Independence of The Country
In 1947, India became independent. A direct gift of the independence to the Indian film industry was the First International Film Festival of India held in New Delhi in 1952.
Films like Carne’s Less Enfants Dux Paradis; Vittorio De Sicca’s Bicycle Thief and Miracle Of Milan and Rosselini’s Open City proved eye openers for our audience as well as the film makers. It was responsible for the birth of a new kind of Cinema in India.
Immediately after the partition of the country in 1947, few enterprising young people like Satyajit Ray, Nimai Ghosh, Chidanda Dasgupta (father of now famous director Aparna Sen), Bansi Chandragupta started the Calcutta Film Society. They managed to import a print of Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (the payment of which was done by collecting the meagre savings of the Society’s founder members) and saw it again and again. Later, when Pudovkin visited India, the society invited him to give talks on films.
Satyajit Ray, who at the time was working as a commercial artist in Clarion Advertising agency as an art director, was toying with the idea of filming Pather Panchali, a story which had intrigued him for long. It was about the fortunes of a Bengali family. The father, though talented artistically, is compelled to make a living to support his wife and two children, working as a priest. For a long time he struggles to bring up his son Apu and daughter Durga in their ancestral village, but is forced to abandon it and settle down in Benares.
So, in 1949, when Jean Renoir was in Bengal to shoot The River, Satyajit went to interview him on behalf of a magazine called ‘Sequence’ (being edited by Lindsey Anderson at the time), and during the conversation told Renoir about his idea of filming Pather Panchali. Renoir, who had been a stickler for new ideas, liked it immensely and encouraged the young man to go ahead with his plans.
Satyajit saw De Sicca s Bicylce Thief and other continental films in London, and was so much impressed by the film, that he decided to start work on his proposed film as soon as possible. He was surprised that one could work exclusively in the exterior settings, with non professional actors. He thought, what one can do in Italy, one can do in India as well.
He approached many producers with the script of Pather Panchali, which had several pen and ink sketches to illustrate the shots. Everyone liked the script, but no one was prepared to finance it. So, he began working on his own, with two of his close friends-Subroto Mitra and Bansi Chandragupta as cameraman and set designer respectively. At that time, making the film in 16 mm would have cost about twenty thousand rupees. As none of them had any financial backing, the project had to be postponed.
In 1952, Satyajit got impatient (not discouraged by the failure of another such attempt Chinnamool by Nimai Ghosh (not to be mistaken by Satyajit Ray’s still photographer of the same name), and decided to make the film at any cost. Like Phalke, he also mortgaged his insurance policy and worked every Saturday Sunday with amateur artistes without make up. Later on he sold off his library, Art books and even his mother’s and wife’s jewellery to get some money.
By this time the trio had prepared the rough cut, which ran for forty minutes. Even this, when shown to financiers, could not get them a producer or even a financier. So, for almost one year there was practically no work on the film. He was about to give up the idea of completing the film, when, through a mutual friend, he met the then Chief Minister of Bengal, BCRoy, who gave him a government grant to complete the film. Incidentally, since the government had no policy to finance motion pictures at the time, the grant for Pather Panchali came from Ministry of Road & Transport, because roughly translated, Pather Panchali means Song of the Roads.
During the production of Pather Panchali, one of Satyajit’s employer saw few sequences of the film. He liked them so much, that he gave Satyajit a long leave with salary to work on the film.
At last in 1955, when the film was complete, it proved Satyajit Ray to be a master at interpreting the mysteries and emotions of childhood, with the result that the film even today is one of the finest products about a boy’s world the cinema has produced. But, the government, his producer(remember he was financed by the government), found the film too denouncing and pessimistic, and asked him to add another sequence in the film showing latest developments in the rural areas. But Satyajit stuck to the point that the original novel, on which the film was based, did not have any such sequence. The government at last agreed to release the film without any changes.
Pather Panchali was shown in Calcutta for six weeks in one of the leading theatres. Initial box office returns were rather poor, but later the sales jumped sharply. Although the film was doing very good business, it had to be withdrawn from the cinema-for the reason that, the theatre was pre booked for another film.
The next day Satyajit had a visitor early in the morning. It was SS Vasan (of Chandralekha fame). The film which has replaced Pather Panchali at the Cinema was made by him. Vasan, who had seen Pather Panchali the previous night was so touched that tears flowed from his eyes. He told Satyajit that he would have postponed the release of his spectacular film, had he known about Pather Panchali before.
Pather Panchali was then taken up by a suburban cinema, where it ran for several weeks. With this film, Satyajit Ray stepped in the international arena. Penelope Houstan in her book, The Contemporary Cinema, writes, “Francois Trauffaut is said to have walked out of Pather Panchali, announcing with surprising asperity that he wasn’t interested in a movie about Indian peasants. One London critic ingloriously described the film as case of ‘pad, pad, pad through the paddy fields’. But the suggestion that the film hardly rated sophisticated artist. Like Renoir, he looks and looks and looks again, and makes his films with painstaking observation; artists, his players act with that suggestion of naturalism which look spontaneous and means hours of most concentrated patience. Ray is no peasant, and the limpid clarity of his style is not achieved by luck or chance. “ Penelope Houston along with Marie Seton and The Guardian s Derek Malcolm were initial Ray fans.
Meanwhile in Bombay, the main production centre of Hindi films, most of the producers were following a success formula. If one type of film was a success, there would follow a series of films with similar themes. Characters were ‘types’ rather than human beings. There was always the all good hero, heroine and the bad villian. Boy meets girl, boy looses girl, boy gets girl themes were interspersed with several songs and dance number were popular. But there were a few who swam against the current and strived to make significantly different films.
One was Bimal Roy, whose Do Bigha Zameen, centering around the struggles of a Bengali peasant, won the Prix Internationale at the Cannes Film Festival. Do Bigha Zameen was strongly influenced by Italian neorealism, and was a direct result of the awakening by the First International Film Festival of India. K. A. Abbas, who had earlier distinguished himself with Dharti Ke Lal, came up with yet another purposeful (though cinematically it was average), film Munna-the story of an orphan boy. The film was screened at the Edinburough Film Festival in 1955, and was praised for its content. ‘The Scotsman’ described it as, “the worthiest film of this year’s festival”.
Raj Kapoor, comparatively a new comer on the film scene, after having made routine films like Aah, Aag and Barsaat, came up with Boot Polish, a film about the shoe shine boys. Although it did not attract recognisation form any quarter, it did beat a new path hitherto unknown to the Indian audience.
Raj Kapoor is many things to many people: producer, director, actor, editor, musician, story teller, a man of many moods, an acknowledged patriarch of India’s film making industry. There will be endless debates about his exact contribution to the art of cinema, but few can deny that he was the greatest entertainer known to Indian films-the great showman. Ranbir Raj Kapoor was the son of Prithviraj Kapoor the head of India’s greatest and largest film family. He started work as general factotum for Bombay Talkies before moving on to assist Kidar Sharma. Here he was made to sweep floors and be the clapper boy but Sharma noticed the young man’s determination to make it. Sharma gave him his break a lead actor in 1947 with Neel Kamal opposite Madhubala.
The following year at the age of 23, Raj Kapoor made his directorial debut with Aag, the first film under the RK banner. Aag was an interesting film in that it challenged traditionally established conventions of sympathetic characters and straightforward storytelling. It was also the first of his many films with Nargis, the two of them going on to become the leading pair of Hindi Films. Aag was also the first of many of Raj’s films to explore duality-Aag looked at Physical beauty v/s Inner beauty (a theme revisited in Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978), Barsaat (1949) looked at Love v/s Lust, Mera Naam Joker (1970) at Public life v/s Private life etc.
Mehboob’s Andaaz (1949) made Raj a top star and in the same year it was the passionate romance Barsaat which really reckoned Raj Kapoor as a director of much merit. Barsaat, a runaway hit, also brought to the limelight new music directors Shankar-Jaikishen, lyricists Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri and the actress Nimmi. The raw passion between Raj Kapoor and Nargis in Barsaat shot with a beautiful almost poetic use of light and shade drove audiences wild. The music of the film was hummed across the nation and along with Andaaz and Mahal that year, the songs were instrumental in Lata Mangeshkar’s climb to the top as a playback singer. In fact Raj Kapoor’s musical sense and feel for rhythm and involvement in music sittings have ensured the highest quality of music in his films.
The fifties saw Raj Kapoor’s greatest work as a Producer Director besides establishing himself as one of India’s biggest ever film stars along with Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar-the Trimurthi! Awaara (1951), the tale of a vagabond was perhaps his greatest triumph and was released in Russia as Bradyaga to unprecedented success. It’s dream sequence with huge statues set amongst the clouds to the strains of Nargis dancing to Ghar Aaya Mera Pardesi is a cine-east’s delight even today! With Awaara, Raj Kapoor created the Chaplinisque tramp, an allegory for the innocent state of mind of the post Independent Indian. This image was used once again in Shree 420 (1955) tracing the corruption of an innocent soul who comes to the city to make his living. In fact. many of Raj’s other films look at the naove simple hero used by a cruel and corrupt society like Anadi (1959).
After his break up with Nargis (their last film together was AVM’s Chori Chori (1956) though she did do a in Jaagte Raho (1956). Chori Chori was directed by Anant Thakur and produced by AVM Film company from Madras. This could explain why the film was based in the South as the hero and heroine travel all over the countryside from Madras to Bangalore. Chori Chori was inspired by Frank Capra’s 1934 comedy-It Happened One Night starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. This kind of comedy was a genre that was extremely popular in the 1930s till the grim realities of World War II made their presence felt. Comedies generally worked on the battle of the sexes as the hero and heroine gave it to each other before finally falling in love. Their bickering and fighting with each other as they exchanged barbs and double entendres is what constituted the fun element of the film.
