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Hindi cinema cops a lot of flak for its escapist fluff, and rightly so,
when it churns out drek like MPKK, HSSH and HTHS with depressing
frequency. It was, however, not always so. Pyaasa reminds us that the
Golden Age of Hindi cinema was just that, truly golden. There is almost
nothing at all to fault with this gem. I'm listening to Sar Jo Tera
Chakraye while I type this, but the whole soundtrack is outstanding,
and the story, both in design and execution is a great demonstration of
the fact that commercial cinema _can_ be fine art, too.
The evocation of atmosphere is well-done, and the main characters are well drawn. Johnny Walker is, as always, excellent in the comic relief. Some have said that they found him an intrusion, but for me, this very un-comic movie benefited from a little lightening touch from the inimitable Johhny. Subhaan Alaah that it wasn't Johnny Lever!
I love every song in the soundtrack, and think that it is the best soundtrack from any of the 320 or so Hindi films I've seen. It is, in my opinion, rare to find a Hindi film in which the songs work very well both in the film AND on their own. Sometimes, there are boring films with great songs, like Swades, and sometimes there are unremarkable songs that work well inside the film, like Dhadak Dhadak from "Bunty aur Babli". In Pyaasa though, every song fits AND every song survives apart from its context in the film.
However, the clincher for me the ending. There are maybe three or four Hindi films I've seen with almost perfect endings, in terms of being right for the film. I would say that they are, Dil Se (breathtaking and brave, but absolutely right for that film), Page 3 (the 21st century Pyaasa in its storyline, to me) and at the top of the heap, Pyaasa. The fade out to Yeh Duniya Agar is utterly perfect. I love this film to bits, and it was the ending that sealed it for me.
Pyaasa does show its age. There are a lot of things that would perplex or
annoy the modern viewer such as jumps in continuity and a simplistic set
characters. However, if one looks past that, then the movie reveals a rich
story and a deep message. This is even more astonishing considering that
movie was made in the 50s.
This film is a journey into the mind of Guru Dutt and shows the hurt that sensitive minds, such as those of poets', can feel in modern society. As such, its message transcends time and is still relevant today. Those with less sensitive dispositions, such as mine, will not feel left out and will surely appreciate the story too.
The dialogue is beautiful and the songs are sublime. This is a real pity for those who do not understand Hindi since the subtitles (although decent) rob the words of much of their beauty. I know from other reviews on this site that non-Indian viewers often rightly skip the much-disliked song sequences. I still recommend that they sit through them with the subtitles, of course, turned on. This will convey some sense of the beauty of the songs.
There are several moments when the movie seems idiosyncratic. On both occasions that Abdul Sattar (Johnny Walker) broke out into song, the sudden "change" in his voice seemed absurd. Similarly, several bits of dialogue were almost comical when they were meant to be serious, especially in the case of the first publisher. The video itself looks jaded and the sound leaves a lot to be desired. But as I stated earlier, one must look past this to truly enjoy this splendid movie.
One of the striking things about the movie that I must mention is how much India seems to have changed since 1957. Perhaps this is because of the way the movie was shot. The Indian city of the 50s seems very wide and open and even though it is shown teeming with people, there is certain spaciousness about the whole thing. This stands in stark contrast to the clustered urban environment of today.
In all, I would highly recommend this movie to film lovers, both Indian and otherwise.
Guru Dutt was indeed a visionary, so many of his ideas are much ahead
of not only those times but our times as well. Pyaasa is one of his
most acclaimed movies. One can see why. This is the story of Vijay, an
unemployed poet who struggles through his loneliness, lack of job, and
'good-for-nothing' image. Having left his house where his brothers
maltreated him for the same, he wanders in the streets. He puts his
heart and soul into writing poems but then no one takes notice of them
and they remain unpublished. The story follows his acquaintance with a
young prostitute named Gulabo and his renewed meeting with his college
sweetheart Meena who left him to marry a wealthy man. What happens when
an aimless and embittered Vijay generously gives his coat to a beggar
is what takes the whole thing much further.
Being a poet's story, the film is appropriately and incredibly poetic in tone, with amazing dialogues bringing so much depth and finesse to it. Today, some of them have become unforgettable sayings. Dutt's direction is excellent. He pays attention to the smallest of details, keeps the film consistently realistic, ultimately managing to build a wonderfully captivating and engaging picture. True to its musical style, the narrative is full of songs, and never do they take away from the efficiency of the script. They actually contribute to it as they either enhance the emotional impact or relieve the intensity. It is this rare mix of melodious numbers and serious, atmospheric proceedings that marks this film's success. The cinematography is very effective, and, just like the songs, it often manages to capture the characters' state of mind.
