"He aspired to make a great film, a different film and he wanted to be the best filmmaker. He always wanted things in absolute terms" is how filmmaker Raj Khosla, Guru Dutt's one time assistant described him.
Guru Dutt Padukone was born in Mysore in South India on 9 July 1925. He received his early education in Calcutta and was thus exposed to the intellectually vibrant atmosphere of Bengal in the 1940s. Guru Dutt followed it with a basic training in dance from maestro Uday Shankar at Almora for two years.
He then joined the famous Prabhat Studios in Pune. Guru Dutt continued his training in film direction as an assistant to A. Banerjee in Famous Pictures, with Gyan Mukherjee in Bombay Talkies and as chief assistant director to Amiya Chakrabarty. But it was at Prabhat that he got a break as a choreographer in the film 'Hum Ek Hain' (1946) and struck up a friendship with actor Dev Anand who was to later launch Guru Dutt's directorial career with 'Baazi'.
'Baazi' (1951), the debut production of Navketan films starring Dev Anand, Geeta Bali and Kalpana Kartik set a new trend in urban crime films. The songs, mainly by well known playback singer of the time Geeta Roy, were an enormous success.
Guru Dutt and Geeta Roy's acquaintance solemnized into marriage on 26th May 1953. Guru Dutt made his debut as leading man with 'Baaz' in 1953. 'Aar Paar' released in 1954 and so began Guru Dutt's most successful phase as actor, director and producer. 'Aar Paar' was made in the commercial mode but with audacious comment on family and social traditions, new for its time. Kalu the taxi driver's romance with the daughter of his employer and his attempt to elope with her must have shocked many a middle class father in the audience.
Guru Dutt's third production venture, a crime thriller ‘C.I.D' directed by Raj Khosla and shot at the same time as 'Pyaasa' was a huge success. A young dancer from the South, Waheeda Rehman, was introduced in the role of a vamp. She was to play some of the most fascinating roles in Guru Dutt's films.
A period of some of Guru Dutt's best work followed with 'Mr.and Mrs.55', 'Pyaasa', and 'Kaagaz Ke Phool'. "It is not difficult to make successful films", Guru Dutt once said, "which cater to the box office alone. The difficulty arises when purposeful films have to be shaped to succeed at the box office". In 'Pyaasa', he managed to achieve that rare balance but 'Kaagaz Ke Phool' was a dismal failure commercially and Guru Dutt never directed a film again.
Guru Dutt continued to produce films and act in home and outside productions. He gave memorable performances in 'Chaudvin Ka Chand' and 'Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam'. Though Abrar Alvi's name appeared as the director of 'Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam', a home production, Guru Dutt's cinematic vision is plainly evident in the film. The film won the President's silver medal as well as the film of the year award from Bengali Film Journalists' Association. But Guru Dutt did not live to complete another film.
He had been separated from his wife allegedly due to an involvement with his leading lady, Waheeda Rehman. On October 10th, 1964 he died of an overdose of sleeping pills, an accident or suicide remains uncertain. At the time of his death Guru Dutt was performing in 'Love and God' and was in the midst of another home production 'Baharein Phir bhi Aayengi'.
Guru Dutt in his short but brilliant career evolved his very own cinematic style. Guru Dutt's films were marked by growing cynicism at the increasingly materialistic surroundings but had a theme of continuous, almost utopic search for pure love, for art, for spirituality. In Vijay's thirst for love and recognition in 'Pyaasa', in Chhoti Bahu's thirst for her husband's love in 'Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam', or in a director's thirst for that pure image of woman stripped of all artifice in art and life in 'Kaagaz Ke Phool', there was a projection of Guru Dutt's personal search for perfection in work and personal life. Indian cinema most certainly lost an irreplaceable luminary when Guru Dutt passed away quite suddenly in 1964.