'Guru Dutt: An Unfinished Story' a richly layered account of a troubled genius
New Delhi: Guru Dutt's filmography has some names which have long been considered as some of the best films to have ever been made in India. His masterpiece "Pyaasa" (1957) was featured in TIME magazine's All-Time 100 Best Movies list in 2005.
His films are still celebrated and revered by viewers, critics and students of cinema the world over, not only for their technical brilliance but also for the eternal romanticism and their profound take on the emptiness of life and the shallowness of material success. He was Indian cinema's Don Juan and Nietzsche rolled into one.
But while much has been said and written on the film-maker and his art, little is known about his life behind the screens. "Guru Dutt: An Unfinished Story" (Simon & Schuster) by Yasser Usman is a richly layered account that takes a deep dive into the journey of a lonesome, troubled genius who was endlessly being pulled in contrary directions throughout his life.
A child prodigy, who actually began as a dancer learning from the great Uday Shankar, an unconventional film-maker who desired commercial success without ever compromising on artistic satisfaction, a self-made entrepreneur who hated numbers yet single-handedly ran a film studio juggling the roles of a producer, director, actor, financier - all this while struggling silently with a deeply troubled personal life, at the centre of which was his tumultuous marriage with Geeta Dutt.
Guru Dutt had it all love, family, money, fame and validation from his audience. His untimely death by suicide at the age of 39, that too after multiple failed attempts, had shocked the entire film industry. But what led to that fateful night when he tipped his hat and said his final goodbye?
Best-selling Bollywood biographer Usman explores the man and the myth Guru Dutt in this definitive biography of a nonconformist star, uncovering the extraordinary lives of the rich and the famous as well the incredible toll it takes on the emotional and mental health of a human being.
With cameos from close friends and colleagues Dev Anand, Waheeda Rehman, Johnny Walker, S.D. Burman and most significantly Dutt's sister, noted painter Lalitha Lajmi, a short but compassionate, ambitious and ultimately tragic life reveals itself in the pages of this book.
This is a gripping, meticulously researched and moving portrait of an unfinished life - a tale of unrequited love, unresolved relationships and unmatched cinematic talent.
"Since years", said Usman, "I have been mesmerized by the unique universe of Guru Dutt. A lonely artist being pulled in contrary directions throughout his life. His troubled life finding resonance in his intensely personal cinema. The line between reel and real gradually blurring till the reel became almost real with his death. What is the story behind the making and then the unmaking of Guru Dutt, the person.Was he depressed? Was he lonely? What drove him to attempt suicide? Was it really the pragmatic acceptance of the finality of life? or the heavy burden of balancing many hats - actor, director, producer, studio owner, friend, lover, husband, father, son a star.
"We all have heard his stories. Some true, some very true. All of them mysterious, melancholic and intensely resonant with our own lives. This is the story of those stories," Usman added.