One of the most impressive aspects about this film, among others, is the matter-of-fact style of story-telling, which is still missing in Hindi films today, as well as Dutt's portrayal of relationships. The character of Gulabo, a golden-hearted prostitute is very impressively atypical. She is neither exaggerated and vulgar nor over-generous. She is pretty much a real good-hearted person, who does have her share of toughness, but she is never presented as a poor victim. The interaction between Vijay and Gulabo is very credible as it is never saccharine or sentimental and it lacks any sort of 'love against all odds' clichés. We actually never see if he really loves her. She, however, loves him unconditionally which has got to do a lot with the fact that she's a fan of his poems and that he's one person who shows respect to her.
Mala Sinha's Meena, however, is the complete opposite. As Vijay says, "for her, love is a hobby and she can barter it for material comfort." But I love this character, because she looks at life from a sane and practical perspective. She is greedy, but she is honest enough to admit it, something that suits her persona brilliantly. In the conversation scene, which is one of the very best in the film, she directly tells Vijay she did not want to marry an unemployed man without any future. She says the memorable line, "in life, besides poetry and love there's hunger". Whether you agree or disagree, that's true. Another highly precious and probably the most haunting aspect in the entire film is the portrayal of Vijay's relationship with his loving and caring mother. It is given very little screen time, and yet it's so strongly impactive and touching.
Acting-wise, Guru Dutt is excellent in an author-backed role which only he could play given he had the idea of how it should have been done. He gets into the skin of the character, and remains thoroughly in-sync with it. Mala Sinha is brilliant as she is in probably every film and she displays the negative shades of her role as well as her inner compassion very well. It is Waheeda Rehman, however, who shines the most with a role that allows her to grow through the film and draw the audience's sympathy with her heartfelt and authentic portrayal. Rehman, Johnny Walker and particularly Leela Mishra as Vijay's mother, provide excellent support. "Life's real joy lies in making others happy", a memorable line by Dutt, and that's what this film is all about. Pyaasa is overall a poignant and moving classic, highly recommended.
This is an excellent movie which raises many important issues which include unemployment, prostitution in all its worst colours, the exploitation of writers by publishers, breaking family cords etc. Handling of these problems leaves an indelible effect on the viewer and the film tries to shake the souls of the viewers. The lyrics by Sahir Ludhianwi fit the situations and enhance the effect of the film as usual. Mohammad Rafi also sang the songs in his inimitable style of playback acting which is also adds a gem to the film. The level of acting is also very high and special mention has to be made of Waheeda Rahman, Guru Dutt and Rehman. The handling of important scenes keeps viewers glued to the screen till the end. Actually this is one of the best movies made in India.
In search of a little selfless love a poet struggles to make it trough this
In this world there is nothing such as true love and everything can be bought with money and power. The lead character of this movie does not realize this and when he does eventually, he still does not want to accept the fact which leaves him no choice but to go in exile.
Of all the Hindi movies made to date, this one came closest to the painful realities life. A MUST SEE GURU DUTT FILM.
Dutt had been toying with the idea of making 'Pyaasa' for four years.
Some of the film echos part of his life story but not as close as the
tragedy 'Kaagaz ke Phool' did. It's also very similar to a recent movie
I have seen, namely Ghose's 'Yatra'. Maybe Ghose made 'Yatra' as a
tribute to Dutt's 'Pyaasa'. 'Pyaasa' is the story of a talented poet
Vijay, who struggles through life trying to get his poems published.
But, in this materialist world where money and fame rule, there is no
one willing to give Vijay's poetry a chance, except one person, a
streetwalker called Gulabo. Gulabo is captured by the beauty of his
poetry but what can she can do to get the poems published?
'Pyaasa' starts in an unconventional but beautiful way. We see Vijay lying on the park. The poet smiles as he's captured by a bee buzzing over a flower. The smile vanishes as a man's shoe carelessly squashes the bee. This already reflects society's careless attitude towards him. Even Vijay's former lover Meena dumped him because she preferred someone with more wealth.
Murthy's cinematography is outstanding making 'Pyaasa' a visual treat. The songs and poems are beautiful and they are a powerful part of the narration as they reflect moments such as Vijay's love for Meena, Gulabo's love for Vijay's poetry, the brothel where people are traded and the devious society. There are so many wonderful scenes. The moments between Vijay and Gulabo are some of my favorites.
The performances are top notch. Guru Dutt becomes Vijay and allows the viewer to feel his struggles. Waheeda Rehman is breathtaking and plays her part to perfection. Mala Sinha and Rehman do very well. Johnny Walker is hilarious.
'Pyaasa' is Dutt's achievement on multiple levels. One of the best of Indian cinema and no wonder why he's recognized as one of the greatest filmmakers.
