Classics Friday: An Experiment! That Will Start With Pyaasa

On the Monday Questions post, a couple of people asked me why I don’t write more about classic films.  Well, it’s because no one reads those posts!  Not a big mystery.  People want to read spoilers for new movies in theaters, and news items that mention Shahrukh Khan.  If this blog was called “what Shahrukh is doing every minute of every day and also this is the ending of that new movie you saw advertised”, I would be infinitely popular.  But I would also be both bored (not that interesting to just list off plot points in a movie) and exhausted (Shahrukh does a lot of stuff!).  So let’s see if I can manage to put in one more post topic that is just for me, and no one will read, but I will enjoy writing.

I do like writing things that people read.  Writing is so sad when you feel like there is no purpose to it, like it isn’t changing anyone’s life.  Like you are howling into emptiness.  But on the other hand, can you compromise in order to be heard?  After a certain point, are you heard at all if you are compromised?  Are you still you?  This is an awfully big question for my little blog, but it is what I weigh in the balance when I decide if I should bother doing a post on Dr. Kotnis, even though it is a clear influence on Tubelight and an important film to discuss, or if I should write about Bajrangi Bhaijaan, something everyone can relate to.  And that’s when I think of Pyaasa.

I think of Pyaasa about two or three times a day, I have ever since I first watched it 3 years ago. Sometimes it’s a memory of a moment of beauty that flashes through my head and I find myself just sort of looking into space for a moment, not seeing what’s in front of me, because I am seeing Guru Dutt’s vision instead.  Sometimes it is an inspiration, a moment when I think “what if I did this?  Like in Pyaasa, when Guru started the story over here, and ended it here.”  But often it is a moral question.  It seems funny to think of a movie giving me moral guidance, but it does.  Should I be working on my blog while I am at work?  Should I respond to this commentator or let it go?  Should I approve this sermon topic for my church?  Should I donate money to a homeless shelter or give it directly to this man on the street?

If all of that doesn’t make sense to you, that’s just because you haven’t seen the movie yet.  When I was in college, my desi roommate came back from a weekend at home once, this would have been freshman year, and she couldn’t wait to tell me about this amazing movie her parents had shown her.  It was about this guy, he was a poet, but his girlfriend broke up with him.  But she married a publisher, and the publisher humiliated the poet.  And then he died, but not really.  And then he ended up with the girl.  No, not the married one,  this other girl.  This girl really appreciated his poetry.  Frankly, when my roommate told me about it, it sounded like the strangest movie ever.  But what stuck in my mind was the way she talked about it, like she was all lit up from the inside just remembering it.

A few years later, there was a friend of a friend I met, a middle-aged woman with a background in art history.  I was hanging out with her and my friend and we were exchanging youtube videos (all of us were interested in Indian films).  But the first thing she insisted on showing us was this song from this movie she had just watched.  There is this homeless man, and he is also a poet.  And this prostitute, but she is the only one who appreciates his poetry.  But he doesn’t know it, he thinks no one appreciates what he does.  And then this prostitute, see, she is singing his poems, using them to entice him because she thinks he is a client.  And he is only following her because he hears his own words.  But what this woman who was playing the youtube video wanted to show us was the light, the way the light kind of followed the woman as she sang, the way the shadow went with the man.  On a tiny little fuzzy youtube video, I couldn’t really see everything she was talking about.  But there was one moment that really stuck with me, a little frame of film when Waheedaji looks back over her shoulder with this enticing smile, which isn’t quite flirty and isn’t quite innocent.  And the light is coming down on her face from above in such a way that it looks like it is shining out of her.

Guru Dutt grew up before film, before electricity even in the town where his family lived.  But his sister remembers, when they were little, he used to set up the lantern and use his hands to create fantastic shapes in the shadows, and use the shadows to tell stories.  He grew up, and moved away, and joined a dance troupe, Uddhav Shankar’s group that was reinventing modern dance combined with traditional Indian dance forms.  Guru was with them for a brief while, and then got a job at Prabhat films.  He started as a choreographer, but migrated towards directing.