The key character in this battle of the sexes would be the heiress. She was often dizzy, saucy, flighty who fled from homes, jilted bridegroom at the altar and generally carried on with total disregard for the existence of breadlines and unemployment. Thus she was used humorously in such films as an object of contempt and ridicule. Of course by the end of the film not only does the hero snag the heiress but through him she is also humanized to see normal life and normal people quite unlike herself. And when she has to escape with the hero when her father’s detectives land up there is by behaving normal, as the normal wife of the normal hero. And during the film the hero takes on the weight of becoming the very image of the people revealing them in the process of revealing himself to the haughty, upper class heroine.
Chori Chori is a typical example of what constitutes a road film. While a popular genre in Hollywood, India has never really embraced this format and the efforts have been few-Bombay to Goa (1972) or Dil Hai ki Maanta Nahin (1992) which incidentally was also a remake of It Happened One Night and Roman Holiday combined.
Perhaps this is so because the road is an enduring theme in American culture. The road movie I in this regard like the musical or the Western, a Hollywood genre that catches peculiarly American dreams, tensions and anxieties.
Nargis is a revelation in the film as the dizzy heiress. She proves she can play screwball comedy as effectively as she could her intense dramatic roles. It is a fine perfomance with her sense of comic timing spot on. See her as the puppet in the Jahaan Main Jaati Hoon song. It is Nargis’s sense of razor sharp timing that offsets her inability. She carries off the song sequence excellently by her expressions. Raj Kapoor of course had born comic talent. He is absolutely perfect in the role of the impoverished journalist Sagar. Chori Chori marks yet another land-mark in Raj Kapoor’s illustrious acting career. Pran does his familiar bad man turn with relative ease. They are more than strongly supported by the comic element of the film-Gope, Johnny Walker and Bhagwan.
Chori Chori represents some of the finest work of Shankar-Jaikishen in their entire career. The evergreen musical score with lyrics by Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri ensured Shankar-Jaikishen their first ever Filmfare Award for Best Music. The film has brilliant songs with each song better than the other. First and foremost are the two all time great Lata Mangeshkar-Manna Dey romantic duets Yeh Raat Bheegi Bheegi and Aaja Sanam Madhur Chandni Mein Hum. With Mukesh trying his hand to be an actor this was the phase when Manna Dey briefly sang as the voice of Raj Kapoor in films like Shree 420 and Chori Chori.
As one hears Manna Dey one cannot but think sadly that the film industry never really gave this great singer his due. He was always regarded a poor second to Rafi, Mukesh, Kishore, Talat or Hemant Kumar which is a pity because Manna Dey was such a fine singer with an extremely strong classical base himself. Lata Mangeshkar of course leaves her stamp on the film with perhaps her greatest sad song ever-Rasik Balma. It is perhaps technically the best composition of the film and the emotion and pathos with which Lata renders this song is unbelievable. Only such a gifted singer could give such expression to words like Lata could
While Raj Kapoor continued to explore social issues-Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai (with Padmini & Pran) (1960) or complex human relationships-Sangam (Raj-Rajendra Kumar-Vyjayantimala) (1964) there is a marked difference in his treatment of the heroine who became a sex object with a high accent on her physical attributes! Reverting back to the Chaplinisque image, Kapoor made his magnum opus Mera Naam Joker (Raj-Kapoor, Dharmendra, Rajednra Kumar, Dara Singh, Manoj Kumar, Padmini, Simmi, Sonia Sahni, Pran, Rishi Kapoor) (1970) about the circus-joker who laughs on the outside and cries within and though absolutely brilliant in parts (particularly the first chapter of the adolescent hero discovering love and sex) the film, a highly self indulgent exercise flopped miserably at the box office shattering him.
Raj Kapoor bounced back with Bobby (Rishi Kapoor-Dimple Kapadia) (1973) a teenage romance of young lovers fighting parental opposition that is aped by Hindi cinema till today. Satyam Shivam Sundaram (Shashi Kapoor-Zeenat Aman) (1978) examining Physical Beauty v/s Inner Beauty was a misfire but Prem Rog (Rishi Kapoor-Padmini Kolhapure) (1982) based on widow re marriage and his swan song Ram Teri Ganga Maili (Rajeev Kapoor-Mandakini) (1985) about innocence being sullied were critical and commercial successes. In the latter the female protagonist is a metaphor for India-once pure but now sullied by dirt and corruption.
At the time of his death Raj Kapoor was making Heena (Rishi Kapoor and a Pakinstani actress Zeba Bakhtair), a love story breaking the barriers of the Indo Pak border, which was subsequently completed by his eldest son Randhir. His sons, all primarily actors, have tried to keep the RK Banner alive albeit with mixed results. Which just goes on to prove-Raj Kapoor was one and one of a kind. Raj Kapoor was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for his contribution to Indian Cinema in 1988.
Raj Kapoor’s co star Madhubala in Neel Kamal, also created waves on her own. Madhubala was without doubt the most beautiful Hindi Film heroine ever. And also perhaps the most underrated actress ever with her beauty attracting more attention than her performances. She was brilliant in comedy with her sense of comic timing spot on and she came up with performances of high dramatic calibre in Amar (1954) and the unforgettable Mughal e Azam (1960).
Born in abject poverty, the 5th of 11 children, Madhubala began life in the film world as a child star, Baby Mumtaz, in films like Bombay Talkies Basant (1942). It was Kidar Sharma who gave her a break as heroine opposite Raj Kapoor in Neel Kamal (1947).
However it was with the Bombay Talkies suspense thriller Mahal (1949) that Madhubala became a star. Aaega aanewala from the film remains her signature song till today! A spate of films followed opposite the top leading men of the day-Ashok Kumar, Rehman, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand but by the mid 1950s when some of her major films like Mehboob Khan’s Amar flopped, Madhubala, the most beautiful actress in the country was declared ‘box office poison!’ Further, she had gotten involved with Dilip Kumar and this took its toll on her health and career, as she could not face her father’s opposition of him and ultimately had to bow out of BR Chopra’s Naya Daur (1957) opposite Dilip Kumar following a scandalous court case with the producers.
She however bounced back with a string of hits in the 1958 60 period-Phagun (1958), Howrah Bridge (1958), Kala Pani (1958), Chalti ka Naam Gaadi (1958)-all among her more memorable films and of course Mughal e Azam (1960). As the club dancer in Howrah Bridge Madhubala never looked more beautiful or alluring as she swayed to the seductive notes of Aaiye Mehrbaan. And she matched Kishore Kumar step by step in his madcap antics in Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi. However it was Mughal e Azam that saw perhaps her greatest performance as the doomed courtesan Anarkali. The film showed off the finely modulated depth she could bring to her performances if given the opportunity. It is an outstanding performance in an outstanding film.
Tragically by now she was diagnosed as having a hole in her heart and her illness forced her to abbreviate her career. She also plunged into a loveless marriage with Kishore Kumar and lingered on for nine years till her death in 1969. She did have the odd release in this period like Passport (1961), Half Ticket (1962) and Sharabi (1964) but they were mostly old films that managed to limp towards release. In fact Jwala released almost two years after her death in 1971! She did try making a comeback opposite Raj Kapoor in Chaalaak (1964) but collapsed on the sets on the very first day of shooting and the film was shelved. Even today the very mention of the name Madhubala conjures up the image of those dancing eyes, that smile. . .
Shantaram made another good film in Do Ankhen Barah Haath, based on a true incident, about an idealist jailor establishing a non punitive farming settlement for six condemned criminals. The story of the jailor’s struggles and of criminals regeneration is related in an odd, formal and authentically oriented style. The deep criminality of the prisoners is translated into a comic convention, so that they appear as a kind of crazy gang. The inevitable songs are used very ingeniously to forward the action, and the characterisation, particularly of an itinerant woman toy seller, is often both comic and perspetive. It was highly acclaimed at the Berlin Film Festival in 1958.
These film ushered in a New Era in Indian Cinema, specially in Hindi films.
Till this time, although the South was producing films in four languages-Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam, and having flourishing film industry of its own, had hardly come out with any significant film. It had attained a professional overall gloss, but nothing of aesthetic or artistic value. Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and even Hindi films made in South could be compared to a bad book printed on fine art paper, using excellent typography.
The stock hero usually had no family ties, and was either a orphan or lived separately because of differences with the family. To mention a few films of this kind, Kalaik Koi, Ayiramrubaim, Nataeathri (all in Tamil). This perhaps reflected the feeling of loneliness and insecurity that was growing in the modern man.
Bengal, which already had some dedicated film makers by now came up with other people like Ritwik Ghatak Ajantrik; Mrinal Sen-Akash Kusum and Baishe Sharavan (incidentally, Madhabi Mukerjee later to be Internationally acclaimed as Satyajit Ray’s heroine was given her first major screen assignment by Mrinal Sen in Baishe Sharavan, and rechristened her Madhabi from Madhuri) Others also of a genuine feeling for a new cinema quickly followed. Tapan Sinha made the box office film more honest and cinematic that it ever was. And old veterans like Debaki Bose, tried to give a new approach to film making in his Sagar Sangame, depicting conflict between the society and the religion.
It is not that the First International Film Festival of India had changed the entire pattern of film making in the country-it changed the approach of only a handful of people. The rest of them, in Bombay and elsewhere, continued to make films as before. The genuine urge to experiment, explore and interpret life and its reality was not everyone’s. Only a handful of dedicated people were trying to do something new.
In Bombay, Raj Kapoor, who had earlier won laurels for his Boot Polish, reverted back to making his socialist pattern of cinema and made Aawara-a tremendous commercial success in India as well as abroad, specially in the Middle East and Soviet Russia. Aawara, popularised Raj Kapoor’s image as the Tramp (a character most probably inspired from Jaquest Tati’s Houlot’s Holiday though Charlie Chaplin gets the credit for Kapoor s make over). In Raj Kapoor’s films Shree 420 and Jagte Raho-the hero was invariably a victim of society, as such proletarian. He was always unemployed. And in case he happened to be working, his job was always threatened. He always had a blood sucking boss, and inevitably always fell in love with his boss’s pretty daughter. To end the film, the girl always abandoned her father or uncle (or whatever relationship was convenient), and joined her prince charming. With slight or major variations, Raj Kapoor’s themes were, and almost till the end, remained the same. The struggle between the Burgouis Society and the Proletariat.
