Lyrical Ballad | books | Hindustan Times
Today in New Delhi, India
Dec 18, 2017-Monday
New Delhi
  • Humidity
  • Wind
* Wins + Leads | Source : ECI/Media Reports

Lyrical Ballad

Finally, a book that captures the words that accompany the images of a cinema classic. The perfect Pyaasa package.

books Updated: Feb 04, 2011 23:37 IST
Ishan Chaudhuri

The Dialogue of Pyaasa
Abrar Alvi and Sahir Ludhianvi
Translation by Nasreen Munni Kabir
Om books
n R495 n pp 240

The words ‘romantic melodrama’ in the context of Indian cinema usually conjure up the worst mawkish sentiments. Which makes it doubly astounding that Guru Dutt’s 1957 classic, Pyaasa, remains a stunning piece of visual story-telling that underlines the power of the lyrical form. In this much awaited book conceived and delivered by documentary filmmaker and author Nasreen Munni Kabir, we are also brought closer to the content that makes the first of Dutt’s masterpieces.

The original story for Pyaasa (The Thirsting One) was written by Dutt in 1947-48 and was called ‘Kashmakash’ (The Struggle). With the help of screenwriter Abrar Alvi and infused with the lyrics of Sahir Ludhianvi, Pyaasa was born. Waheeda Rehman, who played the prostitute-in-love Gulab, remembers Dutt directing her in the all-atmospherics scene of the song ‘Aaj sajan mohe...’ She wasn’t getting the right look of desire mixed with fear. “[Dutt] then said, ‘Who do you love the most in your life?’” Rehman recalls in Kabir’s earlier book, Guru Dutt: A Life in Cinema. “‘My mother and father.’ ‘Who do you love the very most?’... ‘My father, because he spoilt me the most.’ Then [Dutt] said, ‘He’s dead, isn’t he?’... ‘Yes.’ ‘Imagine if your father were alive. Imagine if your father is standing on the terrace. You don’t know why you’re afraid to go to him, but you are.’... Guru Dutt noticed that my expression had changed. He said, ‘Murthy, lights on, roll the camera.’”

In The Dialogue of Pyaasa, Kabir brings us face to face with the non-visual ingredients: the words — helpfully translated to English and with a parallel ‘original’ in Hindi and Urdu scripts. We ‘hear’ the words uttered by the poet Vijay (played by Dutt) and Gulab — both outsiders in a world radiating with cynicism — along with those of the other mesmerising characters.

Kabir has a fine introduction as well as a reel-by-reel commentary at the end. The DVD of Pyaasa that comes with this book provides pretty much everything needed to realise the value of this gem that stares at the precipice of sentimentality and then walks exactly along the opposite way.

Ishan Chaudhuri is a Kolkata-based writer

Also Reads Deewar: Historian and cultural critic Vinay Lal takes Yash Chopra’s iconic 1975 film Deewar and places it in a context that goes beyond the usual tag of ‘Amitabh as the angry young man’. Subtitled, ‘The footpath, the city and the angry young man’, Lal’s crisp book delves into the familiar story of two brothers who lead two different lives until... all as part of the mythology that has led to the myth of modern India.

Disco Dancer: The Mithun Chakraborty-starrer Disco Dancer is a cultural legend on many levels. But as playwright Anuvab Pal tells us through interviews and analysis — with the meat of the screenplay in the middle — in this book, Disco Dancer’s success was about being the worst movie being there at the ‘right’ time (1980s). Comedy that doth not know its own name.