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I never associated Bollywood with introspective, semi-autobiographical
tragedies, but here we are: writer-director-star Guru Dutt plays Suresh
Singh, a highly successful movie-director who discovers a new star Shanti
(Waheeda Rehman). The two fall in love but when he loses a custody battle
with his estranged wife over his daughter, Suresh slides down a
A movie like Kaagaz Ke Phool shows how wrong the stereotyped view of Bollywood-movies, as cheesy, badly made opiate for a backward people, really is. This is a highly intelligent, deeply personal movie with strong performances, assured visual direction, great cinematography and beautiful songs. It's not perfect: it drags somewhat in the middle and the broad comic relief feels out of place, but this movie about movies that can hold its own against any version of A Star is Born.
Dutt's 'Kaagaz Ke Phool' (Paper Flower) very much reflects his own life
story. It can be described as poetry on canvas as it's beautiful,
lyrical, agonizing, heartbreaking and a treat to watch. The legendary
Guru Dutt pretty much lived the life of the famous painters whose works
gained appreciation only after their tragic departure. Dutt's other
masterpiece, 'Pyaasa' parallels this. Sadly, 'Kaagaz Ke Phool' was a
commercial failure after its release. Ironically this is also shown in
the film as Sinha's last film is a commercial disaster. Both 'Pyaasa'
and 'Kaagaz Ke Phool' somewhat parallel this genius's life.
The cinematography has always been a highlight of Dutt's films. The use of lighting is very good as it emphasizes the somberness. The light beaming on the screen during the premier of Sinha's 'Devdas' and the spotlight on the main characters during the interval song are examples of the skillful use of light. The overlapping images, the close-ups, and the long-shots all work effectively.
Among the songs, it is the unforgettable 'Waqt Ne Kiya', sung by the late Geeta Dutt, that stands out. It's both shot beautifully and the lyrics are magic as it expresses the silent emotions conveyed between the two protagonists. 'Dekhi Zamaane Ki Yaari' is also a good track. The rest of the songs range from okay to adequate. The Johnny Lever track could have easily been left out. The character itself was not really necessary.
The relationship between Sinha and his estranged wife seems a little hazy. Perhaps it was a good idea not too put too much focus on them as the film was mainly about Suresh and Shanti's relationship. The characters of Mrs. Sinha and her parents are very caricaturish.
The chemistry between the enigmatic Guru Dutt and the luminous Waheeda Rehman is electric. They convey so much without saying anything. As Sinha says, 'We have always understood each other'.
While 'Kaagaz Ke Phool' has its flaws (which I think are very few), it is essentially a beautiful powerful classic. The storytelling is simple without being too emotionally manipulative or preachy. 'Kaagaz Ke Phool' is a gift to cinema.
This movie sums up the genius of Guru Dutt. A reclusive and introvert man portrayed in the movie was Dutt himself. Too bad the movie went over the heads of Audience in the 50s, however, its charisma has given it the status of a cult classic. Waheeda Rahman was beautiful as ever and acted much better than she did in Pyaasa. I rate this movie better than Pyaasa personally. Kaifi Azmi's lyrics are at their best with "Waqt ne kiya" song topping everything out! I think the beginning is extremely maudlin and same for the ending. He enters the studio as an old and broken man, only to be jeered at by his ex colleagues. A must watch with outstanding Music!!!!
Kaagaz ke Phool (KKP), along with Gurudutt's other film Pyaasa, stands
for the film maker Gurudutt. It is more of a painting or a poetry in
motion. These are films where story is the main actor each and every
detail of which is done up to a fine precision. This film is now
regarded by many as a classic and I wonder if it was appreciated as
much when the film was released. Surely this film is one dimension less
compared to the infinite dimensional Pyaasa; and perhaps this is a
reason for its commercial failure. On the other hand, Pyaasa has
impressed so many that it was also remade in Telugu (a south Indian
language) by name "Mallepoovu" starring Shobhanbabu and Lakshmi. In
comparison, the failure of KKP made Gurudutt further direct such
artistry later. Of course, a film maker should make films close to his
heart than worrying its saleability; but at the same time an
appreciation would make him doubly sure that there are people
supporting him in his works. Thus I feel that appreciating a work of
art much later is no less criminal compared to killing the art itself.
Sometimes people escape by saying "it was ahead of its times". My
sincere request to anyone reading this review, is to appreciate things
at the right time.
KKP is a film where director plays the main role; i mean the main character in the film is a director. It is easy now to guess that the story revolves around film industry. The story is set in the period where anything in the film industry was considered a taboo; particularly in 'high society' people. The director in those days is the final authority with respect to the choice of location, story and the crew (acting and technical) and the producer is limited to money matters. Our director in the film, Suresh Sinha is one such. He made lot of successful films that earned lots of money for the production company.
