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A playwright’s take on Guru Dutt and Geeta Dutt’s troubled marriage

A new play explores the tumultuous relationship between Guru Dutt and Geeta Dutt at a time when the couple was trying to stem the rot in their marriage

art and culture Updated: Jun 25, 2016 13:45 IST
Namita Kohli
Namita Kohli
Hindustan Times
Saif hyder hasan

A scene from the play, Gardish Mein Taare, starring Sonali Kulkarni and Arif Zakaria. The play is based on the tumultuous relationship between filmmaker Guru Dutt and his singer wife, Geeta Dutt.

In the book Ten Years With Guru Dutt: Abrar Alvi’s Journey, Abrar, filmmaker and close friend of Guru Dutt, narrates an instance that suggests that all was not well between the legendary director and his singer wife, Geeta Dutt.

According to the book by Sathya Saran, Guru Dutt received a letter from Waheeda Rehman – who Geeta suspected her husband of having an affair with – professing her love for Guru Dutt, and asking him to meet her at a particular place. Both Abrar and Guru suspected that the letter was fake. Later, they discovered that it was a ploy by Geeta and her friend to trap Guru in a situation. This incident led Guru Dutt to “confront” his wife, and for the first time, “raise his hand” on her, according to Abrar.

But playwright Saif Hyder Hasan, whose latest play, ‘Gardish Mein Taare’, based on the tumultuous relationship between Guru Dutt and his wife, says that it’s hard to pass a judgement on the situation. “I have been privy to a lot of details about the Dutt couple from Abrar,” he says. “But I have always maintained that we can never know what happens between a couple within the four walls of their bedroom. Guru Dutt died in 1964, and much ink has been spilled over how he was unable to handle the separation from his wife, who died later in 1972.

Filmmaker Guru Dutt with his wife Geeta Dutt and son Tarun Dutt. The couple had another son and a daughter too. (Indian Express Archive)

Hasan, whose play will be staged in the city on July 2, insists that his work is only “inspired” by the Dutts. “The structure of the play is based on the 37 letters that Guru Dutt wrote to his wife [referring to Nasreen Munni Kabir’s book, Yours Guru Dutt – Intimate Letters of a Great Indian Filmmaker], from cities such as Bombay, Berlin, Pune. But the play is my own take on the subject,” says the Mumbai-based theatreperson, who has previously worked as an advertising and marketing professional, and a journalist too. Hasan worked with the Delhi-based playwright Sayeed Alam, before moving to Mumbai and launching his own theatre productions.

His first production was ‘Ek Mulaqat’, starring Deepti Naval and Shekhar Suman. The period drama was based on the love story of Sahir Ludhianvi and Amrita Pritam. ‘Gardish..’ is the second, and Hasan plans another period drama to complete his trilogy. “I realised that the two plays have the common theme of unfulfilled love, music, artistes and death,” he says, adding that the third play in the series is not planned yet.

Playwright Saif Hyder Hasan who has directed the period drama, Gardish Mein Taare.

Like ‘Ek Mulaqat’, ‘Gardish...’ is also a period drama set in the 1950s, and is written by Sumana Ahmed. Everything from the costumes to the language had to reflect the bygone era, says Hasan. For instance, in a particular sequence, the wife, played by Sonali Kulkarni, asks her husband (Arif Zakaria) whether he has heard the story of the king who had a bird trapped in a golden cage. The bird was condemned to sing only for the king. “Nobody would use this analogy today. A wife would simply say ‘you have trapped me’,” Hasan explains.

Despite the period setting, however, the director feels that the story is relevant in modern times – especially in an age where relationships, marital or otherwise, are fragile and marked by angst – and has a “universal appeal”. “This story is about the anguish of a couple, who are aware, but unable to stem the rot in their marriage. This is about them clinging to each other, and trying to save their marriage,” he says.

For a relationship that continues to remain the subject of interest and speculation, especially amongst cinema enthusiasts, this play is another opportunity to delve into how, sometimes, even love is not enough to keep a couple together.

The play will be staged at Epicentre, Apparel House, Gurgaon on July 2 at 5pm, 7:30pm. For tickets, log onto www.bookmyshow.com.

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