Guru was always about art over artist.  Which makes it hard to know what art was “his” and what wasn’t.  He produced, he acted, and he directed. Officially, he only directed a few times.  And there is a certain touch to his films, those fantastic shapes and stories in light and shadow, which will burst through.  Which means even when he wasn’t supposed to be the director, you will see it, and you will know that Guru took control, just for a moment, and gave us this beauty.

But Pyaasa is unquestionably his.  Directed by Guru, produced by Guru, starring Guru.  It was written by someone else, two someones.  Abrar Alvi wrote the script, along with several other classic films.  And Sahir Ludhianvi, Indian film’s greatest poet, wrote the songs.  Wrote the soul of the film, really.  It’s a movie about a poet, we have to believe in his poems.

Speaking of poetry, I didn’t mean to get so crazy and poetic about the introduction to this post.  See, this is why I avoid writing about the classics!  They make me lose my mind a little.  The last one I did, Guide, that was 3 separate posts (plus another for the book) and the first one didn’t even get into the film.  Writing about Sangam, I spent a couple paragraphs just thinking about the loneliness of genius.  But, that’s what great art does, right?  It makes the creator mad, but it makes the audience a little mad too.  Makes your mind open up and let in the air and all kinds of things end up swirling around inside your skull.

The problem with Pyaasa is that if you start with the plot, it sounds terrible.  Because it’s not about the plot, it’s about the moments.  But I will try to give you the plot, just so you have a loose framework for the moments.








The plot is what my roommate told me back in college, more or less.  It’s the kind of plot that isn’t really a “plot”, it’s more about a person moving through time and space and experiencing things and being changed.  Not the sort of beginning-middle-end stuff we are used to.

Guru is that person, but Waheedaji is too a little bit.  And so is everyone else, they are all on their own journeys.  But mostly it is Guru and Waheedaji coming to meet him while he moves to meet her.

We start kind of in the middle.  Guru returns to his family home, where only his mother is pleased to see him.  His greedy brothers and sister-in-law can’t stand that he has a college education and just sits around writing all day.  Guru has taken to leaving, wandering the streets or staying at friends, in order to get out of this toxic environment.  But he is still slightly tethered to it, this is where he has left his poems.

Only to learn, at the opening of the film, that when he left this last time, his family went into his room and took the poetry and sold it for scrap paper.  His art and mind and gift to the world had literally no value to them.  The paper itself is what they sold, not the words he had added to it.

This snaps the last chord tying Guru to this life, and the rest of the film is his journey as he tries to find a new destiny.  It’s kind of a pilgrimage, kind of a trial.  He has to survive it and learn form it and let it change him, and at the end he will come to a purer understanding of his place in the world.

His journey takes him to a lot of different places in a way that doesn’t make sense if you try to write it out in chronological order.  Because life isn’t in chronological order!  I mean, you don’t go from “I met this person, they gave me a job, I lost a job, I met another person.”  You go from “I met this person, I met that person, I got in a fight, I got a job from the first person, I fell in love with the second person” and so on.

Like I mentioned, early on he meets the person who will end up being the destination of his journey, prostitute/street walker Waheeda.  Waheeda doesn’t really fall into your usual categories of prostitutes on film.  She isn’t the elegant high priced Tawaif type.  But she also isn’t the miserable abused locked up type.  She works because she needs money and needs the work.  She doesn’t much like her job (who does?).  But it doesn’t define her, and it doesn’t trap her.  She is more than that.

This was Guru Dutt’s audience.  Now, today, he is all fancy and high class and respected.  But when his movies were being released, he was looked down on.  The “common people” liked his films, so they must not be very good.  Because common people are just, you know, common.  They can’t possibly have hopes and dreams and desires like the fancy educated English speaking types do.

And this was also Guru’s audience in character in this film.  His high class family and friends can’t appreciate what he is trying to say.  But this prostitute finds a poem on scrap paper the servant of the brothel has bought, and rushes out to buy up the rest of it, and memorizes his poems.  Because she finds comfort in them.

