Guru Dutt birth anniversary: The stalwart's iconic movies that redefined Indian cinema


 | Updated: Jul 09, 2023, 12:40 PM IST

Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone, who goes by the stage name Guru Dutt, is listed amongst the greatest filmmakers in Indian cinema and is credited as a man who thought ahead of his time, especially in terms of creating authentic female protagonists. Dutt donned several hats, including director, actor, writer, and choreographer. 

In 1951, Guru Dutt’s directorial debut was 'Baazi', which starred the late actors Dev Anand and Geeta Bali, while his acting debut was in a minor role in Vishram Bedekar's' 'Lakhrani' (1945). Dutt, who was born on July 9, 1925, in present-day Bengaluru, was lauded for his artistry, notably his use of close-up shots, lighting, and depictions of melancholia in his scenes. He went on to direct eight movies, several of which have been designated as cult classics on international platforms. 

Dutt suffered a tragic death at the young age of 39 in 1964 as a result of an overdose of sleeping pills. Several filmmakers have come and gone all these years, but Guru Dutt remains one of those stalwarts whose creations will remain ageless masterpieces in the history of Indian cinema. On his birth anniversary, here’s a look at some of his iconic movies. 

Pyaasa (1957)

Considered one of Guru Dutt’s classic works, ‘Pyaasa’ has been termed as "the soulfully romantic of the lot." Dutt directed, starred in, and produced the film, which also starred Mala Sinha, and Waheeda Rehman. The songs are used with the goal of enhancing the storytelling and narrative through the usage of poetic form.

The movie has some of the evergreen songs ever made in Bollywood like 'Ye Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaaye To Kya', 'Aaj Sajan Mohe Ang Lagalo' and 'Sar Jo Tera Chakraye'.

Set in Calcutta, an eastern state in India, the story revolves around a disillusioned Urdu poet, Vijay (Dutt) and his encounters with a prostitute, Gulabo (Waheeda Rehman), and his former girlfriend, Meena (Sinha). 

Filmmakers and cinephiles take ‘Pyaasa’ as inspiration and it is praised for "its technical bravura, storytelling, theme and romantic idealism". 


Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)

In this introspective romantic drama, Guru Dutt plays the lead in exploring dark themes like trauma, heartbreak, and anxiety. Despite its box office failure, the film is considered far ahead of its time and has gained cult status after more than 20 years.

The film, starring Waheeda Rehman and Guru Dutt, is also India’s first cinemascope film and the last movie officially directed by Dutt. ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’ marked a technical revolution in Indian cinematography and is considered to be the finest self-reflexive film ever made in India. 

The British Film Institute in the year 2019 named ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’ as the Best Musical of 1959, stating, "If proof were needed that Guru Dutt was no one-hit-wonder, it's right here."


Saheb Biwi aur Gulam (1962)

The film stars Meena Kumari, Waheeda Rehman, Guru Dutt, and Rehman. The film was helmed by Abrar Alvi and produced by Guru Dutt, ‘Saheb Biwi aur Gulam’ is based on Bimal Mitra's Bengali-language novel of the same name.

Set in the 19th century during British rule, the film focuses on the story of Meena Kumari, a lonely wife of a landlord, who, in an effort to gain her husband’s attention, starts drinking alcohol with him at their home. The film portrayed the tragic story of a repressed woman living in a suffocating and humiliating marriage. 

‘Saheb Biwi aur Gulam’ raised several questions like the role of a woman in a household, marriage as an institution, patriarchy and also the hierarchical social system. The film was a commercial failure, but critics lauded the cast's performances—particularly that of actor Meena Kumari. Many praised the film for its neat screenplay, cinematography, costumes, and art direction. 


Aar Paar (1954)

This noir-comedy film directed by Guru Dutt was a commercial hit that starred Johnny Walker, Shyama, Shakila, and Jagdeep and had authentic characters and interesting dialogues that won the audience's heart. The film has some really mesmerising songs. The film was dubbed as the "Best Album of Golden Era" for the year 1954.


Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1962)

This social film directed by Mohammed Sadiq was a box office success and revolved around a love triangle between Guru Dutt, Rehman, and Waheeda Rehman that ended tragically.The film was also screened at the 2nd Moscow International Film Festival in 1962. The movie has an interesting plot and is remembered for its depiction of friendship between the heroes and their devotion to each other's happiness. The film is also noted for pioneering the "Bro-Code" in Hindi cinema.

'Chaudhvin ka Chand Ho', the title song of the movie, is still one of the most loved songs till today.