Guru Dutt: A Life in Cinema by Nasreen Munni Kabir

Being quite a movie buff and having heard raving reviews about Guru Dutt, I was more than eager to read this book. This was the first book I read related to Bollywood and I didn’t know what to expect. Why did I pick up this book and what did I want from it? When I started reading this book, I didn’t have answers to these questions. Now that I finished reading it, I am satisfied and am happy for myself for reading it.

True to its title, the book is just that: Guru Dutt’s life in cinema. The author doesn’t waste time in discussing his personal life. Every line of the book is related to his movies. The book starts with a brief background about Guru Dutt’s parents, which was unnecessary, according to me. The author does discuss about Guru Dutt’s childhood but restricts herself to only those facts which contributed to Guru Dutt’s entry into cinema.

The book moves on to discuss movies directed by or acted in or produced by Guru Dutt. Guru Dutt’s movies are discussed in chronological order. Each chapter is dedicated to one movie and has interviews with people connected with that movie. Guru Dutt’s mother, Vijayanti Padukone, his sister, his brothers, Kaifi Azmi, Abrar Alvi, Geeta Bali, Johnny Walker, Shamshad Begum, Dev Anand, Waheeda Rehman, Raj Khosla, Tanuja are some of the names that appear in this book. The book completely concentrates on listing Guru Dutt’s movies and sharing some tid-bits about them and wastes little ink on anything else.

Readers get a glimpse of how Guru Dutt was behind the camera. The reclusive, introvert, suicidal Guru Dutt is celebrated as honest, down to earth, perfectionist and extremely dedicated to his work. If readers expect to read the insider information about his married life or about his ‘affairs’, this is not the book for them. If one is interested in how Guru Dutt’s movies came about, how his film career took turns, his style of working, his team, his dedication – yes, this is the book.

Baazi, Jaal, Baaz, Aar Paar, Mr. & Mrs. 55, CID, Pyaasa, Kaagaz Ke Phool, Chaudhavin Ka Chand, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam are the movies which are discussed in great detail. Guru Dutt’s creative ideas for picturizing songs is highlighted throughout the book. Tid-bits that his assistant directors, cinematographer, script writers, actors share give a different glimpse of Guru Dutt, as the man behind the camera who wanted nothing but the best from his team.

The book ends on a sad note – his death. When one reads about this skillful, creative director, and then reads about his unexpected death, one can’t help but feel sorry for all those movies that Guru Dutt could have made if we were alive. His untimely death was certainly a blow for his family, but the audience suffered the greatest loss. We missed savoring a few more Pyaasa, a few more Kaagaz Ke Phool or a few more Mr. & Mrs. 55. The loss is ours.


3 Responses to “Guru Dutt: A Life in Cinema by Nasreen Munni Kabir”

  1. Vinayak Says:

    I would love to get my hands on that book.

    Pyaasa is a proclaimed and a much-acclaimed classic of the Indian Hindi Cinema. A movie worth re-viewing because after each viewing, it manages to convey some new message to us that we, might have failed to notice in last viewing. The movie is symbol-laden. It is crawling with symbols. During each viewing, a person can find some new symbol.
    Do read:

  2. generally Says:

    Thanks for the comment, Vinayak. I haven’t seen Pyaasa and it is there on my Must-Watch list from a long time. Don’t know when I will finally get to watch it.

  3. Cera Says:

    Guru Dutt is one of the greatest film directors, that ever lived (IMHO). He revolutionized Indian cinema, not only in direction of cinema, but all aspects of it, including the technical aspect. His films are so beautiful to watch, they are lyrical, and leave one with a sense of deep emotion, it’s unreal! You can tell I am a devotee of the man, he is number one for me, in commercial Hindi cinema, there will be never be another Guru Dutt.

    Like another post, Pyaasa is the film you should see, and then Sahib, Biwi Aur Ghulam, even though it wasn’t directed by him, he starred in it, and there is much heated debate about whether he actually directed it or not, even though Abrar Alvi is the director of the film, and is titled as such.

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