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Review: The Dialogue of Pyaasa

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

books Updated: Feb 07, 2011 08:51 IST

The Dialogue of Pyaasa

Abrar Alvi and Sahir Ludhianvi

Translation by Nasreen Munni Kabir

Om books


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

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