The Legend of Guru Dutt

In an alternate universe, Mr Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone is still alive, and he has been making films all his life. In an alternate universe all is right with the world and tragedies are fewer. In an alternate universe melancholy would not have taken away a genius from Indian Cinema.

On a different Earth the quality of films from the Golden age of Indian cinema has only risen, aided by the magnificent Guru Dutt and his films.

In his too brief life Guru Dutt created some of the best films, films that remain in the favourite list of movie fans, films which are timeless, shot with originality and which taught other filmmakers to use the camera as a pen for writing poetry.

To the uninitiated it would be easy to think that Guru Dutt made tragic, hard hitting dramas about society or unrequited love. While he did excel in that, he made a very very wide range of films, from acting in swashbucklers to directing film noirs, from making comedies to producing tight police procedural In keeping with our tradition, here is a list of 5 films which he directed that you should watch

1) Baazi - 

There is a story which is part of the film lore that two young men Guru Dutt and Dev Anand became friends while working for Prabhat Films, Pune. They both had come to the film industry to make their mark not just as actors but also as directors and producers. and as a gesture of friendship they promised each other to Star in a film directed by the other and vice versa. Baazi was a result of that promise.

It was an excellent film-noir, with an anti-hero Dev Anand who spends his time gambling, beautiful women singing and dancing in SpeakEasys, and a righteous heroine who brings the hero away from his wayward ways. 

Baazi was the first film that Guru Dutt made and it set up his career and his signature styles, stark frame compositions and a delightful use of Black and White.

2) Baaz - 

This was a fun film. While Guru Dutt had acted in several films by then, this was his first film as a lead actor. It was Guru Dutt doing a Douglas-Fairbanks turn, in a movie about 16th century Konkan coast with K N Singh playing a Portuguese general and Geeta Bali playing a renegade princess turned pirate. It is also one of the rare Indian films to be set mostly at Sea.

3) Mr and Mrs 55

This film was a laugh riot, and it was perhaps (for want of a better word) the lightest moment in Guru Dutt's career. Paired with the most beautiful woman in the world, aided by a zany plot about stipulations of marriage for her to earn her father's fortune and playing a cartoonist who is frustrated with the world around him, add to it Johnny Walker at his best. 

This is a film which merits multiple repeat viewings.

4) Pyaasa

Pyaasa is not only Guru Dutt's finest film, it is also one of the best films ever made. It explores love, estrangement, disillusion and the fickle nature of human beings. Guru Dutt played a poet who never gets his due until he is mistakenly declared dead after a dead beggar is found wearing his coat. (perhaps a cruel mirror of Guru Dutt's own legacy, his fame reached his heights in 80s with a revival in German and French cinema circles), the publishers and his friends literally feast on the mileage gained by The Death of A Poet and his poems sell. Finally when Guru Dutt comes back and proves that he is alive his friends and family again waste no time in using this to their personal advantage. In the end Guru Dutt condemns this hypocrisy of the world in the epic song 'Ye duniya agar mil bhi jaaye to kya hai' and leaves society with his love.

5) Kaagaz Ke Phool

It was film which broke Guru Dutt's heart, and it was a film which would have made him proud had he been alive today. Film scholars say that the Suresh Sinha in the film is the director Gyan Mukherjee (who made the superhit and excellent Kismet) who was his mentor at Bombay Talkies, while in the aftermath of his life people also find parallels between the loneliness of Guru Dutt's own life, his unrequited love for Waheeda Rahman and how his films did not get the recognition that they deserved.

Kaagaz ke Phool was about an artist spiraling out of control fueled by love and alcoholism. There was no redemption in the movie, no happy ending, it was a bleak portrayal of life as we know it and it was a beautiful tragedy. 

It isnt just enough to talk about the films Guru Dutt made, it is also important to talk about the music, the way the songs were shot, his friendship and partnership with Johnny Walker, Rahman and Dev Anand and his marriage with Geeta Dutt. 

We shall pause for now and talk of these later, for now we leave you with a haunting song from Jaal


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