Combined Birthday Post: All the Brilliant Artists of Indian Film Were Born Today, Sanjeev Kumar, Guru Dutt, and K. Balachander

This is one of those cool coincidences.  The two brilliant directors of Indian film, one from Bombay and one from the south, were born exactly 5 years apart to the day.  There is something special about July 9th.  And, just to put the cherry on top, one of the most brilliant actors in Hindi film history was also born on July 9th.

Guru Dutt is the greatest director in the history of Hindi film.  It’s just a fact, like Sholay being the greatest film.  If you ask any modern director, from Karan Johar to Anurag Kashyap, they will agree with this.  They each may have their individual tastes, preferring Yash Chopra to Hrishikesh Mukherjee or vice versa, but Guru Dutt is over and above all of that.  He is over and above everything, his films are too big to be grasped by any simple description, his art is too vast to be fully understood.  You can only feel him, there are no words to describe him.

So, I won’t try!  For Guru’s birthday, I will simply give an example of his greatness.  The first Guru Dutt song I ever saw, on a flickering youtube video looking over a friend’s shoulder at her computer.  And it was still so powerful that I can remember everything about that moment, the light coming into the room, the feel of the chair under me, even my breathing in and out, all frozen in time.


And then years later I watched another Guru Dutt film in which he captured that same frozen in time feeling, that magical sense that this was a moment beyond anything you had ever experienced before.



K Balachander is different from Guru, not in talent but in how his talent was expressed.  Guru Dutt is like a comet streaking across the sky, only 8 films officially directed by him, plus two more unofficial, in a career that only lasted 13 years.  Balachander on the other hand, over 100 films in 51 years.  His first film released the year Guru died, we lost one giant of film and gained another.

In Balachander’s career of over 100 films and 51 years, there is a variation in quality.  Unlike Guru, we are not left with only a handful of films to discuss and bring out every small moment of brilliance, instead it is an overwhelming number and some of them are inevitably lost along the way, brilliance forgotten.  But there are others that cannot be forgotten, that are too brilliant to ever fade away.

In 1976, Balachander introduced Sridevi and Rajinikant as lead actors in the same film, Moondru Mudichu.  The legacy of these two actors being introduced is enough for this film to always be remembered.  But it can stand on its own, can stand above those famous names, can make you forget that this is a pivotal moment in Tamil film history and merely sit back and admire the artistry of how the film was created.


And then there’s Sanjeev Kumar.  Another one of those “greater than all else” options.  You can argue about Amitabh versus Rajesh Khanna as the greatest actor of the 70s, but once someone brings out Sanjeev Kumar, the argument goes away, because Sanjeev trumps all.

Sanjeev died at 47, after only working for 25 years in the industry, during which he worked on 147 films.  I started to count how many of those films included classic Sanjeev roles, and lost count somewhere around 23.  Everything he did was classic, because it was Sanjeev.  He brought something special to every performance.  The best I can do to show his greatness is the almost entirely silent sequence from Sholay, in which Sanjeev proves why only he could take this role and bring with it the pain and determination and strength of a man who has lost everything.


22 thoughts on “Combined Birthday Post: All the Brilliant Artists of Indian Film Were Born Today, Sanjeev Kumar, Guru Dutt, and K. Balachander

  1. What a beautiful write up on these true legends. I couldn’t pick between the three and be fair but as a very young girl watching movies first, I was stunned by KB, but I was equally in awe of Sanjeev Kumar, he made me love him in every role I’ve watched him in. That’s the level of legend he was. When I saw Guru Dutt movies later in life, I was spell bound. Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam…the sheer delight of the lyrics and melody alone can stand the test of time. Profound, indepth insights into the human psyche never seemed more beautiful or painful.


    • Sanjeev had a unique ability to make you sympathize without excusing his characters. I suppose because he did such a good job letting us see their inner life. His deadbeat father in Trishul, even his misogynist author in Anamika, I didn’t approve of them or like them, but I also was able to understand them.