Suresh is now making a film Devdas and is looking for an actor for the role Paro. On one fateful rainy evening, he meets Shanti, an young girl shivering with cold. Suresh gives his warm coat to her and he leaves in hurry to Bombay. Shanti comes to Bombay to return his coat and is also searching for a job. He offers the Paro role to her and both get on well and they understand each other. They admire each other. Suresh is married and his wife stays away from him since he is a filmy person; also he is not allowed to meet his daughter, Pammi, who is in a boarding school at Dehradun. Once Suresh is hurt badly in an accident, on listening to this the reaction of his wife is "if he needs me,then send him to Delhi (from Bombay, where the Hindi film industry is based)" and this best describes their relation. Suresh sees her daughter in the doll belonging to her. Pammi's friends in school tells her that his father is involved with an actress (I wonder how small girls are even allowed to read such film magazines in those times! perhaps in boarding schools it is possible? keep my fingers crossed!). Then this small girl Pammi runs from the school and reaches Bombay. She meets Shanti and takes a promise from her that Shanti would leave all her work in Bombay and go away from Suresh's life. Shanti leaves Bombay, leaving behind her memories in a sweater that she made for Suresh.
With a suffering heart like the river longing for the fish that has been separated from it, Suresh has become a dried ocean. people refuse to give him any work and some of them say "you are not fit for direction!" Suresh loses all his wealth in next two years and his house auctioned and he leaves his house with two cherished things that he would not lose till he lost his life: the doll and the sweater.
The fate again brings Shanti to work, having lost the court case with the production company. She agrees to work provided Suresh is back as director. She meets Suresh and he tells her "I lost everything and I sold everything but not self-respect" and thus denying her proposal. But she bound by her contract continues. What happens later, should be seen oneself. I promise you that it is worth watching it.
The film is nicely supported by its music, the song "Dekhi zamaane ki
yaari" captures the theme of the film and "Waqt ne kiya kya haseen
sitam" captures the relation of Shanti and Suresh. Its photography is well-talked about and VK Murthy is responsible for it. If you are interested in knowing more about Gurudutt's works and this film in particular, then I have two suggestions. Get yourself a copy of any of Gurudutts films released by Yashraj Films. This DVD comes with a documentary taken by Nasreen Munni Kabir that was shot for a TV channel earlier. Otherwise, one could read a book written by Nasreen Munni Kabir (apparently,it is based on the work she did for the documentary) entitled "Gurudtutt: A life in cinema" published by Oxford press.
Finally an interpretation of the title Kaagaz ke phool (exact translation means "Paper flowers". Bees are looking for honey and hunt for flowers. The song "Dekhi zamaane ki yaari" says "Oh thirsty bees, fly away from here these are all Paper flowers (naturally they don't have what the bees are searching for!)". I interpret it as saying/requesting/asking the people not to look for wealth/success (in the popular meaning) and do not expect anything from this society in return of what you are doing. Do your job, simply!
Why is Guru Dutt hailed as one of the all time best directors in the
world? See this film and you'll get an answer. Guru Dutt never got his
due from the audience or the critics when he was alive. After he died,
he was suddenly hailed as this best thing to have happened to Hindi
film industry. And today, he is universally regarded as one of the best
Hindi film directors. This film too is resplendent with that same
irony, hypocrisy and tragedy. There are films and then there is this.
'Kaagaz Ke Phool' is Guru Dutt's extremely personal and almost poetic
take on the trials and tribulations of a life of fame and glamor; and
especially the aftermath of it. Guru Dutt plays a successful director
Ajay Sinha who is looking for a new face to cast as the leading lady in
his next film. In the midst of all this, he has a strained marriage
wherein his wife leaves him to live with her parents along with their
daughter. On a certain rainy day, he meets a girl (Waheeda Rehman).
They meet again in the studio.