At this time here were a few directors who wanted to say something, preach something, but did not have enough courage to come out in the open and say whatever they wanted to. Thus the films made by such people became a sort of pseudo realist type, for example, Humlog, Footpath and Humsafar. This type of film always had an overdose of songs and dances to compensate for the lack of other significant ingredients, such as romance etc. This particular genre would include quite a few other films besides the ones mentioned.
By and by producers in Bombay-the biggest production centre-also started developing Hollywood characteristics, technical polish, rich production values, formula themes with mass appeal. The pictures with the biggest budget (sometime as high as ten million rupees), costly sets, and the most popular and expensive stars are all made in Bombay. The average product of the Bombay film industry, as well as that in the south, could not be called Cinema at all; it is some totally indescribeable entity which by sheer accident uses celluloid to propagate itself. The wonder is that even in this overpowering commercial atmosphere of box office productions, men of vision and integrity, not infrequently, come up with films of social significance and artistic distinction.
Actually, the division and conflict exists everywhere, not only in Cinema, but in all other arts as well. In music, there is the battle between pop and classical; in painting, impressionsists and surealists always differ; in literature, the serious novels and the comic strip definitely are two different things, and in dancing, even a novice would not call a ballet and a cabaret the same, even though, essentially both are dance forms. Similarly, there always is a difference between a ‘class’ film and ‘mass’ film.
Unkind critics of Indian cinema very often said and even now say that, the Indian cinema was born and baptised in Hollywood. As has been written earlier, Hollywood is the eternal fountain from which most our film makers draw their inspiration, but the fact can not be denied that India has produced some highly original and world class film makers as well.
Actually the late fiftees and the entire sixtees, eightees and ninetees is a chapter which the historian of Hindi Cinema would like to forget, and forgive-as barring a few producers and directors, the rest of them were turning out the same old stuff-boy meets girl, mythologicals, historicals and stunts, and to this day, an average Bombay film has made but little progress, thematically.
The other type of films which were popular those days, and were very well received, were the Humphary Bogart type-with Dev Anand as the leading man. Films of this genre include Baazi (directed by Guru Dutt) Jaal, Taxi Driver (directed by Dev s elder brother Chetan Anand). All of these films starred handsome Dev Anand, who even today is active in the film trade as a leading man, producer and director (Taxi Driver, Baazi and all his subsequent films have been produced by him, under his banner Navketan).
Dev Anand is one of the greatest star’s the Hindi Film Industry has seen. Handsome and debonair, he was the epitome of the suave, urban gentleman. He was born Devdutt Pishorimal Anand in Gurdaspur, Punjab, the middle son of a well to do advocate. He graduated in English Literature from the GovernmentCollege, Lahore and left for Bombay to join elder brother Chetan Anand in the IPTA. The initial years were full of struggle as among other things he even had to sell some of his possessions and even worked in the Military Censor’s office reading soldiers’ letters to their families.
His first acting assignment came with Prabhat’s Hum Ek Hain (1946) but the film didn’t do anything at all for his career. However at Prabhat, he met the young choreographer of the film, Guru Dutt. A friendship blossomed between the two of them. They promised each other that if Guru Dutt were to turn filmmaker he would take Dev as his hero and if Dev were to produce a film then he would take Guru Dutt as its Director! Ziddi (1948) at Bombay Talkies was Dev’s first success. The following year he turned producer and launched his own banner, Navketan. Navketan’s first offering was Afsar (1950) starring Dev and lady love Suraiya and was directed by elder brother Chetan. The film however flopped at the box office. Dev, remembering his promise to Guru Dutt invited him to make a film for Navketan.
Thus 1951 saw the release of Baazi, Guru Dutt’s directorial debut. The film, written by actor Balraj Sahni, was a trendsetter of sorts leading to the spate of urban crime thrillers The Hindi Cinema churned out in the 1950s. The film took Dev Anand to dramatic star status. It was also the beginning of seeing Dev play mostly hard bitten characters living in the urban underbelly.
Baazi was Guru Dutt’s first film as director. The film, clearly influenced by the film noir movement of Hollywood in the 1940s, does admittedly appear stilted and dated today. It’s various elements represent the classic clich’s we have come to see in Indian films. The hero being lead to a life of crime since he cannot afford keeping his sick sister in a sanatorium, the goody two shoes heroine bent on reforming him, the moll who loves him and takes the bullet meant for him, asking him to acknowledge that she’s not such a bad woman after all and dying before he can say so in his arms, and the villain is. . . no surprises. . . the heroine’s father, on the surface a decent and well respected man! But while viewing Baazi we have to remember it was among the first of its type.
In fact Baazi set the tone for the spate of urban crime films that were to come out of The Hindi Cinema in the 1950s and early 1960s. Baazi also showed a criminal hero with a tough as nails exterior but of course with a heart of gold inside. The film took actor Dev Anand to dramatic star status. He was the ideal actor for the crime wave films and played in a number of them-Jaal (1952), Pocketmaar (1955), C. I. D. (1956), Nau Do Gyarah (1957), Kaala Bazaar (1960), Jaali Note (1960) to name some.
But in spite of the now much imitated plot, there are some moments of inventiveness and experimentation, which give a glimpse of the genius of Guru Dutt, which were to be seen in later films. Songs were integrated into the story line rather than standard items or appendages to the plot. The entire scene where the moll warns the hero he is going to be killed is done through a club dance-Suno Gajar Kya Gaaye. A ghazal, Tadbir se Bigdi Hui Taqdeer was set to a hep western beat as the moll tries to seduce the hero. The experiment worked and how! In fact the entire music score of the film had a lively and zingy beat to it, all in all a most jazzy score by S. D. Burman. The songs also saw an untapped side of singer and wife to be Geeta Roy. Known only for sad songs and bhajans till then, the ease with which she went western was marvelous to behold. The sex appeal in her voice was brought to the fore and helped her build an identity of her own, a style no singer could copy.
Baazi promoted a lot of new talent, several of whom went on to make quite a name for themselves-Lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi, choreographer Zohra Sehgal, comedian Johnny Walker, actress Kalpana Kartik. The screenplay was written by well known actor Balraj Sahni.
The film though being a trendsetter interestingly also shows Guru Dutt’s traditional attitude to women. The moll is mostly dressed in western clothes, while the goody two shoes heroine is always in traditional Indian attire. The moll is immoral and she has to pay for it with her life, her redemption being taking the bullet meant for the hero. (This attitude to women was further noticed even in the posters of Mr. and Mrs 55 where the poster on one half showed the heroine Madhubala dressed in western attire making the hero, Guru Dutt, buckle her shoe while the right half showed the heroine in a traditional sari touching the hero’s feet!)
But even as Dev started to get successful in films, his relationship with Suraiya ended as she could not take a stand against her strict grandmother. Ironically, her career went on the downslide thereafter even as his ascended-a total reversal of the days when they went around and she was the bigger star. The next pairing of Dev Anand and Guru Dutt was Jaal (1952). Dev played a heartless smuggler who only repents right at the end of the film. It was a finely shaded performance but the film didn’t do too well at the box office. The partnership came to an end when Guru Dutt decided to act in his own films.
Dev meanwhile went from strength to strength and along with Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor ruled the Hindi Film Industry in the 1950s-they were known as the Trimurthi of The Hindi Cinema. With deliberately awkward pastiches (Owing their origins to Gregory Peck and Cary Grant), Dev reveled in playing the mischievous lover boy chasing the heroine. “Dev Anand’s forte was the boy next door. Part lover, part clown, part do gooder. “ However in between his lover boy roles like Munimjee (1955) and Paying Guest (1957), Dev repeatedly played shaded roles such as the pickpocket in Pocketmaar (1955), the absconding gang member in Dushman (1957), the black marketeer in Kala Bazaar (1960) or the murderer in Bombay ka Babu (1960) though by now his starry mannerisms-his sing song dialogue delivery, his puff in his hair, his total nonchalance were part of every character he played. Consequently he was never rated too high as a performer but to be fair to him, he did give a fine performance under Raj Khosla as the anguished son trying to prove his father’s innocence in Kala Pani (1958) winning a Filmfare Award for the same. Hum Dono (1961) saw him excel in a double role and Guide (1965) saw a perfectly nuanced performance from him, perhaps the best of his career.
The character of Raju Guide was yet another shaded character he played. Dev played him with just the right shade of grey-humanizing him with all his faults yet getting the audience to sympathize with him. It was a wonderful performance fetching him his second Filmfare Best Actor Award. Dev Anand entered the 1970s on a high with Johnny Mera Naam (1970) and also took to direction with Prem Pujari (1970). His best efforts in this field were Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971) and Desh Pardes (1978). The former, set amongst Hare Krishna cultists (presented as dope smoking hippies) was Dev Anand’s call to nationalist Indian values and by far the best film he ever directed. The film launched the career of Zeenat Aman who made a tremendous impact as his sister in the middle of the cultists.
Other heroines he has launched include Tina Munim (now Ambani), Natasha Sinha and Ekta. He also tried to launch his son Suneil with Anand Aur Anand (1984) but was unsuccessful. Dev Anand continues to make films today and though his last few films haven’t been successful he just keeps going with amazing energy-His philosophy being to think positive. To quote him,
Dev Anand, it is interesting to note that the thespian, had his elder brother Chetan Anand and younger brother Vijay (Goldie) Anand as his directors. Chetan Anand’s son Ketan was a director in his own right (he made Toote Khilone starring Shekhar Kapoor and Shabana Azmi(. Dev Anand One sister’s three sons, Yash, Vishal and Bhisham Kohli became producers in their own right. Shekhar Kapoor, son of the other sister attained international acclaim as a director by directing Masoom, Mr India, Bandit Queen and thereafter much acclaimed Elizabeth. Shekhar sister’s Neelu was once married to Navin Nischal, once loked upon as a most promising find of Indian Cinema after Rajesh Khanna. Gogi Anand – son of Dev Anand’s Uncle was a producer and director in his own right. Gogi’s brother, Siddharth (Kaka) is still active in and out of film industry and closely associated with Anil Ambani.
