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Pyaasa Revisited: Meeting the people's poet anew

Pyaasa Revisited: Meeting the people's poet anew

Trans World Features (TWF) | 04 Sep 2015, 07:52 pm
Guru Dutt's cult film Pyaasa (1957) fully restored now is going to be screened at the 72nd Venice Film Festival this year in the Competition Section for restored films. In a scenario when many classics of India cinema are getting threatened with extinction, it is good news indeed, TWF correspondent Shoma A. Chatterji reports

In the annals of Indian film history, Guru Dutt’s  Pyaasa, with the cult song Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye toh kya hai with vocals by Mohammad Rafi (What is this world even if I get it) , garners a special place. The classic film about a poor but visionary poet Vijay has riveted cine-goers for ages. But like many classics it was also on the verge of decay without proper maintenance of the negatives. Hence it is good news that the print has been restored to its pristine form and is being screened at the upcoming Venice Film Festival this autumn.


It has been made possible by Ultra Media & Entertainment, the owners of negative rights ofPyaasa,  making  it available to the global audience.


Says Sushil Kumar Agrawal, CEO, Ultra Media & Entertainment Private Ltd, “It took us nearly four months to restore this film frame by frame. Of the many classics we have restored, Pyaasahas a special place. It is one of the rarest gems of Indian cinema. We have been able not only to preserve it but also to showcase it globally. “


The film has already created enough buzz, the restorers claim, saying that the company is getting distribution queries from different parts of the world.  On the anvil is also a major theatrical release in the country after its screening at the Venice festival. “There’s a huge fan following of Guru Dutt not only in India but also across the world and they haven’t been able to see this ageless film in its original form. I will be possible now,”  says Agrawal.


After much effort, Ultra found the original camera negatives of the film at an archive in India. A lot of the parts of the negatives were either damaged or lost. The most challenging part after acquiring the rights was sourcing the authentic materials to complete the preservation. Of the original camera negatives as much as possible were retrieved. A few parts were used from 35mm prints. Then, a new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on the ARRISCAN film scanner.


Produced and directed by Guru Dutt, Pyaasa (1957) is the first of his tragic trilogy comprising  the other two  Kagaz Ke Phool (1959) and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962.) It is a romantic melodrama set in Kolkata that explores, through the sojourns of Vijay, a man's thirst for love, recognition and creative fulfillment.


Vijay is fascinated by collecting material for his poems focussed on India as a nation state. Rejected by his family and society, he is a poet who nobody wants to publish. He is forced out of his house by his two brothers who accuse him of  living off them. They mock the idle poet who roams the streets and by-lanes of the city looking for poems, words and images instead of seeking gainful employment.


Vijay remains poor, but his poverty feeds his art and provides him with the material for voicing the concerns of the subordinate and the marginalised and he becomes a poet of the underdog. Yet, when he finds that his poetry is being exploited by some for gain, he renounces himself as the author of his poems. His becoming poor, in the Hindu philosophy essence  is a rejection of materialism that the Western world was slowly bringing in. He ultimately finds peace in an alternative world peopled with the likes of Gulabo, a sex worker.


This character-driven film boasts of a wonderful acting cast consisting Guru Dutt himself playing the pivotal role of Vijay with Waheeda Rehman as Gulabo, the prostitute whose life changes after she meets him, Mala Sinha as Meena who ditched Vijay to marry a successful publisher (Rehman) with Johhny Walker, Mehmood and Tun Tun in well-fleshed out cameos. Guru Dutt had originally kept the end tragic but later, on the suggestion of his distributors, he changed the end to a more acceptable one.


The pairing of S.D. Burman and Sahir Ludhianvi for the musical score and the lyrics are one of the most outstanding creations in the history of Hindi film music. The songs still bring back nostalgia in songs by Geeta Dutt, Mohmammed Rafi and Hemant Kumar. The more popular numbers are – jaane wo kaisejaane kya tune kahisar jo tera chakaraayeyeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye to kya hai and aaj sajan mohe ang lagaale, each one a melody milestone unto itself.


Interestingly, Pyaasa is not the first restored classic by Ultra Media & Entertainment Private Ltd but it is the first cult classic to be featured in an international film festival in competition. Ultra has successfully restored classics like Raj Kapoor-Nargis-starring Chori Chori, the rip-roaring Kishore Kumar comedy Half Ticket, the Dilip Kumar hit PaighaamInsaniyat with Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand, Shammi Kapoor starrer Dil Tera Deewana and many more. These restored films are ready to be screened globally. Ultra also holds negative rights for some prominent films of Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt, V. Shantaram, Homi Wadia & studios like Filmistan, AVM, Gemini etc. 

Pyaasa Revisited: Meeting the people's poet anew

Trans World Features (TWF)
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