Guru Dutt as Vijay in the opening sequence of Pyaasa

Poet Courageous

Some cinema critics and academics sometimes levy this criticism against the denouement of Pyaasa: Vijay choosing to reject fake fame and recognition to turn to a place of solace. Just like Meena, his college sweetheart who chooses to marry rich rather than the struggling poet, who is horrified at his decision to spurn a two-faced society and urges him to stay, they opine that Vijay is not a fighter, he is not pragmatic.

Of course, Vijay is not world-practical. This is established in the opening sequence of the movie itself, when he is lying in a field, looking at the heart shape of the sky formed by the leaves of the surrounding trees, teasing out a poem from his spirit, looking somnolently blithe. His easy spirit is brought down to earth and crushed, when an equally happy and lazy bumblebee is squashed under a passerby’s feet no sooner than it lands on the ground.

Guru Dutt as Vijay toward the end of PyaasaVijay is a humanist, an idealist, a purist, and most crucially, a truist. This is brought out time and time again, whether in the song where he laments the state of the nation 10 years after independence, in the song where he indicts a vacuous society’s emptier people, in his end counter-argument to Meena, where he expresses disappointment that those who commiserate with the sorrow of others are considered weak and inept themselves.

At the height of fame, something he seemingly desired through the course of the movie, Vijay chooses to leave it all go. Doesn’t that take greater courage? The courage to remain true to your core.

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Newly wed couple, where the groom looks doubtful and the bride pensive

Male, Single | Problems Solved

I think I should finally get married. It will solve problems of getting a rental flat easily; getting a bigger rental flat easily (“Why does a single guy need a 2BHK??”); at the risk of sounding misogynistic, having home-cooked food available readily; and most of all, being asked at every turn and corner: “You are still single??” One of these days, I’ll really turn around and corner them with my equivalent of that question, “You are still married??”

I could have a marriage of convenience (as if most marriages aren’t that already). Marriage of convenience, because I ain’t too hot about the three pillars of marriage: kids, women and marriage itself. (Straight, gay, bi, I don’t think anyone can understand women completely, except perhaps other women. And then, they go and feel jealous of each other.)

She and I could rent or buy a double-bed flat. So, she gets her space and me mine. Nothing has to happen within our closed doors. Outside those closed doors, we can pretend to be like every other couple pretending to be a happy couple.

Of course, a year or so later, people will begin asking, “Why don’t you have kids yet??”

Then, of course, we could adopt. Or better still, do IVF and address the next question in advance, “How about a second kid as company to junior?”

A young man walking in the fields partly obscured by the brightly shining sun's rays

Well Set

With a C and an O in your title, with another C and O (corner office) as your office space, with a vehicle as big as that space getting you to that space, I guess, you are set in life.

Calling the lowest staff by their name, letting that harassed-looking office-goer take your auto, stopping to pet that street dog, with these, I guess, you are set for the after-life.

A collage of scenes from Pyaasa

Personal. Victory.

Vijay. It’s such an apt name for Guru Dutt’s poet character in Pyaasa. The poet who is despondent with the way society treats artists and the way the world treats women. Who, frustrated with his lack of success, rushes off to fling himself before a train mid-way through the movie. Who leaves it all – fame and fans – behind to walk away into the sunset to a far-off place with a streetwalker. ‘Victory’ is an apt name for this character? Absolutely.

Vijay, or Bijoy (as the Bengali pronunciation goes), is victorious from beginning to end. He refuses to sell out as a poet, not interested in catering to easy, romantically inclined readers. He refuses to have anything to do with people who spurn him when he was struggling and are quick to establish a relation with him once he gains fame. He refuses the recognition that comes from vanquishing an artist’s soul.

As he walks away into the sunset, hand-in-hand with Gulaab, “to a place far from here, from where he doesn’t have to go far anymore”, you get the feeling of Vijay setting off on his own, small, personal victory march. You celebrate a little bit with him, and if similarly inclined, feel like following him on that march. Happy. Ending.

Some other time, await a post on the symbolism of the names of the characters GD has played in his movies, at least the well-known ones.