Director: Guru Dutt; Writer: Abrar Alvi; Producer: Guru Dutt; Cinematographer: V.K. Murthy; Editor: Y.G. Chawhan; Cast: Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman, Baby Naaz, Johnny Walker, Mahesh Kaul, Veena, Minoo Mumtaz, Pratima Devi, Niloufer, Sulochana (Ruby Myers), Sheila Vaz, Bikram Kapoor
Duration: 02:21:51; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 129.824; Saturation: 0.037; Lightness: 0.237; Volume: 0.141; Cuts per Minute: 6.689; Words per Minute: 41.631
Summary: The commercial failure of this film on its initial release prompted Guru Dutt, by some accounts, to stop taking directorial credit for his films. The baroque, quasi-autobiographical fantasy has over time become his best-known film next to Pyaasa (1957) and could be regarded as India’s equivalent of Citizen Kane (1941). It tells, in flashback, the story of Suresh Sinha (Dutt), a famous film director. His marriage to Bina (Veena), the daughter of a wealthy parvenue (Mahesh Kaul), is wrecked because film directing is a job lacking in social status. Sinha is denied access to his beloved daughter Pammi (Baby Naaz) who is sent to a private boarding school. On a rainy night Sinha meets Shanti (Rehman) who turns out to be ideally suited to act the part of Paro in Sinha’s film Devdas. Shanti becomes a star and gossip columns link her with Sinha. The distraught Pammi pleads with Shanti to quit films, which she does, and her withdrawal leads to a rapid decline in Sinha’s fortunes. Soon he is a forgotten and destitute man. Eventually, after some painful adventures (reminiscent of Emil Jannings’s fate in Sternberg’s The Last Command, 1928) Sinha is found dead in the director’s chair in an empty studio. With a more complex narrative structure than Pyaasa, this film can be seen as a meditation on the control of space, itself an eminently cinematic concern and brilliantly rendered by Murthy’s astonishing CinemaScope camerawork. The film dramatises the conflict between open and constricted spaces, between spaces controlled by the director and spaces constraining him, spaces he can enter and those from which he is excluded. Eventually these tensions are resolved in the enclosed and womblike but huge and free-seeming space of a deserted film studio. The tragic refrain Waqt hai meherbaan of the song Dekhi zamaane ki yaari, written by Azmi, repeated throughout the film, endows the narrative with an epic dimension enhanced by Burman’s music. The original Cinema Scope negative has been damaged and few scope prints survive (two are at European TV stations).