It’s not just Waheedaji.  Johnny Walker is there too, a street corner barber who sings a song Guru wrote for him to entice costumers.  Because there is no shame in using your poetic gifts to serve this cheerful lowly fellow, not if he can appreciate them.  There is something meta here, because of course this cheerful song about being a barber was written in real life by Sudhir Ludhianvi, arguably India’s greatest living poet at that time.  But he had no problem writing the lyrics for a song about head massages, not if it would serve to amuse people.

These are the lighter sides of Guru’s need to serve people, the lowly but mostly happy people that he just wants to make happier.  But the brilliance of the film comes by how it layers that happy view of “people are essentially good” with the bitterness of “the world is essentially diseased”.  Which is what makes Guru the person, and Guru the character, so heartbreaking.  He cares so much for people, that inner glow in his films, that isn’t coming from statues of Gods or historic monuments, it is coming from within humanity itself, all of humanity.  But at the same time, he sees how that glow is being killed and rotted and can feel it every time a light is snapped out.

Which brings me to “Jinhen Naaz Hai Hind Par”.  Remember, this film came out while the afterglow of Independence was still the prevailing mood.  India was great, India was growing, India was all better, all its problems were solved.  But Sudhir Ludhianvi didn’t see it that way (this is a sequence were it is the words that are driving it forward, and the visuals just follow along behind, so I am giving credit to Sudhir).  He is calling out the hypocrisy of India, forcing us all to look at the people who were left behind before and are still left behind now.  Reminding us that this is India too, not just the triumphal Independence Day parades and poetic speeches.  And that India fails as a nation so long as even a single citizen lives in misery.


What Guru’s character, and this film, is struggling with through out is how to hate the world, but love the people living in it.  There is one character in particular who symbolizes this struggle, his college girlfriend, Mala Sinha.  He loved her in college days.  He loves her still, meeting her with her rich publisher husband.  But he also hates her.  Not then, but now.  Hates her for the hypocrisies and cruelties she puts up with in her world, hates her for the way she sees these cruelties and yet does not move to stop them.  He loves her for what she is, and was, but hates her for the world she is willing to live in now.


Waheedaji’s character is the opposite of Mala Sinha’s.  Mala has let herself fall.  But Waheeda is trying to pull herself up.  Not because prostitution is a “sin” or she is a broken woman.  But because that is what humanity should do, never be satisfied with the everyday, always strive for the perfect.  Waheeda’s few meetings with Guru, and the words that only she has been able to appreciate, speed her on that path.  That was his purpose, his true purpose, to help bring people up, and Waheeda is his greatest triumph.


And in order to see the results of his life, his triumphs and failures on this journey, we have to see what happens when he is gone, who carries on and who forgets?

Sullivan’s Travels is another one of those hidden gems of a film.  Popular at the time, but not necessarily critically highly regarded.  Turned into a cult classic in the years since, as have most of Preston Sturges’ films.  The Coen Brothers in particular, their vision of what film could and should be, it is straight from Sturges, and Sullivan’s Travels.  Which is why they named one of their own films in it’s honor, “Oh Brother Where Art Thou“.

Sullivan’s Travels has two conflicting messages as to the purpose of film, only they don’t really conflict.  The main story is that a Hollywood director, born into wealth and now fabulously wealthy, famous for making silly comedies, who wants to make a dark depressing movie called “Oh Brother Where Art Thou”.  He wants to show the struggles of the underclass, make the audience care about them.  But his producer tells him they won’t make any money off of it, he doesn’t understand that audience, people just want happy movies.  His valet and his chauffeur (actual members of the underclass) agree.  But the director is determined, so he decides to go on the road for a week, living as a hobo, and return having the experience to back up his argument.

