I never fancied Guru Dutt as a good-looking chap, at least not in the traditional Hindi cinema sense. Even when I started this intense-discovery phase of mine, I didn’t quite warm up to his looks. But then, there is so much (else) that GD has to offer. However, what I absolutely loved, looks-wise, was his pairing with Madhubala in Mr and Mrs 55 (from the year… ’55). The same Madhubala who it’s almost a cliché yet true thing to say was the most beautiful actress to ever come into and out of Hindi cinema. So, this woman from heaven paired with this guy very much from earth (but that goes with his character in the movie and his personality in real life: he is known to have often said, “I am very middle-class”). And somehow, they looked lovely together, Madhubala’s charm possibly rubbing off on him. GD looks super-smitten and yearning in return, but this in a separate post some later time.
However, on having read almost all the books available in the public domain on him now, I come across comments by his long-time collaborators to the effect that he was “handsome” and “good-looking”. I have searched for these qualities, but, but have decided to settle for “unconventional looks”. He had these biggish eyes, slightly drooping eyelids, and when you look closely (and he was the master of close-up shots), you see stained and crooked front teeth. (It seems he sought to go to Berlin in ’63 during the premiere of Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam at the Film Festival also to have his crooked teeth removed. I believe it eventually didn’t happen.) He wore glasses in real life (he had bad eyesight, it seems), but took them off for the movies, so you could see the spectacle impressions on his nose, which the make-up men then, I guess, didn’t seem to worry too much about. Plus, he had this moustache typical of those times, worn as a badge of both masculinity and insecurity (as he wasn’t entirely confident of his looks, and in his early years, also of his acting.)
For Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (’62) though, he needed to shave off his moustache, to play the young, bumbling Bhootnath. And then, in some scenes, as his character begins growing (up), GD starts looking almost as good as Meena Kumari as Chhoti Bahu. And that’s saying quite a lot.
After SBG, GD never went back to keeping his moush, perhaps to look younger as he had started ageing. (He had also started losing his hair, and took to wearing a wig.) And I felt he actually started looking better and better with each of his later movies. In his last release, before he passed away (Sanjh aur Savera, ’64; Suhagan was the last full movie he shot for, which released later in the year he died), playing the good doctor, he looked every bit the good, young, handsome doctor. And of course, it helped that Meena Kumari again starred opposite him. And more of this lovely pairing some other post, some other time.
Looks or not, again, you go to GD for other things in the movies. Many, many, many other things. Such as the warmth and humanity shining through in his movies and characters. And hey, maybe that’s where the warmth and humanity on his face came from too.