Sunday, January 13, 2008

Pyaasa (1957)

A movie that begins with a poet whose works are sold by his family for scrap who then follows a prostitute who is serenading him with his own poetry in attempt to woo him as a customer is not a typical way to start out a Bollywood movie. But then again a film that ended up on Time Magazine's 100 Greatest Movies of All Time and was just one of two Indian movies on that storied list cannot be considered typical by any definition. The tale of a brilliant poet, Vijay, who loses both his true love and family (but never his dignity) in an attempt to reach out to the world with his art is handled with both deft and brilliance. It is a stunning exploration of both the cruelty of the world as well as the gentleness found in places one least expects it. The movie ends with the runaway success of his poetry at a cost that ultimately becomes too much for him to bear.

Waheeda Rehman (in only her second movie) dazzles in every scene she is in and Dutt's use of light and framing of shots is well ahead of it's time - little wonder that 'The Times of London' christened him 'India's version of Orson Welles' when this movie first came out. Some of the acting is a little melodramatic as was custom of the day and if you don't understand Urdu the lack of subtitles during the songs & poetry recitals can be maddening. But those things will not take away from the richness of this movie which recently celebrated it's 50th anniversary, and as his admirers have often said - 'He did not make films, he made poetry.'

The song for today is 'Jane Kya Tunhe Kahi' which was sung by Guru Dutt's wife, Geeta Dutt. Though not as well known as other female playback singers of the day her style & voice were nonetheless hauntingly beautiful in a very unique way. S.D. Burman's music provides the perfect backdrop to the movie and all the songs are considered classics even today. The Dutts divorced shortly after the completion of this movie and although he is considered a visionary today - the eight movies he made were considered only modest successes. Depressed by his perceived failure and his constant pursuit of perfection which could never be reached, Guru Dutt committed suicide before his 40th birthday by ingesting a mixture of alcohol and sleeping pills. Geeta never recovered from their divorce or his death and drank herself to a slow death just a few years later. Below is the first song in the movie and Geeta Dutt's contribution to her husband's masterpiece, 'Pyaasa' - 50 years on...


Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Hi Sanket-
Great review of Pyasa- I see you share my love of old movie posters- soo cool! I came, I saw, I will keep visiting! Loved Dor- though it makes me sentimental, as does Water :(

and Of course I am adding you to my blog list :)

Sanket Vyas said...

Thanks for stopping by & adding me to your blog list. The movie posters mean just as much to me when thinking about Bollywood as do the songs & movies themselves! Keep up the good work & thanks for the kind words :)


Anonymous said...

This is one of my favorite movies...I love Guru Dutt.

Have also just discovered you and will keep coming! and add you to my list as well...

Anonymous said...

Hi Sanket,

What did you think of the last scene of the film, I mean the "resurrection" one? I've been asking several people for their point of view already!

Sanket Vyas said...

Memsaab - I had discovered him a long time ago through the songs in his movies thanks to my parents. However I am just getting around to watching his movies now, next up is 'Kaagaz Ke Phool'. Thanks for stopping by!

Yves - The final scene for me is as much the final straw for Dutt's character as to the hypocrisy of the world around him. It also symbolizes the way he felt about the way the studios used their artists & exploited them as well. Cheers!