Kaagaz Ka Phool: Guru Dutt’s master piece

Radhakanta Barik

It is a great film by Guru Dutt which has got recognition by the film directors of the world as one of the best films. It is an experimental film where the director and artist confront each other in the set and their experiences get articulated in picturisation of the story. Guru Dutt as an honest intellectual experiences his difficulties in life. His profession as an artist and Director of Film creates problems for his life. But he does not bother of others which make him honest to the core. He does not believe in a narrow approach to life. Human relationship needs to be based on a wider perspective. It is not confined to family, caste or community or religion. It is based on human race where one finds the pleasure of communicating his feelings to anybody. Such a vision creates problems for his life. In this film he applies the same principle to the film as a director. Director needs to work with many from the workers to the technicians to photographers, actors. He as Director needs to be honest to all at every level. That he goes one day to a worker’s place that works as motor mechanic and desires to spend some time with him. In the meantime his daughter comes to see him and he hides from his daughter and tells his friend mechanic to say that he is not there. His friendship goes up in the hierarchy that he has friendship with actor and finds the actors have to be fashionable to work in the film which he frowns upon. He looks for an artist who is  honest to herself and he starts searching for someone who is honest but it is difficult to find one but in the end he finds someone who covers with a stylist dress which he disapproves but she accepts it and she turns out to be an honest and simple woman. He selects her as an honest artist not as a fashionable one. She admits that she wants to throw her false identity. She being truthful to her profession she enjoys working with Guru Dutt as director. He feels comfortable with his actors including the heroine who wants to lead an honest life. Waheeda Rehman decides to believe in honesty and integrity which forces her not to be glamorized by film acting but to lead an honest life she decides to back to teach the  boys and girls in a distant village. This is first school where  boys and girls are studying which brings an Spender’s view of a  an elementary school in slums. For the first time the film song on school shows a  naked child while studying together. She sang a song “ak do tin ---“  composed by Kafi Azmi showing the scenario of the rural school where both girls and boys are studying. Here any human activity one gets involved one has to pursue the honesty and integrity values which are western in a sense as our artistic tradition does not defend these values. Here Guru Dutt turns to be a unique one who demands these values from everybody in his team for working in a film under his supervision.

This brings his confrontation with his financier who wants to spend his time as a director with the glamorous actor which is a marketable and commercial successful. He refuses to do so. In the process he gets alienated from these people and pushes himself as a different person than film maker. This brings conflict with his wife and wife’s family. He is honest to his wife and children for which he became a distinct person. His wife’s family files case of divorce against him. But he maintains a healthy respectable relationship with her and her family. He is very much emotional towards his daughter who studies in a boarding school. There was a news regarding Guru Dutt who as an actor does love scenes with his heroine. This is being misunderstood by her class mates who frown upon her father’s behavior. She feels so bad that she beats a class mate of her while her school teacher comes and see this untoward behavior for which she gets expelled. In the court case he pleads for taking care of his daughter but the court refuses to do so on the plea she is a daughter who is going to be with her mother. This gave a shock to him as the judgment is based on stereotype that women understands better their daughters which is incorrect.

His honesty leads to his heroine’s residence where she leads a distance from the film making and retires in a small house instead of a big house she used to own as an actor. This brings two honest persons to be together but he decides to leave her house. While leaving the house she hands over a suitor to him as token of love which he keeps it with him.  This brings the question of film making as the financiers agree to his demand.  But he does not relent. But he decides to supervise the film making without holding the position of Director. Here he sits while film is getting directed by him with instructions from the backdoor not from the front door. This is being done in  a studio while he sits aloof without an involvement in the whole process but directs them to complete the show. In this process of completing the work he confront his heroine Waheeda Rehman who both decides to separate without any bitterness and but with a moment of joy they have shared together in making of the film. This joy of both gets articulated in a beautiful song Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam written by Kafi Azmi that we may not stay together but we remember this moment of happiness while working together. This is a solitary moment for both and this moment is a great moment in lives of both and both preserves this moment in their cultural memory.

Prof Radhakanta Barik (retd), Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi

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Sep 8, 2020

Prof. Radhakanta Barik

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