When we talk of Dev anand, Guru dutt cannot be far behind. Guru Dutt, an ardent and sincere film maker belonging to the Prabhat tradition of film making, stepped in with his first, directorial venture Baazi. Though this film was aimed at the box office, it showed promise, and gave an idea of what was to follow from this man.
The story of Guru Dutt Padukone and Dev Anand (Dharambir Pishorilal Anand) is again an anecdote fit for the annals of Indian Cine history their meeting was made possible by a Dhobhi (washerman) who had interchanged their shirts, and both recognised their shirts on the sets of Prabhat s Hum Ek Hain, which Dev Anand was doing as a leading man at rs 400/ per month and Guru Dutt was an assistant director and Mohan Sehgal an assistat dance director. Even though Dev Anand and Guru Dutt did not work together professionally after Baazi, few are aware within the filmdom too, that the duo were very close friends, and in fact were planning another film together in 1964, just before Guru dutt s suicide.
Guru Dutt: Sensitive, Poetic, Magical. These and more words have described the genius of Guru Dutt. Guru Dutt Padukone was born in Mysore in South India on July 9, 1925. He had his early education in Calcutta before doing basic training with dance maestro Uday Shankar after which he joined Prabhat Studios. It was here that he got a break as a choreographer with the film Hum Ek Hain (1946), the launching pad of friend and actor Dev Anand.
From Prabhat Guru Dutt moved on to Famous Studios and then on to Bombay Talkies. Meanwhile in 1949, his close friend from Prabhat, Dev Anand (now a star) had launched his own banner, Navketan. Their first film Afsar (1950) was not a success. Dev Anand invited Guru Dutt to direct a film for him. Thus 1951 saw the release of Baazi, Guru Dutt’s directorial debut. The film starring Dev Anand, Geeta Bali and Kalpana Kartik was a trendsetter regarded as the forerunner of the spate of urban crime films that followed in The Hindi Cinema in the 1950s. In fact, Guru Dutt and singer Geeta Roy met during the song recording of Baazi and fell in love, marrying on the 26th of May, 1953.
Baaz in 1953 saw Guru Dutt make his debut as leading man and he went on to act as well as direct. Aar Paar released in 1954 established Guru Dutt as a director to reckon with. The film was a crime thriller in the genre of Baazi but by now with Jaal (1952) and Baaz also behind him, Guru Dutt had polished his filmmaking skills and Aar Paar stands out as among the best of the genre. The plot of the film may now seem formulaic but scores in its treatment. It’s great strength lies in the way even the minor characters are fleshed out-be it the barman, the street urchin or the newspaper vendor. And for once characters spoke with a language that reflected their background.
Followed some of his best work Mr. and Mrs 55 (1955), Pyaasa (1957) and Kaagaz ke Phool (1959). Pyaasa was Guru Dutt’s real masterpiece. It tells of the thirst for love, for recognition, for spiritual fulfilment. There is a strong parallel between the hero, a poet, the outsider trying to make a place for himself in the society he inhabits and the director, the outsider trying to leave his independent stamp in a world of formulaic cinema. It is in Pyaasa where we really see Guru Dutt transcend way above the ordinary and succeed in totality. Kaagaz ke Phool was a dismal failure at the box office and a dejected Guru Dutt never directed a film again. But for all its flaws, like any Guru Dutt film, the highs far outweigh the lows. Technically the film is perhaps his best film. The camerawork with its use of light and shadow is magical. The frames have been beautifully composed keeping in mind the cinemascope format (It is India’s first ever film in cinemascope). The relationship between the director and his protigi is delicately handled on a very human plane. The film making scenes are shot with meticulous attention to detail and the ambience of the film studios is most effectively created. And above all, song picturizations are taken to new heights. Lyrical and poetic, it represents some of the finest work that Guru Dutt has ever done. The screenplay however is weak and the film at its worst moments appears to be morbid and totally narcissistic.
Guru Dutt continued to produce films and act in both home and outside productions. But never did he ever give his name in the credits as Director again. Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962) though credited to writer Abrar Alvi bears his unmistakable stamp. The film won the President’s Silver Medal as well as the Film of the year award from the Bengal Film Journalists Association besides going to the Berlin Film Festival and being India’s official entry for the Oscars.
However Guru Dutt’s personal life was a shambles. He had separated from his wife allegedly due to his involvement with his discovery and leading actress Waheeda Rehman and on Oct. 10, 1964 he took an overdose of sleeping pills and committed suicide though doubts still linger as to whether his death was accidental.
Themes of his films aside, Guru Dutt has also brought in some major technical revolutions in the grammar of the mainstream Hindi film. Guru Dutt had a unique knack of being able to integrate the film song into the story and make the story move forward even through the song. This is because Guru Dutt stuck to the vocabulary of his characters even in the songs and picturized them in the locations the characters would normally inhabit. Also he began a lot of songs without the introductory music thus using it as an extension of the dialogue. Hence the songs never appear out of place. His strength lay in his sense of music as well as in the picturization of songs, particularly his shot takings.
Guru Dutt used the effect of light and shade to poetic in fact magical effect to create romance. There is no better use of light and shade in Indian cinema than the songs Saaqiya Aaj Mujhe Neend Nahin Aayegi from Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, and Waqt ne Kiya Kya Haseen Situm from Kaagaz ke Phool. Guru Dutt also revolutionalized the close up shot. He went in for closer magnifications of characters than those seen till then almost as if probing for their internal feelings. He went beyond the standard 50mm lens used then, using lenses with higher focal length to get tighter close ups. He strongly felt that 80% of acting was done in the eyes and 20% the rest of the body. For the eyes are the most expressive part. And being an actor-director made it easy for Guru Dutt to get good performances from his artistes. And if he wasn’t completely satisfied with the results, he scrapped the film he was making irrespective of the amount of money and time gone into the project. This explains the large number of incomplete films that he left.
His ambition was not just to make a good film or be one of the top filmmakers. He aspired to make a great film, a different film and he wanted to be the best filmmaker. He always wanted things in absolute terms. Be it acclaim or success. He would settle for nothing less. Filmmaking was an obsession with him. He was a very ambitious man. But ambition is a passion that can destroy. It ultimately drove him to the point of no return. “
None of his films satisfied him as a director. He always felt that something was missing from his films. “ Raj Khosla further felt that Guru Dutt had achieved too much too soon as far as his professional life was concerned. After Pyaasa and Kaagaz ke Phool, there was nothing better to be achieved. This created a vacuum in his life. Perhaps this emptiness caused him to take his own life. His death was an irreplaceable loss for Indian Cinema.
A hackneyed story now-but at the time, it was made it was considered extremely progressive. An impoverished and struggling cartoonist, Preetam (Guru Dutt) encounters Anita (Madhubala) at a tennis match. Anita is controlled by her aunt Sita Devi (Lalita Pawar), a crusader for Women’s Rights who ‘protects’ Anita from men. However Anita’s father stipulates his will that Anita will inherit his fortune only if she marries within a month of turning 21. Sita Devi decides to contrive a marriage which would be followed by divorce so that Anita gets both her wealth and her independence. She hires Preetam to marry Anita unaware he is in love with her. When Anita finds out he is her hired husband, he falls in her eyes. Preetam, frustrated at not being able to see Anita after the marriage, carries her off to his brother’s house in a nearby village. Anita is deeply influenced by Preetam’s sister-in-law, a perfect traditional Indian housewife. However she has already asked Sita Devi to rescue her. Feeling that Anita doesn’t reciprocate his feelings, Preetam fabricates evidence against himself so that his divorce with Anita will come about easily and decides to leave Bombay. Preetam is much maligned in court but by now Anita realizes she loves him. She defies her aunt and rushes to the airport to stop Preetam from leaving. Anita nd Preetam are reunited.
Mr. and Mrs. 55 is a sophisticated romantic comedy which along with Aar Paar (1954) sees the beginnings of the lyrical and poetic style identified with Guru Dutt’s later work. And though the film is primarily a satirical comedy in nature, it is also perhaps Guru Dutt’s first film, more than any of his previous films, which shows a strong concern for social realities. The film opposes the corrupting influence of Westernization on India’s urban rich by reaffirming traditional Indian values. (In fact the poster of the film was divided into two parts. The first part showed the hero buckling the heroine’s shoe who is in western attire and the second part shows her in a sari touching the hero’s feet. )
The film, based loosely on a play written by Abrar Alvi called Modern Marriage, sparkles with wit and imagination. It’s greatest strength lies in its use of intelligence repartee rather than the usual slapstick and buffoonery that was prevalent in other Hindi comedies. And unlike most Hindi films where dialogues repetitively stress the same emotions again and again, each dialogue exchange in the film skillfully develops the plot while the dialogue as a whole invokes a range of feelings. Also Abrar Alvi’s dialogues diffuse highly charged situations with down-to-earth and matter-of-fact repartee. A splendid example of this was the scene where Preetam draws a cartoon of Sita Devi wearing a Roman toga, standing in a Roman chariot with a whip in hand. Anita and Preetam are the horses that pull the chariot. (Incidentally the cartoons was drawn by India’s top most cartoonist, R. K. Laxman. )
On seeing the cartoon Sita Devi is furious and confronts Preetam. He answers every question with ‘Ji Haan’ (Yes) but the scene is brilliantly constructed in a manner such that each reply gives it a different shade, a different meaning. And of course not forgetting the unforgettable exchange between Sita Devi and Preetam when they first meet and after listening to his views, she asks him if he is a communist. No, a cartoonist he replies!