It’s a Sturges movie, so there are great characters, and hilarious dialogue and situations and all that.  But this whole amusing opening with jokes about Hollywood lifestyles and so on is just to get us to the point he wants to make.  Our hero gets lost on the road.  And his shoes, which held his emergency ID cards and cash, are stolen.  He ends up trapped in this life that he was trying to escape.  And meanwhile, back in Hollywood, he is presumed dead.  We get to see who mourns him and who doesn’t care.  But what really matters is what happens to him on his journey at this point.  This is no longer an “experiment” or an “adventure” for him, he has truly become one of those hobos of the road.  And, like many of them, he is arrested for a minor offense and thrown in a work camp.  Working all day, being punished by being locked in a hotbox when he fails, it is a life of misery and torture.  Until one night the workers are allowed to see a movie, a hilarious cartoon.  And our hero laughs and laughs and laughs and finally understands.  Art isn’t there to “teach” people about their problems, they already know their problems.  It is about giving them a path out.

There is one huge plot point shared between Sullivan’s Travels and this film, that our hero is presumed dead through a misunderstanding related to the ID in his clothing.  It is so big, that I kind of would have to acknowledge it no matter what.  But it’s not just this central plot point they share, the two films share a similar attitude towards Art.  It’s there to comfort people, to help them survive in and make sense of this world.  And the Artist has to fully understand it, and then he can be at peace.

In Sullivan’s Travels, our hero had one half of the answer.  He knew that his art should be out in the world, doing good for the people who suffered the most.  But he didn’t know what kind of art that should be to best help them.  In Pyaasa, Guru has the other half, that his art should be what it is, beauty and funny sometimes, touching other times.  But he didn’t know who his art should be for.  His family, his ex-girlfriend, the wealthy publisher?  He looked in all these places for appreciation, and was never able to find it.  Both heroes had to erase themselves from the situation, to see a world in which only their art remained, not themselves, before they could find their answer.

And thus Guru Dutt in Pyaasa “dies”.  His wealthy friend who he was staying with, his ex-girlfriend, the publisher, his brothers, none of them really care, not in the right way.  There are only two people who truly care, Waheedaji, who is determined that though he may be gone, she will continue on and make sure his voice is heard.  She gets his poems published, and asks nothing in return.  Unlike his family, who leap in to enjoy the profits.  And his old friend, who struggles to dig up more poetry.  And his publisher, who in his life forced him to sing for entertainment at a party, and now is dedicating statues and making mournful speeches about his death.

None of these people really want Guru and none of them really want his art, because the two are the same in the end.  Guru has been taken to an insane asylum, his family is called for, and they refuse to recognize him.  Choosing to maintain the profits of their “dead poet” rather than saving their living brother.  When Guru finally escapes and appears at a function in honor of the “dead” poet to declare his identity, his fans reject his art in anger.  They did not really love it, they only loved it because it had become acceptable to him through his death.

Guru escapes from the asylum with the assistance of lowly street barber Johnny Walker.  And the only person who reacts with joy and follows him into the street when he reappears to claim his art is Waheedaji.  His art, and himself, were not for the upperclasses, the ones who published his book and bought it and claimed to understand it.  It is the Waheedas and the Johnny Walkers of the world that he should accept as his audience, as the purpose of his art, to raise them up and to help them.


And that is our “happy” ending.  He rejects the world and leaves it, choosing instead to walk the roads of India finding his audience where he can.  And Waheeda joins him, he is no longer along on this quest.  And she is no longer alone either, cut off from the light she desires.


The title of the movie, “Pyaasa”, means “thirst” or “thirsty”.  And the simple interpretation is that it refers to Guru’s thirst for meaning, hope, beauty, love, all of that.  And sure, it could be.  But I think it has a larger meaning, I think it means the thirst we all feel for art, the thirst that Guru can solve within others, and within the world.

And this film, itself, solves that thirst.  That’s what I kept seeing in people when they talked about this film, Guru had somehow poured the light of his genius into them, filling them up.  And that’s what I still feel within myself, I haven’t watched this film again since the first time I saw it, but I don’t need to.  I am still full up, full to bursting, with everything he gave me.

