Monday, January 28, 2013

Triumph of the Will

Guru Dutt not only viewed his life through camera but had perhaps scripted his end under arc lights too. The work and philosophy of enigmatic master craftsman of all times has been brought to life by Arun Khopkar in his scholarly work Guru Dutt: A Tragedy in Three Acts. The short but immensely reflective essays on three of his best films - Pyassa, Kagaz Ke Phool and Sahib, Bibi aur Gulam - cast light on this vastly talented writer, director and actor.   

Guru Dutt was an eternal romantic who, in his constant search for change feared 'success'. For him, success was the receipt for the sale of one's soul. The ultimate expression of self, Guru Dutt felt was to save oneself from the contagion of a rotten society. Else, one would need to compromise and embrace success. In Kagaz Ke Phool, the character in Suresh Sinha demonstrates what it meant not to compromise, even at the cost of destroying oneself. 

The conflict between man and society has engaged art in all forms through the ages. The films under reference bring the might, size and numbers of this faceless society, which crushes man, to light. The beetle crushed underfoot in Pyassa symbolizes this conflicting relationship between man and society. The artist in Guru Dutt used symbols to evoke a diversity of reflections of a situation, because he felt that a symbol could be suggestive of several shades of meanings, experiences and feelings. 

Without doubt, Guru Dutt was ahead of his time in content, style and technique. Using light and shade, Guru Dutt captured some of the finest images of loneliness on screen. Each image evokes multitudes of reflections, producing a set of imagined characters. Arun Khopkar details out how Guru Dutt uses the image of Christ, crucified, in many forms and on many levels in Pyassa. The character in Vijay is none other than the resurrected Christ, who presents himself at the function held to mark his first death anniversary.  

Guru Dutt went beyond the box office of success; the genius in him was in search for understanding each layer of the society as we (may) have known it. The characters that he created on the screen were from real life that would reject the idea that 'every man has a price' and instead project the 'value of individual existence’. Through such powerful images, Guru Dutt not only sharpens our sensibilities but leaves indelible mark on viewers' psyche. 

One cannot get to the depth of Guru Dutt's rich exposition of cinematic skills without reading Arun Khopkar's layered portrait of the troubled genius. I have considered Guru Dutt to be a mystic, a maverick filmmaker for whom art was more than just a thing of beauty. Far from it, as the book shows, Guru Dutt combined intricacies of the medium to bring his deep humanism and compassion for life on screen. Guru Dutt created a parallel reality through his films. 

It was a chance that I picked up 'Guru Dutt – A Tragedy in Three Acts'. It is a sheer delight to read Arun Khopkar's rich analysis of the genius and his work - raw and brilliant....Link 

Guru Dutt: A Tragedy in Three Acts
by Arun Khopkar
Penguin Books, India
153 pages, Rs 250

1 comment:

  1. The review reminds the pure world portrayed by Guru Dutt in Kagaz Ke Phool. After reading it, one feels like watching the movie once again, and be in that world.
    -Vijay Rai