FILMS SELECTED :
These films will be shown in June 2015 at Spanish Film Institute.
Considered to be a man ahead of his time, Guru Dutt was one of the greatest icon of commercial Indian cinema. Although he made less than 50 films during his lifetime, they are believed to be the best to come from Bollywood’s Golden Age. They are known both for their ability to reach out to the common man and for their artistic and lyrical content, and they went on to become trendsetters that have influenced Bollywood ever since. But for all his genius, there was a shroud of tragedy that overshadowed his career and life.
Dutt was born in Mysore on 9 July 1925, the eldest son of a headmaster and a housewife who was a part-time writer. He did not have a good childhood: he had to deal with a strained relationship between his parents, hostility from his maternal relatives, and the death of a close relative. He received his early education in Calcuta, and in 1941, he joined the Uday Shankar India Culture Center, where he received basic training in the performing arts under dance maestro Uday Shankar. Afterward, in 1944, he also worked for a short while as a telephone operator.
Dutt entered the Indian film industry in 1944, working as a choreographer in Prabhat Studios. There, he became friends with Dev Anand (whom he met when they worked on the film Hum Ek Hain (1946)) and Rehman. These early friendships helped ease his way into Bollywood. After Prabhat went bankrupt in 1947, Dutt moved to Mumbai, where he worked with the leading directors of the time: Amiya Chakrabarty in Girls’ School (1949) and Gyan Mukherjee in Sangram (1946).
He got his big break when Dev Anand invited him to direct a film in his newly formed company Navketan Films. Dutt made his directorial debut with Baazi (1951), which starred Dev Anand. The film was an urban crime thriller that paid homage to classic film noir. However, it also carried its own elements that ensured it was not a remake of a Hollywood film: notably, songs were used to further the story’s narrative, and close-up shots were used frequently. The film was a success and became a trendsetter for future crime films. On the personal front, Dutt met his wife, playback singer Geeta Dutt, during the song-recording sessions of Baazi (1951).
Dutt’s next releases were Jaal (1952) and Baaz (1953). Dutt made his acting debut in the latter film, which he also directed. But while they were average successes, he finally tasted success with Aar-Paar (1954), another crime thriller, but with a far more polished story and look. Then came Mr. & Mrs. 55 (1955), a frothy romantic comedy focusing on women’s’ rights; and C.I.D. (1956), yet another crime thriller in which Waheeda Rehman made her debut.
His next films, Pyaasa (1957) and Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), are regarded as his best. Pyaasa (1957) was his masterpiece, about a poet trying to achieve success in a hypocritical, uncaring world. It was a box-office hit and is ranked as his greatest film ever. In contrast, Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) was a miserable flop at the box office: the semi-autobiographical story of a tragic love affair set against the backdrop of the film industry was deemed too morbid for the audience to swallow and went right over audience’s heads. Although in later years the film received critical acclaim for its cinematography and has gained a cult following, Dutt, who had put his soul into the film, was devastated over its failure and never directed another film.
Although he had given up directing, Dutt continued to produce and act in films, notably the period dramas Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1961) and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962). The latter film, interestingly, is controversial because it is debated whether Dutt had ghost-directed the film.