Guru Dutt in a still from Chaudhvin ka Chand

Star. Crossed.

Vasanth Kumar Shivshankar Padukone’s name was changed to Guru Dutt at age two after a mishap. Child GD fell into a well, survived, but ran a high fever for several days. The family astrologer counselled his mother, Vasanthi Padukone, that he should no longer be called Vasanth Kumar but Gurudutt. (At his birth, his parents had to choose between the two names, and decided to go with the former.) ‘Gurudutt,’ because he was born on a Guruvar (Thursday). When the family moved to Calcutta though (when GD was five), he soon dropped his surname and split his name into two, Guru and Dutt, as folk there found his full name (Gurudutt Padukone) quite a mouthful.

Much before that, when Vasanthi was pregnant with him, the astrologer had predicted to her that her child would grow to become very famous.

Guru Dutt's birth-chart according to the Hindu calendar

Guru Dutt’s kundali (birth-chart)

If the hand of astrology was involved before and soon after his birth, it seemed the stars played a part in his passing away too. Abrar Alvi, in his book Ten Years with Guru Dutt: Abrar Alvi’s journey, penned by earlier Femina editor, Sathya Saran, shares with her that, although GD didn’t believe in astrology, he was quite fascinated by it. He consulted an astrologer (not sure if it was the same family astrologer) soon after Alvi and he paired up (during the making of Aar Paar, 1954), who predicted that the partnership would go strong for 10 years and then there would be a break in the relationship. GD passed away in late 1964, 10 years after Alvi and he first started working together.

I don’t quite believe in astrology myself (I definitely don’t consult it), and I find Alvi’s tale, book, and shared experiences of GD a bit “fantastical”. He was a writer after all, and no matter how good, I somehow feel much of his stories in the book were embellishments, including this one.

But astrology or not, the stars seemed to have been cross with GD through most of his personal life. His professional life though, as we know, touched the stars. Now, if only those two lives hadn’t been at crosses with each other.