I have been on a deep discovery of Guru Dutt for about three months now, and it keeps getting deeper and deeper. It’s because I like (admire) GD as much for the person(ality) he was as for the films he was responsible for. He lived a short life (relatively, passing away at 39), but he lived it rich, intense and… deep. Ah, there’s my reason.
I am already considered the biggest GD fan (I prefer the word ‘admirer’, because as I said, I like him both for his movies and persona) in my online and offline circles. Due to which, I often receive comments, responses and queries about him, very often around his personal life, and within that, mostly about his failed marriage (with Geeta Dutt), his rumoured affair (with Waheeda Rehman) and finally, his alleged suicide (after one or two attempts over the previous few years).
I have been at pains and strains when responding to these, because the answers to these aren’t entirely clear to me themselves, or I haven’t got my head around all aspects of it. Also, the thing about GD’s life, love(s) and death is that because his life was so intense and his death so vexing, these aspects of his life are sensationalized, or worse, glamourized, even swagged up, in today’s speak. Even worse, because both he and most of his family (the one he created) too passed away early (Geeta died at 41, eight years after GD; his older son Tarun passed away at 35, due to an alleged suicide too; his younger son Arun died a few years ago, at 58), he (or they) isn’t / wasn’t around to present his point of view. So, most of the perspectives, opinions and theories you hear about the various dramatic incidents in his life are from his siblings or those who worked closely with him. The former, while of course being sensitive to their elder brother, have also shared that because he was rather introverted, he never really opened up to them, so they never quite knew what was going on within him. The latter, no matter how many hours they spent on a set with him, may only have had the outsider, work-centric perspective.
What do I think? I believe that if you are a sensitive soul and seek to get to the heart of something or someone, you can arrive at a sense of those intense episodes of GD’s life. You can do this first, by watching his movies, most of which were either autobiographical or carried his world view, and then, by reading his words, a few of which are in the public domain. (Yours Guru Dutt: Intimate Letters of a Great Indian Filmmaker is a collection of letters GD wrote to wife Geeta between 1951 and 1962, and there is also an essay he wrote called Classics and Cash, where his thoughts are rather Pyaasa-like, though a lot more upbeat.)
Until you get to those, I shall make an attempt through this series: frequently asked questions – and (my) theoretical responses about the various intense episodes of GD’s life. Although I have one question myself: aren’t GD’s movies intense enough for you? Or maybe, that’s why.