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UK journal's tribute to Guru Dutt

In ?The Actors?, a series started in the current issue of Sight & Sound, the mouthpiece of the British Film Institute, the inaugural article titled Guru Dutt: Such Sweet Sorrow begins thus.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2006 02:38 IST


In ‘The Actors’, a series started in the current issue of Sight & Sound, the mouthpiece of the British Film Institute, the inaugural article titled Guru Dutt: Such Sweet Sorrow begins thus: “This latest in our series on great performers highlights an actor-director who brought stillness, self-criticism and unexpected pessimism to the whirl of Indian melodrama, making himself its Orson Welles.”

The writer of the article, Mark Cousins, deals briefly with the ubiquity and import of Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Sharmila Tagore before plunging into the emotional swirl of Guru Dutt’s incandescent career and, to some extent, his gloom-laden life.

The comparison between Welles and Dutt is not as groundbreaking as it might seem at first. Cousins arrived at this conclusion with help from Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Willemen’s Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema. In the encyclopaedia, Rajadhyaksha and Willemen suggest that Dutt’s Kaagaz ke Phool (1959) is his Citizen Kane. Cousins, in his article, rightly lionises Dutt as a unique artist.

Dutt’s sister, the artist Lalitha Lajmi, has not heard about the article but she agrees with the comparison with Welles, “Yes, I believe it is a fair comparison. I am not entirely aware of which other films from the black-and-white era influenced him. But I can say with certainty that Citizen Kane was a source of great inspiration.”

Lajmi adds, “Among all my brothers, I was closest to him because of his creative endeavours. More than his creativity, I was always impressed by the openness with which he received all forms of art.

“He started by learning dance under Uday Shankar and when he first arrived at Prabhat Studio in Pune, he took up choreography. From that beginning, he went on to become an assistant director and, finally, a director.”

The coda to Guru Dutt: Such Sweet Sorrow states: “Dutt was a determined, troubled movie star in the complex Indian manner. He created his own screen persona and those of others. He was instinctively downbeat in a film world otherwise inclined, and his characters werevariously autobiographical. Dutt was one of the great, brooding figures in post-Independence Indian cinema.”