has gained authentic information about Guru Dutt through talks and interactions with his close associates like Abrar Alvi and V.K. Moorthy as well as his close friends like Dev Anand and Johnny Walker. His younger brother – Atma Ram had also become a film director. Through the incidents told by these people, the authoress has illustrated Guru Dutt’s sincerity and commitment to create meaningful cinema with a long-lasting impact. Through this book only, I had come to know of the fact that his classic movie – Pyaasa (1957) was inspired by an English poem – ‘Seven Cities Claimed Holmer Dead Where The Living Holmer Begged His Bread’.
The book tells how the commercial failure of Kagaz Ke Phool (1959) broke Guru from inside and he officially quit direction; however to earn a living and keep his production house going on, he continued to act in outside movies. Many of his admirers may not be aware that even after quitting direction, Guru Dutt delivered memorable acting performances in movies like Sautela Bhai (1962), Bahurani (1963), Bharosa (1963) and Saanjh Aur Savera (1964).
The icing on the cake is an article penned by Guru Dutt himself which is given as the last chapter of the book – CLASSICS & CASH in which Guru Dutt has very emphatically established that these two words have only one thing in common – they start with the English letter ‘ C ’. Else a classic work (of any type of art) may not be understood by the people and the creator may not be able to earn money through it and on the contrary, an ordinary work may get so much commercial success that its creator may find his coffers brimming with cash. Very true. The legendary artist understood this fact very well through his own life-experiences only.
I have read the Hindi version of the book which got released many years later than the release of its original, English version – Guru Dutt : A Life in Cinema. Though I feel that this is not a great book and leaves something additional to be desired, still it’s a must read for all the people who take interest in Indian cinema as well as all the admires of that true genius whose name is Guru Dutt.
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