Immediately,Guru Dutt realizes that Waheeda's is THE face he had been looking for and promptly casts her in his next film. Eventually he falls in love ith her but she doesn't reciprocate. Meanwhile, he isn't allowed to eet his beloved daughter too through a court order. As a last straw, his next film is a colossal failure and he suddenly finds that the ones who pretended to be his well-wishers and friends now seem to hate and ignore him. Thus Waheeda, his discovery, goes on to become a successful star while he begins his downward spiral into the deep darkness of ignominy. Subsequently and ironically, after many years, he dies on the same director's chair It is not a perfect film by any means. The screenplay is sometimes indulgent and probably isn't as good as say Guru Dutt's 'Pyaasa' (his other classic). Plus, the whole track involving Johnny Walker is somewhat irrelevant to the film and hence could have been shortened. However, it was incidentally, India's first film to be shot in Cinemascope and hence makes good use of technique but essentially KPK remains a very humane film which moves us without being preachy or overtly sentimental. SD Burman's haunting music and Kaifi Azmi's poignant lyrics add to the mood of this film
Ironically, the film was a commercial disaster upon its release (eerily similar to the protagonist Sinha's last film). So, the claims of it being an Autobiographical film also started being made. But, I think it is a case of life imitating art than vice- versa. Having said that it is a fact that Guru Dutt died shortly after making this film and thus KKP remains his last masterpiece and I think its commercial failure can be attributed to one of those rare occasions when the AUDIENCE got it wrong as the film may have been ahead of its time and has since been widely considered to be one of the best and most important films made in India The obvious comparisons with Fellini's 8 ½ are to be expected but to my mind they are unwarranted. Both were different films made for very different audiences. This is a great film in its own right- one of the best Hindi films ever- a bona-fide masterpiece by the prodigiously talented albeit flawed genius called Guru Dutt
This is really a milestone in world cinema - not just Indian cinema. The story, the lyrics, songs, music, photography, editing and above all class act. Everyone has poured their heart in this film. This indeed is a poetry in form of a film. Though the topic is very depressing it but reflects reality from eyes of a defeatist, maybe the only flaw I see in the picture, and perhaps the reason why the film never saw a good box office record. However, it may have a lot to do with personal struggles of Guru Dutt at the time of making of this film. Only if the film had been about triumph of human struggle to overcome all odds, outcomes could have been different. A lot of credit is given to Guru Dutt alone, however I feel the classic nature of this film has a lot to do with contribution of everyone - the music is touching today as I suppose it might have been then. One who has never seen Wahida Rehman in younger days is dazed at her beauty and innocence. Guru Dutt himself looks rather handsome. Kaifi Azmi's lyrics are just inimitable. Photography is great - considering it was done in 50a. I came up with the DVD by chance and I'm now going to see more of Guru Dutt's work. I not for a moment want to deny Guru Dutt his share of glory, however one must also acknowledge other geniuses who made this movie a classic!
I'm still slowly developing my appreciation for "Bollywood" although this film certainly does not fit the prototype for what I've seen and expected thusfar. Instead of sassiness and splash, this epic traverses seriousness and shadow.
I'm certainly glad that I saw it, but truth be told I'm happier having seen it, than I was while actually watching it. By renting the DVD, I was able to watch a 3-part special on Guru Dutt that I highly recommend. His colleagues still speak so fondly and insightfully of him, very touching. It might be worth watching that special before the main feature. The film is from 1959 and thus has elements that are timeless, yet also elements that are quite dated.
First off, it is in black and white, and several scenes (not only those involving knitting) screamed for color, but alas what can you do? Is there a Ted Turner in India?? Kidding!! The camera work and shots however are often remarkable, shadows just don't look as stark in color. On the extras, V.K. Murthy discussed the light beams and lenses he created for Dutt. Speaking of Murthy, he was so very compelling on the DVD extras...why does IMDB list him working so rarely? I suspect it is just an incomplete filmography??
Dutt and he also used overlapping images that I still enjoy, but I don't think anyone uses these now since they were probably overused at one point in the 60's. Bring 'em back, the sliding limelights and later sliding martinis worked very well. There's a great scene of a throng of adoring film fans where the camera takes on a boat-like rocking that caught my eye. The camera often moves, and shots usually are not interrupted with so many alternative angles as we are used to today. Personally that's one of my favorite aspects of older films, the lingering shot.
There was a pivotal scene where I guess they needed two different takes, spliced from nearly the same location after the "sofa" reunion of our two starcrossed lovers. It may be footage was just lost there (other moments during songs for example it was clear this has happened). The sudden change in that scene almost right at that abrupt camera perspective change in the takes used, didn't translate to me in the US in 2004. But I'm usually one to encourage lovers to "requit," damn it!
Another significant problem comes with what we an audience, and Dutt/Sinha as a character, allow his daughter to get away with. Again, I'm nothing more than an acolyte in appreciating these Indi films, but it seems a common theme is the man is with one woman, but in love with another. How to construct this barrier in a sassy film that will hypnotize with eye-popping dance scenes over ear-popular music is very different than how to construct a barrier in a serious film such as this.
I don't really care in the first case, but here the impudence of the daughter just put me off, and made the unrequited love seem sort of senseless. One of Guru Dutt's contemporaries talked about how in real life, he could love...but not state his love. This is a more interesting divide, and it is presented somewhat here, generally with the enchanting Chanti saying "Listen..." (well that's what the subtitles said...) Three times at least... Winds also pick up at key moments.
The film is well constructed with devices like that, and the aforementioned beams of light. The ingenue and the auteur love story works well, a Pygmalion with another pigment. Naivete and innocence are not only what draw Sinha to Chanti, but they are also what some people will like about this film quite a bit.
