How will archiving this film’s script help? Does a book of this kind have a market in India?
Either you accept cinema as an art or you don’t question it. It’s satisfying to preserve our cinematic wealth.We do not have a single interview of Guru Dutt available. It’s a shame. We are dependent on people’s memories of him.
How was The Dialogue of Pyaasa born?
The idea was to preserve in book form the film’s complete dialogue by Abrar Alvi and songs/poems by Sahir Ludhiyanvi. The book is in a three-language format — Hindi, Urdu and Roman scripts. The dialogue is also accompanied by English translation, an introduction to Guru Dutt and an extensive commentary. I found references of the poems used in this film, how he planned the film, showed songs in the narrative and the tricks of how the film maker operated. There are some rare pictures and stills of deleted scenes from the film. The world he described half a century ago, that largely rates materialism and money above values, is the same today. Pyaasa is about the search for moral purity.
Did your research on Guru Dutt in the 1980s, for your documentary and his biography help form this book? Who did you meet?
I interviewed many of his colleagues and family members. In the ’80s, I met his mother who was a Kannada writer. She told me Dutt was a curious child. I also met his sister Lalita Lajmi and the lyricists he worked with including Majrooh Sultanpuri, Kaifi Azmi, actors like Waheeda Rehman and Johnny Walker. The research took me more than 10 years.
What did you discover about Dutt and his style of film making?
Someone told me that he was near-sighted and during shoots, he wouldn’t wear glasses. You can see his furrow-eyed glance because he had myopic vision. Dutt was passionate about his work. His films have a dark view of the world; he may have been manic-depressive. Majrooh saab told me Dutt liked to integrate song into the narrative as an extension of dialogue. For example, in the film a question is asked in dialogue “Agar woh aaj shayad zinda hote” (If he was alive today) and the answer is in the form of a song which goes like this – “Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye to kya hai...” (How does it matter if I get this world also?)
Did the film reveal new perspectives every time you watched it?
Yes. One of the things was that most of the encounters between Waheeda Rehman and Guru Dutt were filmed on stairs. It’s a socially neutral place for poet and prostitute to have an interaction. The symbolism shows that you are trying to attain a higher place.