The film is full of fluid camera movements, long tracking shots, brilliant use of light and shade and close-ups, fine performances and outstanding music. In fact, in pace, mood and feel, Mr. and Mrs. 55 is more like an American film and is perhaps Guru Dutt’s most ‘Hollywood’ influenced film. While Guru Dutt is fine in the role of Preetam, it is Madhubala who lifts the film several notches with her natural and spontaneous flair for comedy. Johnny Walker as Preetam’s friend who supports him in days of struggle, Yasmin who plays Johhny’s girlfriend and Lalita Pawar as Sita Devi lend able support even though the last named is seriously handicapped by a strictly two-dimensional role that borders on absolute caricature. In fact this is one of the weaknesses of the film if any-its highly reactionary and simplistic view of women wanting to be independent and treating Sita Devi as a villain rather than as a serious crusader for Women’s Rights.
The music score by O. P. Nayyar is outstanding particularly Thandi Hawa Kaali Ghata, Udhar Tum Haseen Ho, Chal Diye Banda Navaaz, Jaane Kahaan Mera Jigar Gaya Ji and Preetam Aan Milo. The last was originally sung by C. H. Atma for an HMV recording unconnected to any film but is used to splendid effect in the film. Anita is listening to the song in her room. Her aunt switches off the song. The next shot cuts to the same song playing simultaneously on the radio in Preetam’s room as he is packing his bags. It is to Geeta Dutt’s credit that she is able to give her own touch to the song rather than be limited by Atma’s wonderful rendering earlier. And like any Guru Dutt film special mention must be made of the song picturizations particularly Thandi Hawa Kaali Ghata shot at the Mahatma Gandhi swimming pool in Bombay’s Shivaji Park performed with a smiling chorus of girls twirling umbrellas led by Madhubala. . . or Jaane Kahaan Mera Jigar Gaya Ji as Johhny Walker and Yasmin romance under office desks during lunch break. . . or the argumentative duet Chal Diye Banda Navaaz imaginatively picturized among women drying and shaking out saris. And last but not least, the qawali Karavaan Dil ka Loota after Preetam walks away from Sita Devi’s house having provided false evidence of his debauchery. He stands in half-light and smiles in ironic complicity as the qawal sings on the roadside. The scene has a new intensity not seen earlier in the film and brings a significant shift of mood to the film, looking ahead to the dark and sombre mood of Pyaasa (1957) and Kaagaz ke Phool (1959). aar paar (1954).
Mr. and Mrs. 55. opened to most favourable reviews. To quote Filmfare in its issue of May 27, 1955. . . “A thoroughly delightful, honey and cream social comedy. Mr. and Mrs. 55 is a model of film craft and has gripping interest for every class of cinegoer. Its satire of characters we know and its incidents taken from life are spiced with humour. . . the dialogue, well-written, tense and witty, enhances the appeal of this true-to-life and thought-provoking entertainer. “
It was with Aar Paar that Guru Dutt really arrived as a filmmaker to be reckoned with. The film was a crime thriller in the genre of Baazi (1951) but by now with Jaal (1952) and Baaz (1953) also behind him, Guru Dutt had polished his skills and Aar Paar stands out as among the best of the genre. The plot of the film may now seem formulaic but scores in its treatment. It’s great strength lies in the way even the minor characters are fleshed out-be it the barman, the street urchin or the newspaper vendor. (This was one of the strong points of Guru Dutt’s films. And since he repeated artistes he worked with, the minor roles done in his films standout for their individual wit and integrity) And for once characters spoke with a language that reflected their background. The hero is from Madhya Pradesh in central India so he speaks in a particular style. The garage owner, a Punjabi, spoke with a punjabi slang. (Actually a glimpse of this was seen in Baazi
itself when the hero is asked for his last wish before hanging and in true and typical Bambaiya street language says “ Ek special chai.” ie one special tea!)
Taking a further cue out of film, the city is very much a character in Aar Paar. Much shooting was done on actual outdoor locations of Bombay rather than confining oneself to the studios. In fact even the garage where the hero worked was shot on location at the South Indian Garage in Parel, a locality of Bombay. In Aar Paar Guru Dutt took his talent for song picturisations to several notches above the commonplace. Many directors choose to enhance the fantasy elements by setting it in unreal and glamorous locations but in Guru Dutt’s films, the songs are rarely separate from the personalities who enacted them.
Songs in his films often take place in locations inhabited by the characters in his films. A fine example here is the romantic duet Sun Sun Sun Sun Zaalima. The song is set in the stark and unromantic atmosphere of a garage with a car providing the centre-piece but the way the two lovers circle around each other within this restricted space is a brilliant piece of choreography. Further, Guru Dutt was very particular in sticking to the vocabulary of his characters even in the songs. And often started songs without any introductory music using it as an extension of the dialogue. Thus beyond considerations of language and space, the songs in his films appear better integrated than in most Indian films. Aar Paar was a major turning point in the life of composer O. P. Nayyar who went on to become an extremely successful music director.
Among Guru Dutt s later films worth mention are Pyaasa-a story of a disallusioned poet; Kagaz Ke Phool (India’s first Cinemascope film)-story of a successful but unhappy film director; Chaudhavi Ka Chaand and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. His heroine in all the films was Waheeda Rehman, whom he introduced in his very first production, C. I. D.-under his own banner of
Guru Dutt Films. A surprising ingredients in all Guru Dutt films was the element of frustration and desperation of the hero. That is perhaps, because Guru Dutt himself had to struggle hard to come up, and because of that frustration only committed suicide in 1963, creating a vacuum in the Bombay film world, which has not yet been filled in adequately.
It is said about Guru Dutt that, he used to hurt himself whenever he was annoyed with his artistes on the sets. Once during shooting, his heroine could not give the expression he wanted. He was furious. Instead of telling her anything, he went into a rage and banged his head on the floor.
He was found dead on his bed with his eyes open, in a trance, as if thinking something. His right hand with the index finger was on his cheek, and in the other hand he held a cigarette. A book, lay on his bed. A thinker first and last, even in his death he must have been thinking about nothing else but his film.
Pyaasa is Guru Dutt’s real masterpiece. It tells of the thirst for love, for recognition, for spiritual fulfilment. There is a strong parallel between the hero, a poet, the outsider trying to make a place for himself in the society he inhabits and the director, the outsider, trying to leave his independent stamp in a world of formulaic cinema. It is in Pyaasa where we really see Guru Dutt transcend way above the ordinary and succeed in totality. Many individual shots and scenes become impressionistic images telling of his lyricism. An example which immediately comes to mind is the song Aaj Sajan Mohe Ang Lagalo. It is a kirtan-a Bengali devotional song telling of longing and desire. Though we see baul singers perform the song, it in fact voices the prostitute’s passion for the poet. She follows the poet up the stairs to the terrace where he stands his back to her. She moves towards him but cannot bring herself to touch him and she runs away. The earthly love she feels is uplifted and given a spiritual dimension through the words. And this is further reinforced by the amazing rendering of the song by Geeta Dutt. In the last scene of the film, an instrumental version of the song is played as the prostitute overcome with joy at seeing the poet at her doorway runs down the steps of her house into his arms.
They are one. What is most interesting to note in their relationship is that the prostitute shares with the poet a greater attraction for spiritual fulfilment rather than materialistic fulfilment.
In many of Guru Dutt’s films we see him caught between two women-Aar Paar (1954), Kaagaz ke Phool (1959) and Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962). In Pyaasa too there is another woman, his ex girlfriend from college who leaves him and marries for security. Her priority is clearly materialistic fulfilment. In fact though having negative shades to it, this is actually the more difficult and challenging role in the film as against the standard prostitute with a heart of gold. The role has its shades of grey and counts as one of actress Mala Sinha’s better performances, otherwise a rather mechanical and melodramatic performer. Talking of the acting, Waheeda Rehman is outstanding in the role of the prostitute and Guru Dutt himself is fine in the role of the poet. Perhaps the parallels between him and the character help him in coming out with his best ever screen performance.
Interestingly, Pyaasa has that rare element in a Guru Dutt film. A song treated like a fantasy. An idyllic daydream of the hero. The song Hum Aapki Aankhon Mein is picturised amongst clouds as the heroine descends from the moon. It sticks out when viewed against the whole film. Perhaps Guru Dutt picturised it in such a manner just to get back at the distributors who felt that an ‘item’ was needed! So he provided them with one! The music by S. D. Burman is extraordinary as is the rendering of the songs. The background music helps to create the necessary atmosphere for a number of individual scenes. The Mala Sinha character has her own signature tune-a simple yet haunting melody played on the harmonica. Whenever the poet sees her, the tune is repeated representing for him the love he has lost. But if one person is the soul of Pyaasa it is lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi on whose poems the lyrics were based. Sahir’s words seem to articulate Guru Dutt’s own view of the world and experience of tragedy. Pyaasa sees some of Sahir’s best work. Yeh Mehlon Yeh Thakhton, Jaane Woh Kaise Log The Jinke and Jinhe Naaz Hai Hind Par Woh Kahaan Hai-the last looking at the disillusionment that had set in a decade after the giddy euphoria of Indian Independence. It was taken from his poem Chakle (Brothels). A fine example of political comment combined with humanitarian compassion.
To sum it up simply, a classic! Need one say more!
A special highlight of all Guru Dutt Films was his consistently brilliant photography. The Man behind Guru’Dutt’s Camera was V. K. Murthy…. he is another Indian cameraman, who has received systematic and regular training in the field of motion pictures. After his Matriculation in 1941-he unsuccessfully tried to get job in any of the Bombay Studios for six months and frustrated he went back to his home in Mysore.