A musical melodrama from the Hindi film industry of Bombay, now
popularly known as "Bollywood", although it wasn't called that back
then. Well this movie is certainly a lot better than any of the more
recent "Bollywood" musicals I've seen, and it's probably even one of
the best musicals I've ever seen from anywhere. What really stands out
in Pyaasa in particular is how the music is often used to express
serious themes and social critiques, which is something I've rarely
ever seen in a musical. The ending was also quite unexpected and very
moving. The last few scenes and dialogues in particular were powerful
and had a lot of meaning to them.
The star of the show here is Guru Dutt, who was not only the director and producer, but also starred in the film as the protagonist Vijay (a struggling poet from the slums), comparable to the versatility of Orson Welles in Citizen Kane. The two main actresses in the film, Mala Sinha as the married ex-girlfriend Meena and especially Waheeda Rehman as the prostitute Gulabo, were also impressive. In some ways, the story has some similarities to that of Moulin Rouge! (2001) but even better than that in my opinion. The music by S. D. Burman and his son R. D. Burman also has a timeless feel to it. I would highly recommend this movie to musical fans, or even if one is not a musical fan, I still think it's worth checking out.
This is one of the master piece of Guru Dutt. Its his own life story.
In real life he fell in love with Wahida Rehman, but love was
unsuccessful. This movie is based on his love story. Hero (Vijay) is a
great poet, but people do not recognise him when he is live. But when
he dies, people admire his work. Same thing happened to Guru Dutt in
real life. His contribution to Hindi movie industry was not recognised
by people, as his movies were not conventional, but revolutionary.
After he died, people studied his work and he is now known as legend in
This is a must watch movie for Hindi movie livers. But please do not expect a typical third class Hindi movie story and songs.
You have to watch it if you want to admire it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw Pyaasa appear in Time Magazine's list of the Top 100 films of the
20th century. The only other Indian entry was (predictably) Satyajit
Ray's Apu Trilogy. My interest in Guru Dutt was piqued. It seems (along
with, to some extent, Raj Kapoor) he was amongst the few film-makers of
his time who could be appreciated as an auteur. One can (as many have)
view this film as highly autobiographical. And it is not a bad film. I
hate to add the age-old qualifier "by Indian standards" but it is
required here. Dutt and Ray films might be apples and oranges, but
clearly Ray's work can compete with foreign auteurs, whilst Dutt can as
best be seen as the closest Bollywood came to generating a cross-over
Anyways, about the film itself, it has some stellar performances, not least by Dutt himself. Johnny Walker provides his trademark comic relief, as does Tun Tun. The female leads are alright, and the supporting cast (Rehman and Mehmood especially) adds much to the film. The song sequence Dutt portrays (decrying prostitution) while drinking is a tour de force. The fluid camera movements that pepper the length of the film are marvelous. The last act of the film, however, is highly derivative of Preston Sturges' "Sullivan's Travels", and seems to drag on longer than it should.
Ultimately, I am impressed enough to seek out more of Guru Dutt's work, including "Kaaghaz Ke Phool" and "Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam".
Guru Dutt had the theme for "Pyaasaa" running in his mind for 4 years
before he actually got around to making it. He followed the counsel of
friends who advised him to make some money before venturing on such an
offbeat drama and made such purely commercial, but thoroughly
enjoyable, films as "Aar Paar", "C.I.D" and "Mr & Mrs 55" which were
all commercially very successful.
"Pyaasa" starts brilliantly - a man lying down, staring at the sky, the flowers - all very happy. A bee starts buzzing over a flower and then, moves down to the grass. The smile on the poet's face is broken as a man's boot uncaringly descends on the bee. Thats more or less the theme of the film. The uncaring attitude of the society where the struggling ones are trampled over mercilessly. Laced through this is the whole romance triangle with one lady dumping her lover for a well-to-do businessman for the sake of money, and a prostitute who loves the poet truly.
The film is filled with some memorable moments and lots of brilliant shots. My favourite is the sequence where Dutt tries to commit suicide is magnificent - there is no dialogue through that 3 minute sequence. But I think the scene would have been even more remarkable had there been no background music.
V.K.Murthy does an outstanding job with the camera. I compare the Guru Dutt-Murthy combo to the Orson Welles-Greg Tolland combo that created "Citizen Kane". Murthy was even better in "Kaagaz ke phool" - but thats for later. This film is an absolute visual treat.
S.D.Burman does a fair job with the music but it is really Sahir Ludhianvi's poetry thats the pride of the songs in this film. Stinging sharp, the words slam the devious ways of the world, the mercenary nature of the society. The climax, though a trifle melodramatic, is brilliantly conceived.
All in all, this is a film thats worth preserving in your DVD collection. This was Guru Dutt's best film and that is saying a lot ! He is now usually touted as the greatest film director in the commercial world of Hindi films. He demonstrates how a film can be both artistically satisfying as well being throughly entertaining to the masses.
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