      On Mon, Jul 9, 2018 at 12:49 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Combined Birthday Post: All the Brilliant Artists of Indian Film Were Born Today, Sanjeev Kumar, Guru Dutt, and K. Balachander — dontcallitbollywood – Business Startup-Bay Area

  3. Somehow, lost amongst all those other brilliant dramatic performances are his nuanced comedies. Angoor, the Shakespeare adaptation which tells you it is one at the very start, features Sanjeev playing his usual intense lead actor self. You’re never not convinced that he isn’t just that even though the film is funny as hell. Then there is Pati Patni Aur Woh which is the subtlest sex comedy on the planet and no one other than Sanjeev could have pulled that role off! Thande Thande Pani Se is a song that we’re still singing in the showers in late autumn and late spring when it’s not cold enough (psychologically) to justify turning on the water heater!!!

    Had Guru Dutt lived, he could have made a fortune making films on Manto’s stories! They were right up his alley! My favorite GD film of course is Saheb Bibi aur Ghulam.


    • Manoranjan, one of my favorite Sanjeev performances, playing a naive young constable on his first job, when he was 36 in real life. But it doesn’t matter, he convinces us he’s an innocent 20 year old lost in the world, and its hilarious.

      Saheb Bibi aur Ghulam is one of the controversial Dutt films, officially he is only the producer not the director. But watching it, it is so clearly a Dutt movie no matter whose name is in the credits.

      On Mon, Jul 9, 2018 at 11:39 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



        • Yeah, I’ve started not even bothering to mention the controversy around Chaudven Ka Chand and SHBG if I can help it, because they are so clearly Guru Dutt movies, it’s almost insulting to our intelligence to pretend they aren’t.

          On Tue, Jul 10, 2018 at 9:08 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  4. Sanjeev Kumar had such great chemistry with his co-actors -male as well as female.He was a hoot in his comedies -Manoranjan,Seeta aur Geeta,Swayamvar.In Mausam- as you said- his character can’t be truly excused for the way he stood up on Sharmila, but you could sympathize with his viewpoint.But his truly inexcusable character was in Charitraheen (Characterless) where Sharmila his ex-gf did everything for his sake – give him money multiple times,prostitute herself and even giving up her child to him and his wife (not his biological child). Granted he didn’t ask for it.But he didn’t have any qualms taking advantage of her generosity.


    • Sanjeev was such a generous actor. He let his actresses and his actor co-stars shine even if it damaged his own character. He would play fumbling coward, or weakling, or old man, or whatever the script needed and the audience would come out talking about how wonderful Hema was, or Amitabh, or whoever and not necessarily even notice that Sanjeev is the one who made them look wonderful.

      On Tue, Jul 10, 2018 at 8:50 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • Stay far far away from the corny horror Jaani Dushman if you want to remain true to your Sanjeev adoration.TV channels love to test the audience patience by repeatedly telecasting this ‘gem’ which was surprisingly a hit at the time.Sanjeev plays a bodyhopping werewolf who abducts brides.It takes the combined might of Sunil Dutt (late Sunil at that),Shatrughan Sinha and Vinod Mehra to bring an end to him.Jeetendra bails midway.La belles Reena Roy,Rekha,Neetu Singh and Bindiya Goswami just about salvages the movie.


        • That cast is so weird it almost tempts me to try it. But I will take your advice and avoid.

          On Tue, Jul 10, 2018 at 10:18 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  5. @Sister Nope!This is an older one and seems to be a saga of sense and sensibility compared to its successor.Well, there’s still Sanjeev in a wolfsuit 🙂


    • Huh! Totally mysterious.

      The “reply” box makes sense, there’s a limit on how many replies you can have in a chain, but I have no idea why the link doesn’t show up. I can see it from Admin, and from my WordPress viewer, but not when I look at the actual website.

      On Mon, Jul 16, 2018 at 1:49 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



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