35 thoughts on “Classics Friday: An Experiment! That Will Start With Pyaasa

  1. Are you kidding me? Are you KIDDING ME?
    If you write more of these posts on classical cinema (you covered EFFING pyaasa!!!!!!!), are you serious that people won’t read these posts? [goes away to hunt out your Sangam post]
    I am back.
    I agree with nearly every word you said. I haven’t seen Sullivan’s Travels, and I have added it to my must-watch list.
    Staying on Pyaasa for a second: I remember the day I saw Pyaasa for the first time. Close to the end, I remember weeping into my hands. Sure, it is quite a poignant film, but I wasn’t weeping because of the story. I was weeping because of the emotional highs and lows the story takes you on. You’re not your own person when you watch it, you are literally dancing to the waves of the story. Your emotions are the protagonist’s emotions. Your heartbeat is echoing to the music of the great Mr. Burman. The hauntingly beautiful Jinhe Naaz hai Hind Par, the sorrow in Guru Dutt’s eyes, the strength of his character. You are feeling everything, and you are feeling nothing.
    When the film ends, I wept and I wept for minutes because I couldn’t stop, I just couldn’t. It was like being wrenched away to go through this emotion, this intensity and realizing that you need to go back to your normal life now, you have to do ordinary mundane things like laundry, go to boring dinner parties and get milk and stock your fridge.
    But how do you explain to LIFE and to the people around you – no, you don’t understand! I watched something so extraordinary, so beautiful, so intense, so perfectly unique, that I can’t go back to normal. I can’t go back to the way things used to be BEFORE pyaasa happened to me.

    So essentially, I LOVE PYAASA, and I HATE PYAASA, and I always cry about PYAASA, and I always will. Thank you for writing this post.


    • Thank you for your comment! That is exactly what I was trying to convey. I can’t get this movie out of me, and I distinctly remember hearing about it from other people who just couldn’t get it out of them somehow. There’s something extra, something special there which is incredibly rare.

      It seems crazy to compare a movie with the Mona Lisa or the Grand Canyon, but that’s what it feels like, you are just so over-whelmed by the bigness of it that you can’t do anything but cry.

      (oh, and in case you were curious, 393 views for the “Madhavan is hot” post, 34 views for Pyaasa. Feel free to talk it up elsewhere and try to get me some more intellectual readers, but the ones I’ve got have made their preferences clear)

      On Fri, Jun 23, 2017 at 5:55 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • (goes away to scream from the rooftops)
        I am back. I like how you compared it to the Grand Canyon – and jesus christ, that comparison is absolutely on the money. I have watched Pyaasa, and I have seen the Grand Canyon, and both times I have been stuck by my own smallness in the face of something so magnificent, but not in a belittling way; but in a shared pride and understanding of being part of something or privy to something so beautiful.

        Now that I know you loved Pyaasa, and I have read your to-watch list, as a Tamilian, can I make a few suggestions/additions? Old Tamil classics (and there are many!) How familiar are you with Sivaji Ganesan? You have seen Padyappa, I know, but what of his movies of yore?
        – Thillana Moganambal (give it a shot!)
        – Karnan (you have seen Ratnam’s Thalapathy. This is more in-your-face Karna’s life story with emotiveness in the way only Sivaji can pull off)
        – my all time favorite: Rajapart Rangadurai
        – Gauravam is quite poignant

        Oh and wow, if you write a post on Kamal Hassan, I will die from joy.
        Thevar Magan.
        Nayagan (the quintessential Ratnam classic)
        Unnal Mudiyum Thambi
        Anbe Sivam (weep with me and with Madhavan in the face of such pure, sheer genius)
        the more recent Uttama Villan
        The man has gotten better with age, I swear.

        Forgive me if some of these are movies you have seen or plan to see. I just want to squeal in joy at another movie lover!


  2. This post is just brilliant. I think I’ve overused that word in reference to your posts. But please keep writing them!


  3. This post is just brilliant! I might have overused that word in reference to your posts. But please keep writing them.
    Yay for the classics! Love them or hate them. How can you ignore them?


  4. Great post and I love the analysis.

    Do you remember the scene in Sleepless in Seattle where Rita Wilson tries to talk about An Affair to Remember and she starts to cry? I’m like that with Pyaasa. I even teared up reading your post, and then I went and watched Yeh Duniye Agar Mil Bhi Jaaye again and then I was crying at work.

