Remembering Guru Dutt and Sanjeev Kumar: The ‘Devata’s who remained ‘Pyaasa’

For Bollywood aficionados and lovers of sensible cinema and art, Guru Dutt and Sanjeev Kumar need no ‘Parichay’ (introduction). Though they belonged to different ‘Mausam’ (era) there was something common in between the two.

Born on the same date, (July 09), Guru Dutt and Sanjeev Kumar set a principle that is now followed by generations after generations. While Guru Dutt changed the idiom of filmmaking with the cult masterpiece PYAASA in 1957 – one of the most significant chapter in Indian cinema when Indian cinema waved its flag high in the world with movies like Mehboob’s MOTHER INDIA, B.R. Chopra’s NAYA DAUR, V.Shantaram’s DO AANKHEN BARAH HAATH.

PYAASA - Guru Dutt’s meticulously mounted conflict between artistic idealism and an avaricious society soaked in soul stirring melodies by S.D. Burman served as a watermark in Bollywood tone and shot takings (the long shots) that continued to inspire Kashyap’s, Bhardwaj’s, Mishra’s of today.

Born on the same date and thirteen years later, Sanjeev Kumar on the other hand excelled in playing the aged man on screen. The alumni of IPTA and Indian National Theatre played the 60 year old with terrific ease at the age of 22 in plays. Sanjeev Kumar is arguably the best actor after Motilal Rajvansh and Balraj Sahni - the dignified manuals on screen on natural acting.

Both Guru Dutt and Sanjeev Kumar died early, Guru Dutt committed suicide at the age of 39, Sanjeev Kumar born with a congenital heart condition suffered a massive heart attack at the age of 47.

Both Guru Dutt and Sanjeev Kumar reportedly had a tragic love life, Guru Dutt couldn,t get over his obsession for Waheeda Rehman while it is said that Sanjeev Kumar couldn,t take the rejection of Hema Malini. While Sanjeev Kumar was a habitual drinker and smoker that worsen his condition of heart, Guru Dutt surrendered to pills and drinks due to depression.

It’s a pity and huge loss for the industry that nobody got the idea of bringing these legends together whose personal trauma in life created a searing melancholy on screen that has now turned immortal. Sanjeev Kumar in KHILONA, MAUSAM, AANDHI, MAUSAM, SHOLAY, BIWI O BIWI played the old man with such perfection, playing nine characters in NAYA DIN NAYI RAAT (1974), Sanjeev Kumar set a benchmark which is yet to be achieved.

With only 8 films (officially) as director Guru Dutt has set a pedestal that inspired many intense and socially relevant stories, books. His career as a helmer started with a rare tribute to the de noir genre in BAAZI starring Dev Anand the movie was inspired from Hollywod movie GILDA. Perhaps the only director to give importance to junior artiste in songs like the title song of AAR PAAR – a masterly crafted de noir crime musical or infuse sarcasms with unique flair – MR. & MRS.55 (1955) delivering that gem of a line “ cartoonist hu, communalist nahi" followed by the cult masterpiece PYAASA (1957) and ending his journey officially as a helmer with the ultimate KAAGAZ KE PHOOL (1959). The aptly titled movie depicted the selfishness of the society and the industry in a haunting sadness that echoed the conflict of love, lost, fame, obsession and dejection. The climax of KAAGAZ KE PHOOL is the bitter truth of the industry which cannot be denied.

It’s shocking that nobody during that time got the idea of working out a socially relevant drama with Sanjeev Kumar as the protagonist and Guru Dutt as the helmer.

However, there is a movie which someway connects the two legends. K Asif’s LOVE AND GOD – the master filmmaker who gave the iconic MUGHAL-E-AZAM announced his take on the story of Kais Aur Laila (popularly known as Laila Majnu) in 1963 with Guru Dutt as Kais and Nimmi as Laila. Guru Dutt's shocking death in 1964 halted the proceedings and was shelved. Seven years later in 1970, K. Asif decided to revoke it and replaced Sanjeev Kumar as Kais while Laila remained the same – Nimmi. But the clouds of bad luck gloomed over with the sad demise of K. Asif in 1971. The movie again went into cans. After fifteen years, K. Asif’s widow Akhtar Asif decided to release the incomplete film with the help of producer-director-distributor K. C. Bokadia.  LOVE AND GOD saw the light on 27 May 1986.

It’s a sad irony that LOVE AND GOD was released several of the film's cast members had died including its leading actor Sanjeev Kumar who died in 1985. Very few people know that LOVE AND GOD is also the only movie where three playback legends Rafi, Mukesh, Talat Mahmood and Manna Dey came together for the song” Rahega Jahan Me Tera Naam”.

Both Guru Dutt and Sanjeev Kumar never worked together and may have died early, the ‘Devtas’ may have remained ‘Pyaasa’ in their personal life but their understanding of the art and the melancholy of human relations and emotions depicted in their movies has turned into a treasure, an ocean that fulfils the thirst and tryst of filmmakers and artiste big or small.


LOVE AND GOD poster (courtesy : You Tube)
LOVE AND GOD poster (courtesy : You Tube)
Guru Dutt in LOVE AND GOD (courtesy : twitter)
Guru Dutt in LOVE AND GOD (courtesy : twitter)