In 1946, he obtained his diploma from the Bangalore Institute in Motion Picture Photography. Even after having the diploma in his hand, he found it difficult to find a job-and his first job in films was not as a cameraman out a musician (he happens to be very good musician-music being one of his subjects during school). Luckily he found a break in Bombay, and joined Cinematographer Dronacharya as his assistant, and later impressed by work of Fali later impressed by work of Fali Mistry in ‘Amarpali’ he joined him as an assistant. Later along with Fali, he joined Famous Cine, where Late Guru Dutt noticed him.
He has been associated with Guru Dutt throughout his career, and has photographed most of his films including the first Indian Cinemascope film, ‘Kagaz ke Phool’ also produced by Guru Dutt. Other films he has done for Guru Dutt Productions are-‘Baazi’, ‘Piyassa’, ‘Mr. & Mrs. 55’, ‘Aar Paar’, Sahib Bibi our Gulam and Baharen Phir Bhi Ayengi. His other noted films are Milap and Venus Pictures, Rajendra Kumar-Vyjayntimala starrer ‘Suraj’-the later being his first attempt at colour Photography. His work has always been appreciated by the audiences and critics alike.
Another person who made Guru dutt films the distinctive stamp and made thPyassa – The Payasa, would not have been what it is without the excellent lyrics of Sahir Ludhianvi. Sahir Ludhianvi at heart was a romanticist, but he was different. Unable to sing hymns to Khuda (God), Husn (beauty) and Jaam (wine), his pen would rather pour out his anguish and bitterness over social inequities, political cynicism, the artificial barriers that divide mankind, the senselessness of war, the domination of materialism over love.
Born Abdul Hayee on March 8, 1921, Sahir was the only son of a Ludhiana zamindar. His parents’ estrangement and the Partition made him shuttle between India and Pakistan. It also brought him face to face with a struggle called life. A member of the Progressive Writers’ Association, he edited Adab e Latif, Pritlari, Savera and Shahrab. An arrest warrant issued by the Pakistani government of the day made him flee to Bombay in 1949. By now, he had managed to publish his anthology Talkhiyaan (Bitternesses). Besides Talkhiyaan and the hundreds of film songs he penned in a career spanning three decades, Sahir also authored the anthologies Parchaiyaan, Ao Ki Koi Khwab Buney and Gaata Jaaye Banjara.
Sahir debuted in films with his lyrics for Naujawan (1951). Even today, the film’s lilting song Thandi Hawayen Lehrake Aaye makes hearts flutter. His first major success came the same year with Guru Dutt’s directorial debut, Baazi, again pairing him with composer S. D. Burman. Together, S. D. Burman and Sahir created some of the most popular songs ever: Yeh Raat Yeh Chandni Phir Kahaan-Jaal (1952); Jaaye to Jaaye Kahaan-Taxi Driver (1954); Teri Duniya Mein Jeene se Behtar Ho Ki Mar Jaayen-House Number 44 (1955); and Jeevan ke Safar Mein Rahi-Munimji (1955). The duo reached their creative zenith with Pyaasa (1957).
All good things, as they say, come to an end. S. D. Burman and Sahir parted ways after Pyaasa and never worked together again. Sahir, already a stalwart as the sixties approached, wrote gems for films like Hum Dono Dev Anand-Sadhana-Nanda (1961), Gumraah Ashok Kumar-Mala Sinha-Sunil Dutt (1963), Taj Mahal Pradeep Kumar-Bina Rai (1963), Waqt Balraj Sahni-Sunil Dutt, Raaj Kumar, Shashi Kapoor, Sadhana, Sharmila Tagore (1965), Humraaz Sunil Dutt-Raj Kumar-Vimmi (1967) and Neel Kamal Raaj Kumar-Waheeda Rehman (1968), teaming up with composers Ravi, Jaidev, N. Datta, Roshan, Khayyam, R. D. Burman and Laxmikant Pyarelal. Sahir’s work in the 1970s was mainly restricted to films directed by Yash Chopra. Though his output in terms of number of films had thinned out, the quality of his writings commanded immense respect. Kabhi Kabhie (1976) saw him return to sparkling form. These songs won him his second Filmfare award, the first one being for Taj Mahal.
Sahir’s poetry had a Faizian quality. Like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sahir too gave Hindustani/Urdu poetry an intellectual element that caught the imagination of the youth of the forties and fifties and sixties. He helped them to discover their spine. Sahir asked questions, was not afraid of calling a spade a bloody spade, and roused people from an independence induced smugness. He would pick on the self appointed custodian of religion, the self serving politician, the exploitative capitalist, the war mongering big powers. Aren’t they familiar? Close to Sahir’s heart were the farmer crushed by debt, the young man sent to the border to fight somebody’s dirty war, the lass forced to sell her body, the youth frustrated by unemployment, families living in dire poverty. . . The underdog remains; his bard is gone. Whether it was the arrest of progressive writers in Pakistan, the launch of the satellite Sputnik, or the discovery of Ghalib by a government lusting minority votes, Sahir reacted with a verve not seen in many writers’ work. Kahat e Bangal (The Famine of Bengal), written by a 25 year old Sahir, bespeaks maturity that came early. His Subah e Navroz (Dawn of a New Day), mocks the concept of celebration when the poor exist in squalor.
Writing for films occupied much of Sahir’s time and energy in and after the fifties. Never one to compromise while writing for a “lesser” medium, Sahir wrote such gems like Aurat ne Janam Diya Mardon ko Mardon ne ue bzaar dya for Sadhana (1958) and Tu hndu bnega na msalmaan bnega isaan ki alaad ai, isaan bnega for Dhool Ka Phool (1959). Then who can ever forget Yeh dniya aar ml bi jaye to kya hai or Jinhe naaz hai hind par woh kahaan hain from Pyaasa? Pyaasa, a movie that many suspect was his biography, was the high point of Sahir’s genius. By now, Sahir was disillusioned over the state of the nation. His dissatisfaction with policies found voice in songs like Chino Arab humara-Phir Subah Hogi (1958).
This combination of political awareness and humanitarian compassion is found all through in Sahir’s poetry, whether written for films or not. Ever a sensitive soul, Sahir reacted to the world around him, pouring his sentiments into the songs he penned for films. Coming from his pen, even the most mundane would have a message. Ingrained in this spirituality was a quest for a greater humanity, better people, a livable world. Paradoxically, it always involved, and was about, the material rather than the metaphysical.
A colossus among song writers, Sahir fought for, and became the first film lyricist to get, royalty from music companies. He would deeply involve himself in the setting of tunes for his songs. Any wonder why they are extra melodious? There was a negative trait too: Sahir would insist he be paid a rupee more for each song than Lata Mangeshkar was. Call it a left over of his feudal background, or an example of success gone to the head, this egotism of Sahir has been heard of and written about.
A bachelor to the end, Sahir fell in love with a Punjabi and thereafter an extremely beautiful singer, relationships that never fructified in the conventional sense and left him sad.
The young Punjabi writer, a no small name herself, was madly in love with Sahir, wrote his name hundreds of times on a sheet of paper while addressing a press conference. They would meet without exchanging a word, Sahir would puff away; after Sahir’s departure, she would smoke the cigarette butts left behind by him. After his death, she said she hoped the air mixed with the smoke of the butts would travel to the other world and meet Sahir! Such was their obsession and intensity.
Decades after his death, Sahir’s songs remain immensely popular. His poetry continues to inspire radical groups and individuals and strikes a chord in sensitive people.
Coming bacck to Guru Dutt and his legend, though his younger brother Atma Ram, took over the reigns of Guru Dutt films, and two of his films under the banner Shikari and Chanda Aur Bijli, had been tremendous successes but audiences wanted something different from the Guru Dutt banner. Besides, being a competent director, Guru Dutt was an extremely fine artiste as well. He acted in almost all his films and some outside films like Bahu Rani and Sautela Bhai-his best performance as an actor.
As a producer, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, his last completed film remains his best film. This film when screened at the Berlin Film Festival, where it was the official Indian entry, was booed, as the Western audience couldn’t get used to and accept the idea of a woman taking to drinking just please her husband. One thing the audience in Berlin didn’t realise was the fact that the Indian culture and way of living is entirely different from theirs. In India, a wife will go out of her way to please her husband, whether she like doing it or not, and not resort to divorce, the way they do in Western countries. Now, I am not defending this system, but just stating how things are. Anyway inspite of the brick bats it got at the Berlin Film Festival, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam remain a brilliant film, as far as the Indian Cinema is concerned.
Incidentally, popular play back singer of the time, Geeta Dutt (Roy) was his wife, Atma Ram and Dei Dutt his brothers, Lalita Lazmi the famous painter is his sister and her daughter Kalpana lazmi is a director in her own right. Shyam Benegal is a nephew and so is Prakash Padukone (famous Indian Badminton player) are also related to Guru Dutt.
Almost permanent featue of all Guru Dutt Films, besides close friend Johnny Walker was Waheeda Rehman. Waheeda Rehman was the embodiment of classic Muslim beauty with a truly transcendental appeal. Born into a traditional Muslim family in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, she was trained in Bharatnatyam. Her first film was the Telegu film Jaisimha (1955) followed by Rojulu Marayi (1955), which was a huge success. She was spotted by Guru Dutt in a song in the latter film and was brought to Bombay and cast as the vamp in his production C. I. D. (1956) directed by his protigi, Raj Khosla. The song Kahin Pe Nigahein Kahin Pe Nishana as she tries to seduce the villain and allow the hero to escape reveal her extraordinary facial mobility and dancer’s grace.
She broke through the following year with Guru Dutt’s masterpiece Pyaasa in the role of the prostitute with the heart of gold. The way she blended nuances of love, desire and despair as she follows Guru Dutt up the stairs to the terrace to the strains music is amazing. But by now she had also got involved with Guru Dutt. And it was ironic that his wife Geeta Dutt’s voice was used on Waheeda Rehman the actress as she ‘sang’ sweet nothings to Guru Dutt. Kaagaz ke Phool (1959) proved prohesical. Guru Dutt’s marital status and her success in films outside tore the couple apart personally and professionally.