    Along with Khamoshi (the older one with Waheeda and Rajesh Khanna), and Guru Dutt’s Chaudvin ka Chand, it’s one of those movies that make no sense when you try to explain the plot, but have a huge emotional impact.

    Mr and Mrs 55 have a great post on this and Shree 420 as commentaries on the new India:

    (Speaking of which, Mr. and Mrs. 55 is my other favorite movie by Guru Dutt, although I find it problematic in its anti-feminism. Ironically, one of the things I love is the character of Anita who is well-rounded and charming).


    • I got a Guru Dutt collection last time I was in India, and I saw Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ka Phool and then Mr. and Mrs. 55. It was such a relief to finally have a happy ending!


  5. Pingback: Rise of Sivagami Plot and Why I Didn’t Like It (SPOILERS) | dontcallitbollywood

  6. Dear Ms. Redlich:

    Pyaasa is the dominant reason why I spend money watching motion pictures and time reading fiction. As a gesture of my appreciation for you choosing to writing about it among other comments about Indian films, I offer three meandering and lengthy observations in the following paragraphs. Please do not impose on yourself any obligation to read further or respond.
    1. The short story that Pyaasa was allegedly based on was written by G. Dutt in English, so I would consider that this would be a pioneering use of English to tell a story worthy of Hindi cinema, more so than R.K. Narayan’s Guide. The “internet” warehouses an image of a page of that short story while acknowledging its contributor – N.M. Kabir.

    2. Sholay would not exist without G. Dutt’s benevolence. My reasoning has to do with the presence of R. Khosla and G.K. Kamath in Hindi movies. R. Khosla was hired by G. Dutt to direct C.I.D., a year before Pyaasa, in part to introduce W. Rehman. Wikipedia claims that R. Khosla has 22 primary film credits, one as a producer and the rest as a director. On 11 of these (half of R. Khosla’s total output in a primary role) , IMDB gives G.K. Kamath writing credit. G.K. Kamath has 17 writing credits on IMDB, so roughly two-thirds of his output was where R. Khosla had primary responsibilities. Their eighth collaboration between R. Khosla and G.K. Kamath was Mera Gaon Mera Desh. Sholay needed A. Bachchan and R.D. Burman to elevate it’s viewing quality way beyond Mera Gaon Mera Desh, but Sholay did get a big chunk of its storyline, “Jabbar Singh” and a well-rehearsed Dharmendra from this R. Khosla directed film.

    3. S. Ludhianvi’s poetry for G. Dutt’s was sung by two men of measurable repute in two different styles: H. Kumar’s “Why am I not perturbed?” style for “Jaane Woh Kaise Log” in the interim to set up the M. Rafi’s “Hear me get perturbed” style for “Yeh Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaye.” G. Dutt’s genius here was choosing vocal capabilities to help get his story to a happy ending (happy, in part, because it let’s the audience know that within the world of poets are people that will utter warnings when other members of society don’t). H. Kumar’s style was needed to show that people needn’t lose their fecal matter if they don’t get significant personal gratification (requited love in this story’s case). M. Rafi’s style was needed to demonstrate that people are human enough to misplace their excreta if they perceive that civilization is at stake. Had G. Dutt retained H. Kumar’s style of “Why bother? It’s not that big an issue” for the latter song, it would have implied there’s no hope left on Planet Pyaasa. In my view, H. Kumar is capable of delivering more than moderate levels of emotion through his singing (e.g., when he sang Gulzar’s Tum Pukar Lo” in “Khamoshi”, which had sufficient chutzpah to star The Face, i.e., Dharmendra, in a role where his face is left willfully unseen with an above average actress known as W. Rehman and some guy known these days among the younglings as the father-in-law of the lead actor of Priyadarshan’s “Hera Pheri”), but not like M. Rafi. M. Rafi made it obvious to Hindi film watchers of his Pyaasa-level climactic ability more than two decades thereafter as the last singer of four (the other three were K. Kumar, L. Mangeshkar and N. Mukesh) in one group song – “Chanaa Jor Garam” – from M. Kumar’s epic “Kranti”, but the genius of G. Dutt figured out how to accurately cast vocalists for a musical about a male poet’s life. While this view is subjective, it may have some credibility as I generally prefer H. Kumar’s singing over M. Rafi, yet I maintain that M. Rafi’s talent was necessary to finish off Pyaasa. The Hindu, among others, have reported a near-mythical M. Rafi story. “While raising his voice to the highest octave for O Duniya Ke Rakhwale in “Baiju Bawra”, he was so involved that he was not even aware that his vocal chord was disturbed and blood oozed out. Naushad saab had to compel his musicians and the sound recordist to stop the recording with immediate effect.” Maybe G. Dutt was aware of this before he chose M. Rafi for the final Pyaasa song. On a lighter note, the aforementioned R. Khosla was born in Ludhiana, but this is just a random coincidence to Sahir’s choice of branded surname. On a slightly more serious note, the previously mentioned “Khamoshi” is a brutal, but excellent, warning of breaching the limits of what you indicated via a screen-shot of the subtitle that women are “born to be sacrificed to the men” in Part 20 of your comments on DDLJ.

