Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone
9 July 1925
|Died||10 October 1964 (aged 39)|
|Nationality||British Indian (1925–1947)|
|Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, |
Kaagaz Ke Phool,
|Relatives||Lalita Lajmi (sister)|
He made 1950s and 1960s classics such as Pyaasa (1957), Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960), and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962), many being considered among the greatest films in Hindi-language cinema. Pyaasa in particular has made its way on to Time magazine's all-time 100 Greatest Movies list. Meanwhile, both Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ke Phool have been included among the greatest films of all time, as well as on Sight & Sound magazine's 2002 "Top Films Survey," which polled over 250 international Film critics and directors, placing Dutt as the 73rd greatest director of all time. In 2010, he was included among CNN's "Top 25 Asian Actors of all time".
Dutt began his career making commercial films in order to get established. His official directorial debut was in 1951 with Baazi. His production studio, Guru Dutt Films, was run by himself and his group, the Guru Dutt team which he started in 1953.
He is most famous for making artistic films within the context of popular Hindi cinema of the 1950s, and expanding its commercial conventions, starting with his 1957 film Pyaasa. His artistic style include his 100mm-lens close-up shots (sometimes dubbed the Guru Dutt shot), use of light and shadow to portray intensity, and his depictions of melancholia. Although he officially directed only 8 films, several of his later works have gained a cult following; his films continue to attract full houses when re-released, especially in Germany, France, and Japan.
Early life and background
Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone was born on 9 July 1925, in Padukone in the present-day state of Karnataka in India into a Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmin family. His named was changed to Gurudatta Padukone following a childhood accident, the belief being that it was an auspicious choice. His father was Shivashanker Rao Padukone was a headmaster and a banker; his mother was Vasanthi, a teacher and writer. Both parents were originally settled in Karwar but relocated. Dutt spent his early childhood in Bhowanipore, Kolkata, and spoke fluent Bengali.
He had 1 younger sister—Lalita Lajmi, who is a famous Indian painter—and 3 younger brothers, Atma Ram (a director), Devi (a producer), and Vijay. Likewise, his niece Kalpana Lajmi was also a well known Indian film director, producer and screenwriter; and his nephew Shyam Benegal is a director and screenwriter. He is also a second cousin twice removed of Amrita Rao, whose grandfather and Dutt were second cousins.
In 1953, Dutt married Geeta Roy Chaudhary (later, Geeta Dutt), a well-known playback singer whom he met during the making of Baazi (1951). The couple had been engaged for three years, overcoming a great deal of family opposition in order to marry. After marriage, in 1956, they moved to a bungalow in Pali Hill, Mumbai. They eventually had three children, Tarun, Arun, and Nina; after the death of Guru and Geeta, the children grew up in the homes of Guru's brother Atma Ram and Geeta's brother Mukul Roy.
Dutt had an unhappy marital life. According to Atma Ram, he was "a strict disciplinarian as far as work was concerned, but totally undisciplined in his personal life." He smoked and drank heavily and kept odd hours. Dutt's relationship with actress Waheeda Rehman also worked against their marriage. At the time of his death, he had separated from Geeta and was living alone. Geeta Dutt died in 1972 at age 41, after excessive drinking, which resulted in liver damage.
On 10 October 1964, Dutt was found dead in his bed in his rented apartment at Pedder Road in Bombay. He is said to have been mixing alcohol and sleeping pills. His death may have been suicide, or just an accidental overdose. If the former is true, it would have been his third suicide attempt.
Dutt's son, Arun, considered the death to be an accident. Dutt had scheduled appointments for the next day with actress Mala Sinha and actor Raj Kapoor for his movie Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi, to discuss the making of colour films. According to Arun: "My father had sleeping disorders and popped sleeping pills like any other person. That day he was drunk and had taken an overdose of pills, which culminated in his death. It was a lethal combination of excessive liquor and sleeping pills."
At the time of his death, Dutt was involved in two other projects—Picnic, starring actress Sadhana; and director K. Asif's epic, Love and God. Picnic remained incomplete and the latter was released two decades later as it was entirely reshot, with Sanjeev Kumar replacing Dutt in the leading role.
Beginning in 1942, he studied at Uday Shankar’s School of Dancing and Choreography in Almora,:93 but was taken out in 1944 after getting involved with the company's leading lady. From there, gaining employment at a telephone operator at a Lever Brothers factory in Calcutta (now Kolkata),:93 Dutt wired home to say he had got the job. However, soon after, he was disenchanted by the job and left it.
Dutt briefly returned to his parents in Bombay before his uncle found him a job under a 3-year contract with the Prabhat Film Company in Pune later that year. This once-leading production company had already seen the departure of its best talent, V. Shantaram, who had by then launched his own production company called Rajkamal Kalamandir. It was at Prabhat that Dutt met two people who would remain his lifelong good friends—actors Rehman and Dev Anand, the latter of whom would later go on to produce Dutt's directorial debut.
In 1945, Dutt made his acting debut in Vishram Bedekar's Lakhrani (1945), as Lachman, a minor role.:303 In 1946, he worked as an assistant director and choreographed dances for P. L. Santoshi's film, Hum Ek Hain, in which Dev Anand made his acting debut.:306
While his contract with Prabhat ended in 1947, Dutt's mother got him a job as a freelance assistant with the company's CEO, Baburao Pai. Dutt once again lost his job after getting involved with the assistant dancer, Vidya, whom he eloped with as she already had a fiancé. (The Vidya's fiancé threatened police action, after which, the matter was resolved.) From there, Dutt was unemployed for almost 10 months and stayed with his family at Matunga in Bombay. During this time, Dutt developed a flair for writing in English and wrote short stories for The Illustrated Weekly of India, a local weekly English magazine.
