Guru Dutt holding a pipe and surrounded by a cloud of smoke in Kaagaz ke Phool

Guru Latt

Guru Dutt developed a drinking “problem” in his later years. And his death, some people say, rather than suicide, could have been a case of a lethal combination of heavy drinking that night along with an overdose of the sleeping pills he used to have.

However, what not many seem to notice / talk about is his smoking. And this, while not being judgmental, is a “problem” with or without quotes. I obviously don’t know how much he smoked, but in so many pix, including those for which he posed, he holds a ciggie in his hand.

Collage of two photos of Guru Dutt, each with him holding a cigarette in his hand while posing for the camera

Why, in both songs of his abandoned Picnic (possibly 1960), he is shown having a light, though this could be more an attribute of his on-screen character than his off-screen one.

Song 1 from Picnic, featuring Sadhana


Song 2 from Picnic, featuring Helen


He seemed to be so wedded to the ciggie, I was tempted to title this piece Guru Butt, but then I realised how that sounded. So, Guru Latt (addiction in Hindi) it was.

Of course, if I had lived around his time and somehow had access to him (ah, we wish, don’t we), both for the smoking habit and for the desire to give up on life, I would have exhorted him simply, “Guru, Matt.” (Guru, Don’t.) But sigh, we wish, don’t we.

Smoke suspended around a man smoking


In the winter air,

The smoker’s smoke,

Suspended for a moment,

As if reluctant to leave him,

Or maybe,

Seeking to destroy him some more.