For me, I might be a bit too jaded. The "Rocky" comedic relief (is his name really Johnny Walker...that's like a character out of "Alien Nation") while sorta funny in ways, at the same time got on my nerves a bit. Although for a moment I thought he was going to be well ahead of time and be a gay character on screen in the 50's. Indeed any scene involving any one from his family tended to bring the film down in a broad fashion. We get it, the aristocracy are horrible to the poor and lowly millionaire film mavericks, not willing to give them the compassion they shower upon their dogs. Another clue to dislike them, the fact that they use the English language.
I still don't know why at one point the estranged Mrs. Sinha says "If he needs me, put him on the next flight." If she were too sickly to go to her husband in his need, or if a monsoon made it prohibitive to go to Bombay...that might have been better from my point of view.
The fact that this is a film about the film industry may put some folks off, but like Altman's "The Player" this film I think benefits from such self-reflection. The notion of a director's struggle for art and control, when the bets are switching to the actors and actresses as workhorses evidently paralleled Dutt's own struggles. Ultimately I think Dutt's own life is more interesting than the role he created and portrayed here. It seems in the artificial cinema sunlight, he felt rootless and never blossomed amidst all the paper flowers.
Back at school, I saw some of Sergei Eisenstein's films as part of being a Rhetoric major, I wish we had seen and discussed this film. I'd be curious to know if others found some of the women when speaking looking awkwardly askance? In today's era of reality TV and hand-held documentary style film fiction, I sort of miss stylized movies as an art ...although I'm certainly glad car footage can be shot on real roads and not sound stages these days. ;>
Overall I think "Kaagaz Ke Phool" has as much going for it as other film school classics (and being appreciated with a sense of history would help). Although even as a "stand-alone" film I found it entertaining. Not sure I would have said the same of "Battleship Potemkin" sitting at home on a Thursday night.
Everyone especially my mummy used to tell me as how great is this
picture but I realised it today after watching it that none of the
adjectives used in the appreciation of this film is an exaggeration. It
is a milestone movie as far as Indian Hindi Cinema is concerned.
Every aspect (acting, direction, music, cinematography, script ) of this movie is top notch. It's very few of those Indian pictures in which melodrama has no place.
Pyasaa, another master piece by Guru Dutt, was my all time favourite movie but after watching Kagaz Kee Phool, I have no option than to downgrade Pyasaa to number 2.
A must watch.........highly recommended...
Apparently Guru dutt stopped directing movies after the failure of
Kaagaz ke phool at the box office. What a pity! If only he had
considered the holes in the plot, being the perfectionist he is, he
would definitely have made at least one more film. And Indian Cinema
surely needed more from a director of his calibre and taste.
Kaagaz Ke phool ( paper / artificial flowers ) is the story of a brilliant director who gets trapped into a downward spiral of self destruction. As soon as the titles roll down to the tune of "waqt ne kiya", we hear a poignant background song by Rafi , written by Sahir Ludhianvi and composed by S.D. Burman. An old and battered Suresh Singh is seen looking at the studios forlornly. And soon ensues the flash back about how this brilliant director goes through a roller coaster ride, suffers the pangs of a bad marriage, misses his daughter, discovers a star, meets an understanding friend and companion, and how he becomes a victim to the whims of society and loses everything.
There are a few flaws in the plot, especially around the events related to the turning point in the life of the protagonist, which may put off some audience.There is a comedy track, which may not gel well with the present day viewers. However, if the viewer is willing to be generous with his suspension of disbelief, he is in store for an audio-visual treat of a kind that is rarely seen among the annals of Indian Cinema. Guru dutt and Waheeda Rehman do well in their respective roles and most of the cast give good support. But what stand out are the music, the songs and the cinematography. Lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi is a master and "waqt ne kiya" proves it beyond any doubt. And what to say about S.D. Burman? He is an acknowledged genius and here he composes music that captures the spirit of the movie so wonderfully. The cinematography is a lesson for photographers. Some of the scenes,where conversation between the actors is picturized with the actors alternately fading in and out of the focus, have a wonderful effect on the feel of the film.
On the whole, be kind towards a few flaws, and you will not regret watching the movie.
"Kaagaz ke Phool" (Paper Flowers) is an agonizing, self-reflexive look at a
filmmaker who, because of martial, societal and economic pressures
into alchoholism. It's a common theme among Indian movies, but in this
there's autobiography to back it up. From what I understand, the course of
this film paralells Guru Dutt's life who died by his own
Geeta Gutt and Mohammad Rafi sing on the soundtrack penned by S.D. Burman, which is wonderful as can be expected considering the people involved (and, if anyone has a lead on where I can find it on lp or cd, be in touch!) The movie is beautifully shot, and the play of light on Guru Dutt's face (he acts in the lead role, as well as directing) as he enters an alchoholic stupor will bring a grown man to tears (I've seen it happen.)
There's more misery and abjection here this side of Fassbinder or Jerry Lewis, so this is perfect for a cold, rainy, lonely evening.
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