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GURU DUTT: The Percentage of Tears

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Guest post by: Tiru Pradyumna

Tiru Pradyumna is a theatre director from Bangalore. Interpreting and finding precious things in Indian cinema which are apparently not understood by normal audience, as well as articulating the concept of aesthetics and semiotics in cinema are some of Tiru's many talents shared with us today. Check out the blog at:


“Koi Jab Roke, Koi Jab Toke, Gun Gun Karata Bhaage Re”
This line flashed at me when I saw a poster of a film near a theatre in Bangalore. The title matched the “ORIGINAL” for the most part till “Saahib Biwi Aur ...”, but in a few seconds, my intellect felt guilty, because the resemblance was only between two film names and only that much. The memory of that poster remained only for couple of seconds, while the memory of the ORIGINAL film (which remains a classic even after five decades) will remain forever. My "guilty" comparison of both films led me to compare the “Golden Era of the HINDI FILM industry” and current “Bollywood” (that is what they call it). The span of twenty years in which legends like Raj Kapoor, Yash Chopra, Shammi, Rafi, Kishore Da, Burmans, Kaifi Azmi, Abrar alvi, Sahir ludhianvi, Anand Bhakshi and Guru Dutt were brand ambassadors of the Hindi film industry is compared to nowadays, when actors are only meant to be brand ambassadors for TV commercials... let's say the comparison cannot even be balanced on the same pole.

The last film maker I mentioned in the above list, which has no distinct order, is eventually who has inspired this article. I am going to speak of the nostalgia for a man who is considered among the most talented film makers in the world:

Guru Dutt...
Guru Dutt Padukone was born in ...........
Early Life..........
Married on.........,
I can go on this way ,but Wikipedia exceeds me in information. Nostalgia does not mean recalling his biography.

When the whole world was going gaga over “Orson welles” and his creativity to extend the camera for Deep-Focus, Guru Dutt, a film maker of such world class but who was uneducated in any professional film making drew the attention of world cinema enthusiasts with his classic Pyaasa in 1957. Back then, songs in films were meant for a short break for the audience to come out and light a cigarette. But Pyaasa experimented with 9 songs which come in 15 broken pieces and entertain the indians even after 56 years. Jaane woh kaise, Tanga chuke, Hum aapki aankhon mein... and the list unfolds... Credit for these must go to SD Burman and Pancham Da.
One such list however needs the special mention of Yeh Duniya agar mil bhi.
That instance is shot keeping the light exactly behind the Object(actor), the actor is visible only as a silhouette. Films were meant to be lighted for the shoot, but this film eventually proved to the world that “Shadows have meaning”.
What meaning?...

In films ,everything must have a special meaning (this is the minimum characteristic for a film to be named a classic). The Narrative has to be more semiotic than linguistic. In this case, it shows light behind the actor and the character is showing his back to the light, symbolising that he is eventually in the DARKNESS. The credit for this symbolism here has to be shared with Dada saheb phalke winner- V.K.Murthy. (That snapshot image can be seen as album artwork for the “Enigmatic Guru Dutt”).
This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what Guru Dutt portrayed in Pyaasa. US journalists watched it and reported it in New York Times. The then optical company “Bausch and Laumb” which produced Cinema Scope lens, offered Guru Dutt the possibility of shooting his next film with such a lens. Therefore, for the first time in the Indian film industry, when even Raj Kapoor, Satyajit Ray, Dev Anand and B.R.Chopra, had not shown the bravery of experimenting in such a way, Guru Dutt took the Indian film into the world of anamorphic widescreens. Kaagaz Ke Phool became the first ever Indian film to be called a cinema-scope. The film was a disaster at the box-office even though it was a technical masterpiece. The plot of the film had similarity to Guru Dutt's autobiography. Raj Kapoor, the show man, watched the film and told Guru, “this will be a landmark in world cinema”. Yes! Raj Kapoor may have had the power of premonition. Today, the film is referenced in the academics of the top 8 film institutes in the world (including the NYFA). The film was renowed for its extra-ordinary picturisation especially in songs like Waqt Ne kiya or Dekhi Zameen Ki. In Dekhi Zameen Ki, when the protagonist dies on a chair, a spot light is focused while a beam of sunlight is brought into the studio using four linear reflectors. The use of lighting in the scene symbolizes how “the man is temporary but his accomplishments are forever”. This shot took the film to previously unexplored heights.

The man who revolutionized Indian film left this world of PEOPLE at the age of 39, due to an overdose of sleeping tablets (he was claimed to have committed suicide). Some say “good things never last very long”, But I proudly state that “if the man is temporary but his accomplishments are for ever”.

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