While depression is one of the most scathing bruise of stardom, many stars have succumbed to their professional pain easily. After Jiah Khan’s death appalled all, invariably my mind kept moving back to Guru Dutt’s classic autobiographical Kaagaz Ke Phool for its obvious similarities. Though the film wasn’t a box office smasher, it is one of Hindi cinema’s most unbeatable classics.
Guru Dutt, whose death was a mystery unsolved, it is personal doom and dwindling professional success that killed Dutt really. Kaagaz ke Phool, his last directorial was hence the most impeccable and humane work of art. Sensitively rendering on screen what was shattering Dutt within, this film is deemed to be closely inspired by his own life!
The film’s most striking aroma is melancholy, which every scene meticulously gets in. It is not merely a saga of a hapless man who once was at the zenith of fame. The film, if you watch carefully, is way beyond such flimsy dimensions. Beginning at a cue when the man is basking under the luxuries of his success, the film with its protagonist journeys from spectacular highs to dismal lows bringing on screen an illegitimate love story and how a legitimate loveless relationship binds human emotions so callously.
The subject, given the film’s times is immensely volatile but Dutt’s treatment of it is way ahead of his period. Kaagaz Ke Phool that released way back in 1959 was made when marriage was considered the epitome of legitimate romantic relationships. Dutt, in those days dared to work on a story that still remains the most invincible and non judgmental work of art of non-marital love. I personally have a problem with the term extra marital, there is great derogation in its tone towards love.
The film deals with the delusional fabric of artistic stardom and its stumbling pitfall that success never stays stagnant. Guru Dutt depicts his reality in an overwhelmingly morose tone. An ravishing beauty Shanti who serves as Suresh’s muse in his career carve for themselves a fierce love story which must fight societal norms to thrive.
While marriage isn’t what depletes them, it is Suresh’s dilemma of choosing between the woman he loves and the paternal love for his daughter. Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehmaan bring on screen a truly unforgettable chemistry that was partly inspired by their real life affair. After Shanti abandons Suresh, without his muse and his love, the man turns into a desperate alcoholic! It is only when Shanti finds her creator turning himself into rubbles that she tries to rekindle their work relationship. Suresh’s pride doesn’t allow him to bow down to take favors from Shanti.
What follows is the retelling of how inch by inch his inextricably woven career falls apart! Wallowing into neglecting himself, the climax culminates into a heart breaking low.
There are innumerable highlight moments in the film. My favorite would be the last point which almost comes as a severe blow. A celebrated director settling himself as an extra in films, will left you numb and moist eyed! To believe the frailness of stardom is tough since it exhibits such pomp and show! But those who suffer the loss are compelled to be driven to take drastic steps. Be it finding solace in alcoholism or ending their lives, the film brings out truly the edgy feeling that accompanies success in this field.
The film was a definite technical masterpiece. With Murthy’s flawless camerawork and a script so touching, sliced straight from reality, the most haunting quality of this film would invariably be S.D Burman’s melodious musical score. Mohd Rafi’s voice haunts you with ‘Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam’ and ‘Dekhi Zamane Ki Yaari’ and will instill a painful feeling in you that will make you feel one with the story and its characters.
We all know how Guru Dutt’s work and personal life gradually shambled away! His eventual death from the same was manifestation of how he lost his zealous touch about everything in life. Estranged wife, broken relationship, all of it snowballed into a catastrophic mess as it became unbearable for him to adapt to such vast cataclysmic changes in his life! And with his last film, Guru Dutt left for us his real story!