Legendary Guru Dutt: died at the age of 39…

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By Mohammad Shameem Khan

Guru Dutt, born as Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone. He was a film director, producer, actor, cinematographer and writer in the Hindi cinema during the 1950s and 1960s. He is considered one of the most influential and iconic figures in the history of Indian cinema.

Guru Dutt, PC: Social Media

Guru Dutt Life History:

Guru was born on July 9, 1925, in Bangalore. He belonged to a Konkani-speaking Saraswat Brahmin family. His parents were Shivashankar Padukone and Vasanthi Padukone. He spent his early years in Bangalore and later moved to Calcutta (now Kolkata) for his education. 

He was four siblings- one younger sister Lalita Lajmi, who is a painter and three younger brothers, Atma Ram (a director), Devi (a producer), and Vijay. Likewise, his niece Kalpana Lajmi who is daughter of his sister Latita Kajmi, was also a well-known film director, producer and screenwriter. Famous screenwriter and director Shyam Benegal is his second cousin.

Guru Dutt, PC: Social Media

Guru’s First Break in Film Industry:

Guru Dutt’s entry into the film industry was not as an actor or director, but as a choreographer. He began his career in the film industry in the 1940s as a dance assistant and choreographer. Later he became an assistant director with Prabhat film company, Pune, where he met two people who would remain his lifelong friends- actors Rehman and Dev Anand, the later of whom would later go on to produce Dutt’s directorial debut.

In 1946, he worked as an assistant director and choreographer for P.L. Santoshi’s film, “Hum Ek Hain,” in which Dev Anand started his acting career.

Dev Anand’s Navketan film: Guru Dutt debuted as Director

Dev Anand offered Guru Dutt a job as a director in his newly formed company, Navketan. Back in their time at Prabhat Film company, where they both met and promised each other that if Dutt were to become a filmmaker, he would give work Dev Anand as his protagonist, and if Anand were to produce film, he would give chance to Dutt as its director. So keeping that promise, the duo made two successful films together in a row.

First, Dev Anand hired Dutt for film Baazi (1951), Anand as protagonist and Guru Dutt’s started his directorial journey with this film. Baazi was successful at box office, followed by Jaal (1952), also directed by Guru Dutt and starring Dev Anand. This film was successful at box-office too.

Dutt’s next films, however, were blockbusters: Aar Paar (1954) Mr. & Mrs. ’55 (1955) C.I.D. and Sailaab in 1956; and Pyaasa in 1957.

Guru Dutt’s Acting debut

Guru Dutt made his acting debut in Vishram Bedekar’s Lakhrani (1945), as Lachman, a minor role. He played protagonist in his own films like Kagaz Ke Phool, Pyaasa, Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam, Chaundhavi Ka Chand etc.

Film Pyaasa: A Tragedy in the life of Guru Dutt

However, it was his 1957 film “Pyaasa” that marked a turning point in Indian cinema. The film, which he also produced and starred in, is considered a classic and is celebrated for its poignant portrayal of a struggling poet’s life.

Film: Pyaasa, PC: Social Media

Following the success of “Pyaasa,” Guru Dutt directed and produced several other acclaimed films, including “Kaagaz Ke Phool” (1959) and “Chaudhvin Ka Chand” (1960). These films were known for their innovative storytelling, soulful music, and Guru Dutt’s unique directorial style.

Guru Dutt’s personal life was marked by both success and turmoil. He was married to playback singer Geeta Dutt, but their marriage faced challenges and eventually ended in separation. This personal turmoil is said to have influenced some of his films, which often explored themes of love, loneliness, and existentialism.

Guru Dutt found dead in his Apartment

On October 10, 1964, at the age of 39, he committed suicide in his apartment at Pedder Road in Bombay. He is said to have been mixing alcohol and sleeping pills together. His death may have been an accidental overdose or a suicide. If this is true, it would have been his third suicide attempt. His untimely death remains a tragic and mysterious chapter in the history of Indian cinema.

Guru Dutt and Wahida Rahman, PC: Social Media

Guru Dutt’s contribution to Indian cinema is immeasurable. He was known for his artistic and cinematic brilliance, pushing the boundaries of storytelling and filmmaking in Bollywood. His films, even though they were not always commercially successful during his lifetime, have gained critical acclaim and are now considered classics. His work continues to inspire filmmakers and cinephiles worldwide.

Guru Dutt’s films and his artistic vision continue to be celebrated, and he remains an enduring icon in the world of Indian cinema. His contributions to storytelling, cinematography, and music have left an indelible mark on the industry, and his legacy lives on through his timeless films.

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