    P.S. – I have no idea what if any (most likely all) of the above observations have been previously documented elsewhere by people with expertise, my observations are not backed by any claims of expertise or original insight.


    • Thank you so much for your insightful comments! And for commenting at all, I love it when people comment for the first time. And I am very very glad that someone read my Classics Friday post. As I said, it does not get many views, but it is an indulgence for me.


      • You’re welcome.
        Considering your views about Pyaasa and your comment elsewhere on this website of how Dil Chahaa Hai is your favorite Aamir Khan movie (this writer has a similar sentiment), whenever you have the time, please consider watching (if you haven’t already done so) R. Kapoor and the rest of the ensemble do something delightfully special in Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year (“R.S.S.Y.”).
        I noticed it on a list you had made, but wasn’t sure whether you were inclined to watch it, considering it is to the twenty-first century Hindi film local box office what Andaz Apna Apna (“A.A.A.”) was in the last decade of the previous century. S. Amin really hasn’t directed anything of note since R.S.S.Y.
        Maybe the Hindi audience on the sub-continent, on the rare occasion, gets a severe negative reaction to comic capers (the only substantive similarity between A.A.A. and R.S.S.Y.), damages the reputations of the corresponding directors and S. Amin is suffering as a consequence. He did something remarkable in R.S.S.Y., trying to suggest an economic way of thinking that would be considered heterodoxic in the ‘independent’/’art-house’ film style, while trying to stick to his name intent of making a comedy around a caper.
        In my view it’s one of three worthwhile things generated by the Yash Raj machine since its inception (the other two being (1) Y. Chopra making nuclear-waste equivalent Conradian Lord Jim prose into Chandleresque The Long Goodbye quality, by showcasing A. Bachchan in Kaala Patthar on a scale similar to what Q. Jones did for M. Jackson in Thriller, and
        (2) A. Chopra showcasing S. (S.R.?) Khan in the DDLJ scene where his character tells K. Devgn’s character and the audience at large that he’s not going to attend a certain wedding; I think you’re written about this bit, so I apologize for my lengthy sentence if it waster time).


        • I have seen Rocket Singh. Just take it as a rule that I have seen every Hindi film ever :). I started watching them about 12 years before I started blogging, at a rate of 3 a week, so I’ve got a huge backlog of knowledge that I just haven’t gotten around to writing about.

          Anyway, yes! Rocket Singh was really interesting and very well done. what I remember particularly was how different the pacing was. There was no real “beginning” “middle” “climax”, it all just sort of unfolded naturally.


