"Seven cities claimed Homer dead…Where the living Homer begged his bread"
These were those fantastic lines which provided inspiration of an evergreen movie in India Cinema- Pyaasa (1957). This masterpiece tells the story of love. Now what’s unusual in this right? This movie showcases the different type of love- Love for spiritual fulfillment, love for recognition & lover for your partner. Some people considered it as a romantic movie. Some considered it a formula film & for some it was parallel cinema. But Love was not the only thing that drew this film forward. It has tragedy, betrayal, greed, pain, hope. In short it has everything.
Rated as one of the best 100 films of all time by the Time Magazine in 2005, Pyaasa is Guru Dutt’s Master piece, his poetry in motion. With this movie Guru Dutt moves to the genre of love, poem & tragedy. Before Pyaasa, Guru Dutt tried his hand on Comedy & Thriller with Mr. & Mrs 55 & CID, but according to me it was this movie which brought him some big recognition. Gurudutt uses a poet’s life as the center of this canvas of the masterpiece. He has showed a strong parallel between the hero & the director himself. Our hero who is a poet is trying to make a place for himself in the society here where as the director is trying to make his mark on the industry at that time.
The Plot of the movie has characters similar to the film Moulin Rouge – the idealistic poet, the beautiful courtesan, and the rich evil man who gets in the way. Vijay(Guru Dutt) is a struggling poet whose works aren’t taken seriously by anybody. In fact his poems are sold off as waste by his own brother. Betrayed in love by Meena (Mala Sinha), he eventually meets and falls in love with a prostitute named Gulabo(Waheeda Rehman). But this movie doesn’t have a “they lived happily ever after” ending. Vijay runs into Meena and her hot-shot publisher husband, Mr. Ghosh. Her suspicious husband hires Vijay and subsequently fires him too. The poet roams here and there and is off minds of the people. People starts thinking he is dead. Mr. Ghosh even ends up publishing a book of his poems thinking he is dead.
When Vijay tries to prove that he’s the "dead poet" and in fact alive, nobody believes him & no one is on his side.. They send him to a mental asylum. He escapes and ironically, attends his own death anniversary gathering. Now disillusioned, he sets off with his love Gulabo in order to find happiness, love and inner peace.
Pyaasa is a critique in a lot of things. The time when movie was released India was riding high on a crest of Socialism. Guru Dutt made a fantastic similarity of the status of the country that time which was dreamt by leaders with a drunkard walking in the ramparts of a whorehouse and thinking that:
Woh ujale darichon mein paayal kii chhan chhan
Thakii haarii saanson pe tabale ki dhan dhan
Yeh berooh kamaron me khaansi ki Than Than
jinhen naaz hai hind par woh kahaan hain
(There in the lighted compound, rings the sound of ankle-bells; on the defeated breath beats the sound of the tabla; here, from inside the room bereft of life echoes the music of cough; where are they, those who are so proud of India?)
zaraa is mulk ke rahabaron ko bulaao
ye kuuche ye galiyaan ye manzar dikhaao
jinhen naaz hai hind par unko laao
jinhe naaz hai hind par woh kahaan hai
(Call then, call them, the Rulers of this Land; show them these alleys, these sights; call them, those who are so proud of India; where are they, those who are so proud of India?)
These are few fantastically sarcastic lines written ever. The poetic sense in the film is just superb. Be it in its dialogues or songs. The soul of the movie was Guru Dutt & Sahir Ludhianvi. His poems on which the lyrics were based was another talking point in the movie. It looked like Sahir’s words were telling Guru Dutt’s view of the world and experience of tragedy. Something which Sahir himself went through.
Yeh Mehlon Yeh Thakhton, Jaane Woh Kaise Log The Jinke and Jinhe Naaz Hai Hind Par Woh Kahaan Hai are some of the finest songs written for Hindi cinema. The music by SD Burman is just extraordinary.
Performance wise also the movie made it’s mark. Here the characters aren’t as they seem. The prostitute,is a more moral person than other characters in the film, despite her occupation whereas to me Vijay looked selfish. He only wanted to be always happy. The role of Meena portrayed materialistic fulfilment & had negative shades to it compared to the other female lead Gulabo.Guru Dutt portrays his role of the poet to the ultimate best with one his best ever screen performance. Dilip Kumar was the original choice for Vijay’s role, but Guru Dutt made the character tailor made for him.
Now the time ahs come to talk about the talking point of the film besides what all I have written. The Cinematography is one of the strongest point in the film. Guru Dutt created an imagery…a fantasy which has still considered in icon in itself. The use of lighting to create contrast and shadows has been brilliant evoking a dramatic atmosphere.
The time when Vijay runs from the mental asylum and reaches the function where the dead poet (Vijay himself) is being honored.This forms one of the best climaxes I’ve ever seen. Something executed to perfection. The function is going on and suddenly the door opens & Vijay standing with the white lighting from the back creating a silhouette for Vijay. A great cinematic technique with a great the song :
ye mahalon, ye takton, ye taajon ki duniyaa
ye inasaan ke dushman samaajon kii duniyaa
ye daulat ke bhuukhe rivaazon ki duniyaa
ye duniyaa agar mil bhi jaaye to kya hai
jalaa do, jalaa do ise phuunk Daalo ye duniyaa
mere samne se hataa lo ye duniyaa
tumhaari hai tum hi sambhalo ye duniyaa, ye duniyaa …
These lyrics have a meaning for every generation..for every era.
Some people found Pyaasa too sad (the movie didn’t work wonders that time), for some people it was too negative & for some it was contemporary cinema. Whatever said, for me it is still a masterpiece & will remain one. A brilliant movie quite ahead of its time in every manner I say.