Guru Dutt as Vijay toward the end of Pyaasa

Fellowship of the Soul

Love for all things Cal and Bengal.

Love for animals.

Rooted in the middle class.

Deep-rooted.

Introverted.

Complex.

Artistic.

Humanistic.

Holding honesty in great regard.

Not holding money in much.

Creative soul.

Creative soul with an unending thirst for perfection.

And because of all the above, an anguished creative soul.

A feeling of being ahead of one’s time.

Experiences of constantly being misunderstood.

Impassioned personal life.

Imperfect love life.

A yearning to get away from it all.

A wish to end it all.

Is it any wonder that I feel a fellowship of the soul with… Guru Dutt?

Guru Dutt with a monkey atop his shoulderI have been on a deep discovery of Guru Dutt, both his movies and himself, for some months now. (That’s how I’ve picked up many of the above details.) And find somewhere that we are / were similar souls. From more visible aspects (like our great fondness for Calcutta and Bengal because we spent our early years there) to less tangible ones like humanism. This is the best explanation I have been able to offer to what has drawn me to GD (apart from his movies, of course). And no, this is obviously not meant to put me on the same creative plane as GD. I don’t think I could achieve in several lifetimes what GD achieved in one, that too, a relatively short one. With that feeling of fellowship though, I would have loved to see / meet GD just once in my lifetime. But that, alas, won’t happen in this lifetime either. Until then, there are his movies – filled with his beliefs, ideals, values… and soul.

 

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Guru Dutt holding a drink to his face in a pose from Pyaasa

On the Rocks… of Life

Some time back, I had talked of Guru Dutt’s smoking habit, how even when posing for profile pix, for instance, he would have a ciggie in his hand. However, Guru Dutt’s drinking habit was known to be bigger. (Though it may also have been a habit of the times. There was GD’s female tragedy actor counterpart, Meena Kumari, who eventually succumbed to liver cirrhosis. His wife, Geeta, too went the same way. As a side comment, at a time when there was no concept of mental health professionals, I guess, folk in those times found the drink offered them some solace, or at least, forgetting.)

When watching Kaagaz ke Phool again recently though, I wonder if GD, through his character (the successful director, Suresh Sinha, who eventually has a great fall from grace), gives some insight into why he, and the others of those and present times, took to the drink. For there are at least two scenes, both with Waheeda Rehman’s character, Shanti (who he discovers and eventually makes an actor and star), where he talks of the “need” or vacuum that the drink fulfils.

Sometime in the first half, caught unawares by the rain and taking cover under the same tree, Suresh and Shanti strike up a conversation that starts understandably cautiously, moves to civil and soon starts being cordial. Offering her his coat, he says he is fine as he has had some brandy. Shanti seems scandalized, but ventures to inquire, “I have heard that after drinking, people engage in all sorts of vile behaviour…?” Suresh responds with comforting wryness, “Some people drink to forget the vile behaviour of others…”

A shabby-looking Guru Dutt holding a drink and speaking with Waheeda Rehman in a scene from Kaagaz ke PhoolIn the second half, Shanti, who seems more well-to-do now, comes to visit Suresh in his tenement. Suresh’s fall is all-too visible. He offers her an inverted pail to sit on, starting to cover the bottom with a quilt and the sweater she had gifted him when they had parted earlier, to make it softer for her to sit on.

To ostensibly celebrate her visit, he pours himself a drink. When, not out of a little concern, she admonishes him with “People don’t consume poison in a celebration”, his reply is deliberated, calm and poetic:

“Neither poison nor nectar…

This is alcohol…

Those who are used to living in a state of intoxication…

This is their last hope…

The intoxication of fame and success…

The intoxication of riches and love…

When all these intoxications leave you…

Then, people seek succour in this…”

Going by this, Guru Dutt was more addicted to the… think.

 

 

A composite image of the poster images from Pyaasa and Kaagaz ke Phool

Seeking and Finding

In a movie that is about thirsting and seeking (Pyaasa), he looks for shanti (peace) and finally finds it in the company of a woman named after a flower, Gulaab (rose).

In a movie named after flowers (Kaagaz ke Phool), he finds a woman named Shanti but doesn’t eventually find peace with her as the world won’t let them be in peaceful company.

Such is Guru Dutt’s on-screen life and fate in his two best movies. The viewer though finds lots of peace, and soul, in both.

Still from the Pyaasa song, Aaj sajan mohe ang laga lo

Love like No Other

Love is about understanding the other.

Love is about understanding the other’s thinking and emotions.

Love is about getting right to the heart of the other.

Love is about liking a beautiful soul.

Love is not about forcing yourself, or your love, on the other.

Love is not about wanting to make the other your own.

Or so I have understood from Pyaasa’s Gulaab.

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.

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?”