  7. Given your viewing experience, a few obscure ones that, in my view, were worth at least one watch but (generally speaking) got lost among their peers (in no particular order; they all managed to be suspenseful, for different reasons, if you are looking for a common feature):
    1. Dulal Guha’s Dhuaan
    2. Kabeer Kaushik’s Sehar
    3. Priyadarshan’s Gardish, which got buried by Baazigar (much like the way The Shawshank Redemption got interred by Forrest Gump); also, in my view the best Hindi film by Priyadarshan [I have no argument with your preference for Hulchul]
    4./5./6. Three of R. Khosla’s post-C.I.D. suspense thrillers: Kala Pani, Mera Saaya and Woh Kaun Thi [obscure mostly because they’re from the black and white era]
    7. Sai Paranjpye’s Jadu Ka Shankh; more fun than her subsequent Chashme Buddoor
    8. Harnam Singh Rawail’s Mere Mehboob from an era before The Beatles became famous
    9. Rahul Rawail’s Love Story; defining entry in Hindi film industry terms (by inserting K. Gaurav’s photograph next to the phrase “one-hit wonder” in any pictoral “urban dictionary”; R is H.S.’s son; also the closest anyone, following in the footsteps of R. Khanna, got to replicating the mass hysteria from romantic female fans was K. Gaurav when this came out
    10. Narendra Bedi’s Benaam
    Please don’t feel any urgency to watch these, as there are probably valid reasons for their relative obscurity (although any I’ve heard so far are beyond my comprehension).
    I reiterate: thank you for your commentary.


      • A final Pyaasa-related thought. S. Ghai’s 1980 film – Karz – came closest to it in terms of (1) replicating the role of an artist and (2) the memories the film created. Consider that Karz was about a singer (another artistic creator that uses rhymes) and the film had six songs on its soundtrack worthy about the story of a singer. Over the next three decades, four different directors made four very different films using four of the six title tracks of Karz:

        1. Sohanlal Kanwar’s Paisa Yeh Paisa (1985)
        2. Dev Anand’s Main Solah Baras Ki (1998)
        3. Sriram Raghavan’s Ek Hasina Thi (2004)
        4. Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om (2007)

        I’m not aware of any other Hindi film that had such a specificly intense impact on other film-makers. All that needs to occur now for this trend to achieve bizarre levels of ridiculousness is for someone like Mr. Anand L. Rai to direct a film called Dard-E-Dil (which was one of the better received songs when the film was originally released).



        • One more! Karzzzz. Which is so terrible I can understand why you wouldn’t want to include it.

          But yes, I agree. I watched Karz for the first time recently, expecting a cheesy Subhash Ghai movie like Taal or Khalnayak, and then it was really kind of deep! Still some silliness, but the way it handled Rishi’s loneliness and self-esteem issues, and the way Tina Munim fell in love with his music, that was really kind of deep.


  8. I was deliberately limiting my list to films that took their film titles from the S. Ghai film’s song titles in order to not include related films, including those, appropriately, ending in zzz. Thank you for your empathy.

    Mr. Ghai did manage to make one other worthwhile contribution – Kalicharan, a few years before Karz. It’s not in the same league as Karz, in my view, but still worth one watch if one is in a benevolent mood, has time on one’s hands and is getting nostalgic about R. Khanna’s Dushman.

    Dushman’s ‘message’ was something else, considering the era it was made in. I dread the day Mr. S. Kaushik gets his hands on that one or any other film project after directing lots of rubbish in general and particularly …zzz (I prefer not to write the entire name), except maybe to completely hand it over to his supposed younger sibling Kabeer, who gets some fondness from me because of Sehar.


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  13. Dear Margaret, I already came across this review some months ago and that is how I found your blog in the first place :)) But it was nice to reread it.
    Pyaasa is the best movie I have ever seen (and trust me, I’ve seen a lot). But it’s more than that, it’s a wondrous piece of art.
    I love it so much, and meanwhile there’s a huge collection of Pyaasa related posts on my Tumblr blog, including the song booklet, a lost song and much more.
    It’s the one film you can watch again and again and there will always be something new to discover.


    • It’s still my least popular review (which is why I keep talking it up), but if it brought me a new intelligent interested reader, it is all worth it!


  14. Pingback: Starter Kit: Hindi Film Romance Through the Decades | dontcallitbollywood

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