After his time with Prabhat failed in 1947, Dutt moved to Bombay, where he worked with two leading directors of the time: Amiya Chakravarty in Girls' School (1949); and Gyan Mukherjee in the Bombay Talkies film Sangram (1950).
Around this time, Dev Anand offered Dutt a job as a director in his new company, Navketan. Back in their time at Prabhat while both still new to the industry, Anand and Dutt reached an agreement that if Dutt were to become a filmmaker, he would hire Anand as his hero, and if Anand were to produce a film, he would use Dutt as its director. Keeping that promise, the duo made two super-hit films together in a row.
First, Anand hired Dutt for Baazi (1951), starring Anand himself and marking Dutt's directorial debut. With its morally ambiguous hero, the transgressing siren, and shadow lighting, the film was a tribute to the 1940s film noir genre of Hollywood, and defined the noir genre for the following decade in Bollywood. Baazi, which was an immediate success, was followed by Jaal (1952), also directed by Dutt and starring Anand, and was again successful at the box office.
Dutt went on to cast Anand in C.I.D. (1956). After Dutt's death, Anand said that "He was a young man, he should not have made depressing pictures." Creative differences between Dutt, and Chetan Anand (Anand's elder brother), who was also a director, made future collaborations difficult.
For his next project, Dutt directed and starred in Baaz (1953). Though the film did not perform very well at the box office, it brought together what would be known as the Guru Dutt team, who performed well in subsequent films. The team included various filmmakers discovered and mentored by Dutt, including: Johnny Walker (actor-comedian), V.K. Murthy (cinematographer), Abrar Alvi (writer-director), Raj Khosla (writer), Waheeda Rehman (actress), among others.
In 1959 came the release of Dutt's Kaagaz Ke Phool, the first Indian film produced in CinemaScope. Despite the innovation, Kaagaz—about a famous director (played by Dutt) who falls in love with an actress (played by Waheeda Rehman, Dutt's real-life love interest)—was an intense disappointment at the box office. All subsequent films from his studio were, thereafter, officially headed by other directors, since Dutt felt that his name was anathema to the box office. It would be the only film produced by Dutt that was considered a box office disaster, for which Dutt lost over Rs. 17 crore, a large amount by the standards of that time.
The following year, Dutt's team released Chaudhvin Ka Chand, directed by M. Sadiq and starring Dutt alongside Waheeda Rehman and Rehman. The film was a box-office smash hit, and more than recovered Dutt's losses from Kaagaz. The film's title track, "Chaudhvin Ka Chand Ho", is in a special colour sequence and is the only time one can see Guru Dutt in colour.
Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, a critically successful film, was directed by Dutt's protégé, Abrar Alvi, who won the Filmfare Best Director Award for the film. The film starred Dutt and Meena Kumari, along with Rehman and Waheeda Rehman in supporting roles.
In 1964, Dutt acted opposite Meena Kumari in his last film, Sanjh Aur Savera, directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. After his death in October 1964, he left several films incomplete. He was cast as the lead in K Asif's film Love and God but was replaced by Sanjeev Kumar when the film was revived years later. He was also working opposite Sadhana in Picnic which was left incomplete and shelved. He was set to produce and star in Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi but was replaced as the lead by Dharmendra and the film released in 1966 as his team's last production.
Contrary to a general belief about the viability of his film projects, Dutt more or less produced commercially successful films. Over the years the commercial nature of his projects saw a trade-off with his creative aspirations. Movies such as C.I.D., Baazi, Pyaasa, Kaagaz Ke Phool, Chaudhvin Ka Chand and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam were the first of their kind in Hindi cinema.
The only film produced by Dutt that was considered a box office disaster was Kaagaz Ke Phool, which is now a cult classic. The extra-feature on the DVD of Kaagaz Ke Phool has a three-part Channel 4-produced documentary on the life and works of Dutt titled In Search of Guru Dutt.
He, along with Raj Kapoor, Mehboob Khan and Bimal Roy, was one of the few Indian film directors able to achieve a healthy blend of artistic and commercial success between the mid-1950s and mid-1960s. His brother Atma Ram dedicated his 1969 directorial Chanda Aur Bijli to him.
Both Kaagaz and Pyaasa have been included among the greatest films of all time, as well as on Sight & Sound magazine's 2002 "Top Films Survey," which polled over 250 international film critics and directors. That same poll ranked Dutt as the 73rd greatest directors of all time, thus making him the 8th-highest-ranked Asian filmmaker in the poll.
On 10 October 2011, a Doordarshan documentary on Dutt aired.
|1946||Hum Ek Hain||Choreographer; Assistant Director|
|1955||Mr. & Mrs. '55||Preetam Kumar||Yes|
|1958||12 O'Clock||Advocate Ajay Kumar|
|1959||Kaagaz Ke Phool||Suresh Sinha||Yes||Yes|
|1960||Chaudhvin Ka Chand||Aslam||Yes|
|1962||Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam||Atulya Chakraborty / Bhootnath||Yes|
|1964||Suhagan||Professor Vijay Kumar|
|1964||Sanjh Aur Savera||Dr. Shankar Chaudhary||Final Film Role|
|1966||Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi||Yes|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Guru Dutt.|
- Guru Dutt at IMDb
- Website dedicated to Guru Dutt – Biography, Filmography & more
- Cousin, Mark. "Guru Dutt: such sweet sorrow". Sight & Sound.
- Review of Ten Years with Guru Dutt: Abrar Alvi's journey
- Interview with Dev Anand
- Interview with Guru Dutt's cameraman, V. K Murthy
- Urbain Bizot, Thirst and Mourning