Waheeda Rehman worked with Satyajit Ray in Abhijaan (1962), which unfortunately for her was one of the great director’s weakest films and consolidated her position as a top star in the The Hindi Cinema Film Industry with Bees Saal Baad (1962), a huge hit based on The Hound of the Baskervilles. Strong performances in Mujhe Jeene Do (1963), a dacoit drama and Kohra (1964), a re make of Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940) followed.
With Guide (1965), she reached the peak of her career. Though the novelist R. K. Narayan on whose book it was based, disowned the film, he had no complaints with Waheeda’s performance as Rosie. It was a daring role to play, of a woman who leaves her stifling impotent husband and lives with her lover, a guide who helps her in her ambitions to become a famous dancer. It is to Waheeda’s credit that she was able to humanize Rosie to get the viewer’s sympathy with her. Whether breaking the metamorphic pot of social constraints or dancing precariously over a ledge in keeping with her dangerous new desires, Waheeda was outstanding in the film.
After Guide, she had a number of commercial successes Ram Aur Shyam (1967) and Pathar ke Sanam (1967) hardly challenged her histrionic ability and the films that did so-Teesri Kasam (1966), Khamoshi (1969) and Reshma Aur Shera (1971) bombed at the box office in spite of some of her best work as an actress. In 1974 Waheeda married Kamaljeet, a businessman, who had tried his luck in films in the 1960s and failed, and moved to Bangalore.
She turned to character roles, often playing Amitabh Bachchan’s mother (Bachchan has always cited her to be his favourite actress) but in the 1980s and 90s, she gradually cut down on film work, busying herself with marketing her brand of breakfast cereal while leading a contented life on her farmhouse in Bangalore. Her last film was Lamhe (1991). In Lamhe, director Yash Chopra paid her the ultimate tribute by getting her to dance to her Guide hit Aaj Phir Jeene ki Tamanna Hai! She does act off and on – even now.
Another youngster making waves at this time was Guru Dutt’s assistant, a young man named Raj Khosla. He inherited lot of Guru dutt traits, including Guru Dutt style of song picturisation.
Raj Khosla initially entered the Film Industry with hopes of making it as a playback singer. He however went on to become one of the great directors of Hindi Cinema. He assisted Guru Dutt and in 1954 got a break with Milap, starring Dev Anand and Geeta Bali. The film failed to create waves but Khosla’s second film produced for him by mentor Guru Dutt, C. I. D. (1956) propelled him into the big league. C. I. D. was a slick crime thriller that highlighted Khosla’s stylish shot taking and innovative song picturisations, something passed down from Guru Dutt.
From here onwards even as he continued to make films, Khosla ricocheted from style to style while adding his own touch to each genre. Never wanting to play safe Khosla made some films, which were startlingly different in those times. Solva Saal (1958) with Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman, was a story of a single night wherein a girl elopes with her lover who dupes her and is helped back home by a journalist before her father wakes up and realizes what the girl has done. Bombay ka Babu (1960) with Dev Anand-Suchitra Sen had the hero, a killer, entering the family of the man he has killed as their long lost son and falling in love with his ‘sister.’ Khosla explored a variety of styles be it crime thrillers (C. I. D. , Kala Pani (1958), musicals Ek Musafir Ek Hasina (1962) Joy Mukherjee-Sadhana-whose starting point was seven songs composed by O. P. Nayyar, suspense thrillers Woh Kaun Thi (1964) Manoj Kumar-Sadhana, Mera Saaya (1966) SunilDutt-Sadhana, Anita (1967) Manoj Kumar-Sadhana his mystery trilogy), melodramas Do Badan (1966) Manoj Kumar-Asha Parekh-Simmi Garewal, Do Raaste (1969) Rajesh Khanna-Mumtaz, dacoit dramas the legendry Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971) Dharmendra-Vinod Khanna-Asha Parekh-which inspired Ramesh Sippy to make Sholay (1975) etc. Though he made films after Mera Gaon Mera Desh and had hits like Nehle Pe Dehla (1976), the mid 70s was not too good a period for Khosla. Films like Prem Kahani (1975) starring the then hottest pair of the day Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz sank and it was with Main Tulsi Tere Aangan ki (1978) with Rajendra Kumar-Nutan that Khosla was right back on track.
In Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki, he evoked sympathy for the mistress even as he told the story from the wife’s point of view. Khosla was a director who understood women and was known as a women’s director much like George Cukor in Hollywood. However Khosla ran into rough weather as most of his films after Main Tulsi Tere Aangan ki barring Dostana (1982) with Amitabh Bachchan, Zeenat Aman and Shatrughan Sinha started flopping. A dispirited Khosla took refuge in drink and passed away in 1991, totally disillusioned with the Film industry. As he said. . . “ It’s a losing game. There are no winners here. “
As mentioned earlier, aother person who was doing something out of the ordinary rut was Bimal Roy. His much acclaimed Do Bigha Zameen was followed by a few more good films, , such as Sujata, in which he deftly handled the story of an untouchable girl, with simplicity and understanding; Benazir-was about a dancing girl and her woes; Bandhini-about a woman convict during Indian freedom struggle. He made another film which was a commercial hit, and an extremely well made film, technically (a local fan magazine awards, the most popular awards in the country, gave it seven). The film was Madhumati. It was scripted by Ritwik Ghatak. It had Dilip Kumar and Vyjayantimala in the main leads. Since his later films did not do well at the box office, he experienced trouble in finding finance and distribution channels for his last films Do Dooni Chaar, based on Shakespear’s Comedy of Errors. Among Bimal Roy s successful films are Devdas (remake) and Parakh.
Bimal Roy was a perfectionist. He used to address his artistes by their film names, and not their real names, so that each of them would think of the character he or she was playing in the film, rather than of his or her real self. Bimalda’s last production before he died was Benazir (1964) directed by S. Khalil. Bimalda passed away in 1966 after a long illness.
Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zameen, the major highlight was Balraj Sahni. Balraj Sahni is perhaps the best known film actor in India to emerge from the post World War II Left Cultural Movements. Born in Rawalpindi (now in Pakistan), he studied at the Government College of Lahore, graduating in Literature.
Absorbing the then prevalent desire for both Nationalism and Westernization, he started writing English poetry and got involved with ‘realist’ theatre. He taught Hindi and English at Shantiniketan wrote his first compilation of Hindi fiction, Shahzadon ka Drink in 1936. He also worked as a journalist and briefly as a radio announcer for the BBC’s Hindi service also setting up the Monday Morning journal in Delhi.
He came to Bombay in 1947 and became a key figure in Indian Peoples’ Theatre Association (IPTA) plays. After a walk on part in Phani Majumdar’s Insaaf (1946), he starred in KA Abbas’s first film, Dharti ke Lal (1946), the only film produced by IPTA. The film is set during World War II and the 1943 Bengal famine and a growing ‘Nation Building’ ideology.
It’s symbol laden realism realism proved extremely influential and set the pattern for many films moving from depictions of deprivation in the country to suffering in the city. IPTA had also become a political hotbed for communists and in 1951 as part of a Government Campaign against communists, Balraj Sahni was arrested and put in jail. He was given special permission to shoot for Hulchul (1951) and would come to the sets escorted by policemen in a police van!
He was released from the jail soon after, and more than made his presence felt in Zia Sarhadi’s film, Hum Log (1951). Do Bigha Zameen (1953) directed by Bimal Roy was perhaps Balraj’s Sahni’s greatest and most well known film. The story of the dispossessed peasant and the moneylender/ landlord had been told many times before but with Do Bigha Zameen, Bimal Roy gives us a film that is very human and has great emotional depth. In the film, Balraj Sahni plays the peasant Shambhu who becomes a rickshaw puller in Calcutta in order to earn money and save his land in the village. It is a performance of extraordinary dimensions as Sahni literally becomes Shambhu.
In the unforgettable ending of the film, the wretchedness of human defeat is writ large on Sahni’s face as he sees the factory built on his land. It is said he actually rehearsed for the role by pushing a rickshaw on the streets of Calcutta and interacting with other rickshaw pullers who were convinced he was one of them! Ironically Bimal Roy was not sure of taking Sahni for the film because as mentioned in real life he was well educated and westernized, the total antithesis of Shambhu.
While sticking to his realist imperatives in films like Garam Coat (1955), Anuradha (1960) and Kabuliwallah (1961) (where he lived with kabuliwallahs in a Bombay suburb for a month to prepare for the role!), Sahni went on to play leading roles in commercial films opposite actresses like Nargis (Lajwanti (1958), Ghar Sansar (1958), Meena Kumari (Satta Bazaar (1959), Bhabhi ki Chudiyan (1961), Vyjayantimala (Kathputli (1957) and Nutan (Seema (1955), Sone ki Chidiya (1958) and more than adept bringing much depth, grace and dignity to his characters. In the 1960s he shifted to character roles and left his mark with strong performances in films like Haqeeqat (1964), Waqt (1965), Do Raaste (1969), Ek Phool Do Mali (1969) Neend Hamari Khawab Tumahre (1965) and Mere Humsafar (1970). He also directed a film Lal Batti (1957), a film set in a train and on a lonely railway platform where passengers are forced to spend a night at the time of India’s Independence.
Garam Hawa (1973) was Balraj Sahni’s last major film before his death. The film, directed by M. S. Sathyu, chronicles the plight of the minority Muslims in North India and is set in Agra after the first major partition exodus. Sahni plays the central role of an elderly Muslim shoe manufacturer who must decide whether to continue living in India or to migrate to the newly formed state of Pakistan. He responded with an absolutely brilliant performance, perhaps his greatest ever, Do Bhiga Zameen, notwithstanding.
