I had earlier written that I initially didn’t find Guru Dutt good-looking, at least not in the conventional sense and especially when compared with some of his contemporaries like Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand. The last, who was a good friend of GD, may well have had the charm and swag of all the other three combined. Contrast that with GD’s scruffy, shoddy appearance in most of his movies, even those under his banner. But that could be due to the characters he played – folk out of luck and as a result, often on the road.
In his later films though, especially the last few, done for outside banners, GD’s looks were more conventionally appealing – once he took off his moustache, it would seem. He looked appropriately innocent as the ingénue Bhootnath in his Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962) and an intriguing combination of innocent and charming in movies like Bahurani (1963), Sanjh aur Savera (1964), and Suhagan (1965), the last releasing after his tragically early demise in 1964. In Sanjh aur Savera especially, he looked notably handsome as the well-to-do, well-meaning doctor. Initial stills of Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi (which he left incomplete due to his death and which released in 1966 with Dharmendra replacing GD) show him to have a confident and self-assured manner and appeal. Possibly the reason two women vied for his attention in the film.
However, it took me an even longer time (I’ve seen all his films at least once, except Baharen) to realise GD was actually very fair. This could be due to the same reason of the man-on-the-road characters he played. (He even had grease marks on his face in a song from Aar-Paar, where he plays a taxi driver-cum-garage hand.) However, it could also be because all his films were in B&W (apart from the title song of Chaudhvin ka Chand, which he also shot in colour). Added to that, GD was the guru of light-and-shadow cinematography and his movies were very atmospheric, and atmospheric in B&W meant a lot more B than W.
It was only when I started reading up a bit about his family (his parents and siblings) and saw his sister, Lalitha Lajmi’s photos and videos, that I realised GD was quite fair, in fact, very. Then, on closer look in some of his movies, I could see a deep 5 o’ clock shadow. He may have been fairer than Dev Anand, as fair as Dilip Kumar and just a bit less than Raj Kapoor.
Why, there could well have been a second version of the title song of Chaudhvin ka Chand, a female version, with Waheeda Rehman’s wife character, Jameela, serenading him with the same words: “Chaudhvin ka chand ho, ya aftab ho…”
And, to do my number, GD could well have been called… Gora Dutt.