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Guru Dutt: Remembering a genius

Guru Dutt, the legendary filmmaker, who changed the face of Indian cinema with his innovations, would have turned 83 today. Hindustan pays tribute to the maverick director-actor on his birth anniversary.
Hindustan Times | By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 09, 2008 07:48 PM IST

Guru Dutt, the legendary filmmaker, who changed the face of Indian cinema with his innovations, would have turned 83 today. He is remembered for his quintessential classics such as Kaagaz Ke Phool, Pyaasa, Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam and Chaudhvi Ka Chaand. Not all his classics were hits but he took his failure with a pinch of salt. "Life mein, yaar, kya hai? Do hi toh cheezen hai - kamyaabi aur failure. There is nothing in between," was his take on success and failure of his movies.

Guru Dutt, who dreamed and breathed movies all through his life, first did a job of telephone operator at a Lever Brothers factory in Kolkata. He never wanted to confine himself to just acting, directing or choreographing. He did all with finesse. Guru Dutt did a small role as Sri Krishna in Chand in 1944. In 1945, he acted as well as assisted director Vishram Bedekar in Lakhrani, and in 1946 he worked as an assistant director and choreographed dances for P. L. Santoshi's film, Hum Ek Hain.

It was around this time that he wrote script for the Pyaasa. Pyaasa is rated as one of the best 100 films of all-time by Time Magazine, which called it "the soulfully romantic of the lot."

Soon after, Guru Dutt was hired by Prabhat Film Company as a choreographer, and later as an actor and assistant director. After Prabhat failed in 1947, Dutt moved to Bombay, now Mumbai, where he worked with two leading directors of the time, with Amiya Chakravarty in Girl's School, and with Gyan Mukherjee in the Bombay Talkies film Sangram. It was then that Dev Anand offered him a job as a director in his new company, Navketan.

Guru Dutt finally tasted success with Baazi that was released in 1951. Baaz iwas notable in that Guru Dutt both directed and starred, not having found a suitable actor for the principal character.

But then followed the bout of failure with Jaal and Baaz not doing well at the box office. He discovered, and mentored, Johnny Walker (comedian), V.K. Murthy (cinematographer), and Abrar Alvi (writer and director), among others. He is also credited for introducing Waheeda Rehman to the Hindi cinema.

Fortune smiled on Dutt's next film, the 1954 Aar Paar. This was followed by the 1955 hit, Mr. and Mrs. 55, then CID, Sailaab, and in 1957, Pyaasa - the story of a poet, rejected by an uncaring world, who achieves success only after his apparent death. Guru Dutt played the lead role in three of these five films.

His 1959 Kaagaz Ke Phool was an intense disappointment. He had invested a great deal of love, money, and energy in this film, which was a self-absorbed tale of a famous director (played by Guru Dutt) who falls in love with an actress (played by Waheeda Rehman, Dutt's real-life love interest). Kaagaz Ke Phool failed at the box office and Dutt was devastated. All subsequent films from his studio were, thereafter, officially helmed by other directors since Guru Dutt felt that his name is anathema to box office.

Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, a box office flop, was directed by his protege, writer Abrar Alvi, which won him the Filmfare Best Director's award. The film's star Waheeda Rehman denied rumors that the film was ghost-directed by Guru Dutt himself.

Guru Dutt also has his influence on his last box office smash hit Chaudhvin Ka Chand.

His legacy to direction of Hindi cinema is unmistakable and accepted by many leading Hindi directors of the day, including another of his protege, Raj Khosla.

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