Balraj Sahni also wrote the story and screenplay for Baazi (1951) starring Dev Anand and directed by Guru Dutt. He wrote extensively on many issues including novels and an autobiography. He remained a Left Activist all his life and was part of cultural delegates to the Soviet Union and China. His writings and speeches were compiled by Communist Leader P. C. Joshi in the book Balraj Sahni: An Intimate Portrait (1974).
Among the heroines of the era…Meena Kumari-the droop of her kiss curl, the anguish laden voice never more than a sob from abject despair, the unblemished beauty made Meena Kumari the ultimate tragedy queen in Indian Cinema. This is an image to which she remained shackled for the rest of her life-the lonely sorrowful woman whose desires remain unfulfilled in a cruel world.
She was born Mahjabeen Ali Bux, daughter of the Parsee theatre actor and music teacher Ali Bux and the dancer Iqbal Begum. Having hit upon hard times and living near Rooptara Studios, Ali Bux sought to get his daughter into films. Mahjabeen was renamed Baby Meena and cast in Vijay Bhatt’s Leatherface (1939).
Her early adult work consisted of mainly mythologicals like Veer Ghatotkach (1949), Shri Ganesh Mahima (1950) and fantasies like Alladin and The Wonderful Lamp (1952). She hit the big time with Vijay Bhatt’s Baiju Bawra (1952). With Baiju Bawra, the suffering Indian Woman found a new face in Meena Kumari. The heroine in the film is ever ready to negate herself for the material and spiritual advancement of the man she loves and is even willing to annihilate herself to provide him the experience of pain so that his music would be enriched! It was a strong performance and fetched her the inaugural Filmfare Award for Best Actress.
She became Film Director Kamal Amrohi’s second wife and with Daera (1953), Ek Hi Rasta (1956), Sharda (1957) and Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi (1960), Meena went from strength to strength playing the suffering woman, the martyr to perfection. In Daera, her barren life and subsequent disintegration underscores the Indian Woman’s lack of selfhood and remains one of the great moments of screen acting. In Sharda she gave a tour de force performance as Raj Kapoor’s lover who becomes his stepmother. Unfortunately coming in the same year as Mother India, Nargis swept all the awards but the Bombay Film Journalists Association named Meena as their best actress of the year for Sharda.
It is a pity that Meena was known for her tragic roles and she too chose more such roles to cultivate her image of being the great tragedienne because in the few light hearted films she did in between like Azaad (1955), Miss Mary (1957), Shararat (1959) and Kohinoor (1960), she displayed an uninhibitedness that was refreshing to say the least. In these films, her physical movements are free and unrestrained and her dialogue delivery absolutely normal-a stark contrast to the studied mannerisms and passive postures of her tragic roles.
It was tragedy however which saw Meena Kumari’s greatest ever performance and immortalized her. The film was Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962). Produced by Guru Dutt, the film tells the story of Choti Bahu, the youngest bride in an aristocratic zamindar family who strives to make her errant husband return to her even at the risk of self destruction. It is perhaps the greatest performance ever on the Indian Screen. The sequence where Choti Bahu dresses for her husband singing Piya Aiso Jiya Main is a poignant exploration of a woman’s expectations and sexual desire. You cannot help but cry with her in the sequence where she pleads with her husband to stay with her and then angrily turns on him to tell him how she has prostituted her basic values and morals to please him. That year Meena made history as she garnered all the three Best Actress nominations for the Filmfare Award-For Aarti (1962), Main Chup Rahoongi (1962) and of course Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam for which she won the award. However the common factors between the actress’s life and Choti Bahu are too dramatic to be merely coincidental-The estranged marital relationship, the taking of alcohol, turning towards younger male company, the craving to be understood and loved-all elements evident in Meena Kumari’s own life. Elements which were mythicized in the film world in the 1960s.
While on the professional front, the emphatic success of Dil Ek Mandir (1963), Kajal (1965) and Phoor Aur Pathar (1966) kept her a top star, her marriage with Kamal Amrohi ended in 1964. Meena increasingly relied on the intimate kindness offered by friends Gulzaar and Dharmendra and often dulled her senses with liquor. Her image grew in dimension as she was now widely seen as the eternal martyr.
Meena spent the last years of her life playing the doomed diva. With heavy drinking she had lost her looks and she began playing character roles albeit strong ones in potboilers like Jawab (1970) and Dushman (1971).
A talented poetess in her own right, she recorded a disc of her Urdu poems-I write, I recite. Thankfully her exquisite speaking voice remained intact. She came up with a strong portrayal of an old woman caught between two street gangs of frustrated, unemployed youth, whose killing finally makes them realize the futility of violence in Gulzar’s directorial debut Mere Apne (1971) and realizing she had limited time left went out of her way to complete what has now become a cult classic-Pakeezah (1972).
The film is a stylized, larger than life mythicization of the familiar tale of the prostitute with the heart of gold. Jointly planned by Meena and husband Amrohi in 1958, the film took 14 years to finally reach the silver screen. When the two separated in 1964, filming came to a halt. Initially Dharmendra was to have played the male lead but Raaj Kumar replaced him. Some well wishers intervened and the film was completed.
Kamal Amrohi handles the feudal culture, love, poetry the lives of tawaifs. The needless to say, the decadence is not without a touch of class and has sometimes resulted in much creative upsurge. Pakeezah inherits that legacy. There is grandeur in Amrohi’s filmmaking-an epic magnitude of treatment. The evocative songs and the background music create the right period mood and Amrohi’s eye for details brings great depth to the lavish sets. In fact, the film’s main merit in spite of its flaws, at times disjointed flow, its stock situations and an over stretched plot lies in its over-romanticism.
Though the suffering courtesan occupies central stage, she is defined by male values and shaped by patriarchal parameters with the courtesan having to lead a life of emotional repression are symboliccally portrayed -. The caged bird whose feathers are trimmed and the torn kite hanging in her courtyard operate as visual symbols for her imprisonment and curtailment of desire.
Joseph Wirshing’s (a German Cameraman who had stayed back in India from Himanshu Rai days) exquiste camerawork is a major highlight of the film. Ghulam Mohammed’s music is one of the all time great scores in Indian Cinema. Pakeezah reaffirms his great talent. Sadly, he did not live to enjoy the efforts of his labour in Pakeezah and Naushad finally completed the music score. The other factor of course which lifts Pakeezah way above the ordinary is Meena Kumari’s performance in the dual role of Nargis and Sahibjaan in the film.
Pakeezah finally released in February 1972 and opened to just a lukewarm response but after the death of Meena Kumari on 31st March, 1972, the film went on to become a huge success at the box-office and has since acquired major cult status as well.
Meena Kumari’s last film was Sawan Kumar Tak’s Gomti ke Kinare (1972). Tanha Chand, a collection of her poems under the pseudonym Naaz was compiled by Gulzar and published after her death. She also published a record…I Write. . I recite for HMV in her own voice…. That is a masterpiece and remains a collector’s item even today.
Among others who showed proof of personalised talent was Hrishikesh Mukerjee, an Editor with Bimal Roy, who made Musafir based on the famour Shakerpearen quotation ‘The world is a stage, on which actors performs. And having done their part depart’, and Mem Didi about the westernization of Indian woman; and then came up with Anari starring Raj Kapoor (in his popular but stereotyped role of a simpleton) and Nutan. He then made Anuradha, with Balraj Sahni and Leela Naidu in the main roles. The story centered around the husband’s pre occupation with his work. Though not an exceptionally good film, it won the President’s Gold Medal for the Best film of the year. He then made Anupama with Sharmila Tagore and Dharmendra in the romantic leads with Tarun Bose playing the father who thinks his daughter is responsible for his wife’s death, who died at the time of child birth. He doesn’t speak to his daughter at all. Anupama was followed by Aashirwad, about an aristocrat who after having spent a life time in prison hasn’t the courage to meet his daughter who is getting married. It had Ashok Kumar and Sumita Sanyal in the leads. His Satyakam, about an honest young man who wouldn’t tell a lie, even to save his job, again had Dharmendra and Sharmila Tagore in the lead. He followed his success with Abhimaan, Chupke Chupke, Gol Maal and many more. Most of Hrishikesh films were moderate successes.
Hrishida’s career started first in the film laboratory and later in the editing room with New Theatres Pvt. Ltd, Calcutta. He came as a part of Bimal Roy’s team to Mumbai in 1951 and worked with him till he became an independent director himself.
His debut film as a director was Musafir (1957), which had a pretty unusual structure. Episodic in structure, it looked at three totally unrelated stories symbolizing marriage, birth and death in which the common link is the house where the stories occur each time with new tenants. However commercial and critical success came with Anari (1959) starring Raj Kapoor and Nutan.
His following film Anuradha (1960) dealing with a lively, vivacious woman who becomes frustrated and lonely due to her husband (an idealistic doctor working amidst the rural poor) neglecting her in favour of his work, won the President’s Medal.
Ironicaly just when it looked like Hrishida had it made, in came the mediocre period from Anuradha to Satyakam (1969) barring Asli Naqli (1962), Anupama (1966), Ashirwad (1968) and of course Satyakam (1969), though he made films regularly, nothing was particularly too distinguished.
And then came Anand (1970), a masterpiece. It looked at a man dying of cancer who is determined to make every moment of his remaining life happy. It is a film with great compassion, a delicate balance between hope and fear, between life and death and is probably Rajesh Khanna’s greatest ever performance. The 1970s saw Hrishida do some of his best work with Guddi (1971), Bawarchi (1972), Abhimaan (1973), Namak Haram (1973), Chupke Chupke (1975), Mili (1975), Golmaal (1979) and Khubsoorat(1980). These films show that Hrishada understood middle class mentality as very few others do. His subtle sense of humour to the fore, compelled the audiences and prodded them to think.
However the 1980s with the rise of Amitabh Bachchan and larger than life films saw Hrishida’s brand of filmmaking die out. In 1999 he tried to recreate his magic with Jhoot Bhole Kawa Kaate, but to no success.