Remembering Guru Dutt, an iconic actor and one of the greatest filmmakers of Indian cinema, on his 93rd birth anniversary.

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Guru Dutt Padukone was born in Bangalore on July 9, 1925. He studied dance in Almora University and honed his dancing talent under the legendary Uday Shankar. His first film assignment as choreographer was Lakhrani, released in 1945.

Dev Anand recalls that he met Guru Dutt for the first time at Prabhat studio when the latter came to collect his shirt that got mixed up by their common dhobi. Dev Anand gave him his first break as director in his forthcoming film Bazi in 1951.

At the time when Guru Dutt arrived on the Hindi film scene, popular Hindi cinema thrived on the romantic theme of the union of lovers in life or death. He brought in innovations as he did not want to compromise either his message or his aesthetic beliefs.

In his early films like Jaal, Aar Paar, etc, Guru Dutt explored the theme of social inequalities and played up his sympathy for the common people, underscoring his conviction that it was high society that fostered ‘bastards’ and was a breeding place for crime and criminals.

In Pyaasa, made in 1957, Guru Dutt, as Vijay, questioned the changing values of the emerging society, dehumanisation of man and the degradation and degeneration of human relations:

His scorn and anguish were reflected in the famous lyrics: ‘Jala do isse phoonk dalo yeh duniyan, mere samne se hata lo yeh duniyan, tumhari hai tum hee sambhalo ye duniyan, yeh duniyan agar mil bhee jaye to kaya hai.

It was the same high society, in which people have no need/respect for poetry, art and creativity that was depicted in Kaagaz ke Phool (1959). Here, instead of Vijay, it was a filmmaker, Suresh Sinha (Guru Dutt), who falls prey to the commercialisation of society.

The film was much ahead of its time. It was too classy and elitist and proved a disaster at the box office. Guru Dutt was shattered. He felt as if he had lost his Midas touch.

After the debacle of Kaagaz ke Phool, Guru Dutt produced films but did not use his name as a director. His blockbuster Chaudvin ka Chand (1960) was in the tradition of male friendship on the screen in which Guru Dutt as its hero chose sacrifice to satiation. He decided to foresake his lawfully wedded wife — Waheeda Rehman — when he learnt that his best friend — Rehman — was besotted by her bewitching beauty.

Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962), was Guru Dutt’s classic on female disolation. The film depicted the toils, turmoil and tribulation in the life of the Chhoti Bahu, Meena Kumari, who is a victim of feudal orthodoxy.

Guru Dutt was a perfectionist with an all-consuming passion for details.

While other filmmakers glorified sex, sleaze, violence and vulgarity, Guru Dutt fashioned his own style and made offbeat films in which he explored diverse human relationships. Though Guru Dutt did not create great cinema like stalwarts such as Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Shyam Benegal, Mehboob Khan, K. Aasif, V. Shantaram, Kamal Amrohi, etc, yet his films expressed his social commitment and concerns.

‘Uncompromising’ is the word one can use for Guru Dutt for whom entertainment was not only about slapstick comedy or violent action or glamorous dances, but it meant housing new ideas and new feelings in the minds of audiences. This is what he had been aiming at in films like Baazi or Baharein Phir Bhee Aayengee. Though some of his films were not money spinners yet his honesty and integrity put him on the top of the list of the filmmakers of his day. As a filmmaker, Guru Dutt was a class by himself. Little wonder that his films were generally appreciated by both the masses and classes.

One can discern a rebellious fervour of ‘let-us-change-the society’ coursing through his films. He made films not with money, but with passion All this made him a legendary filmmaker.

Hindi cinema lost him on October 10, 1964. He was hardly 39 then and at his creative best.

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