My earliest memories of Kaagaz ke Phool is the song “Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam”. It was quite a favourite with the producers of Chaaya Geet and later on Chitrahaar. The beautiful cinematography and Geeta Dutt’s melancholic voice, S. D. Burman’s haunting music made a big impression on me. My resourceful aunt, who would otherwise always provide us with the plots of the movie, would also be very quite. I never could fathom if it was because of the captivating sound or because of the extra-marital affair going-ons. There were regular screenings of the movie in the morning show, but I never thought of ‘bunking’ (that is the word used for skipping classes in Bombay/India) classes to watch it. Thus it was in my late teens that I watched it on DD’s late night movies.
Just like with Pyaasa I was very much floored by the movie, but it left something of a taste of disappointment back. I just couldn’t pinpoint it then. And every time somebody lauded it as a classic, I just chorused in.
The story is of Suresh Sinha, who is a famous, successful and thus a very much sought after film director.
He is sort of a dictator on sets and makes films on his terms without bowing down to producers or heroine’s demands.
He lives separated from his wife Bina (Veena) and has a daughter Pammi (Naaz), who is kept away from him in a hostel.
During a visit to his in-laws, he meets Shanti (Waheeda Rehman). When she comes to Bombay to return his over-coat, which he had lend her, he takes her up as Paro for his Devdas, which he is directing at the moment.
Shanti is an orphan and finding so much attention from Suresh falls in love with him and he falls for her too. But this love remains platonic as evident in the dialogues.
Pammi hoping that if Shanti leaves Suresh, her parents will come together again, black mails Shanti into leaving him.
Heartbroken from this separation and also from the fact that his daughter is snatched away from him, he takes to drinking and neglects his work resulting in his losing his job and further on his downfall.
Though the end as told above comes in the 100th minute, the film goes on for further 50 min. And that drags.
It has often been mentioned that Kaagaz ke Phool is autobiographical. Is it so? Till Kaagaz ke Phool, nearly every movie of Guru Dutt’s was a hit. It is as if he started moulding his life in Suresh Sinha’s form. The film was a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy for him.
The main characters of Suresh and Shanti are so passive, that they really get on your nerves. When Pammi leaves him, why doesn’t Suresh call up and Shanti and reconcile and show her the futility of her ‘sacrifice’. That would, naturally wouldn’t have lead to this ‘wonderful’ tragedy. But I am left with a feeling that the director/script writer owes me an explanation here. The only explanation provided is the dialogue between Suresh and Shanti, when she is about to leave him and the film industry.
Suresh: Tum ja rahi ho? (You are leaving?)
Shanti: Ha, mein jaane se pehle batana chahti thi, lekin… (Yes, I wanted to take your leave before going, but…)
Suresh: Batane ki zaroorat nahin, mein samajhta hu tum kyu jaa rahi ho. (There is no need to explain, I know why you’re leaving.)
Shanti : Mujhe yakin tha ap zaroor samajh jayenge. (I was sure, you would understand)
Suresh: Humne hamesa ek doosre ko samjha hai, hai na? (We have always understood each other, haven’t we?)
Shanti: Hamesa. (Always)
Suresh: Kabhi, kabhi ek doosre ko lag kyu samajhne lagte hai? Kaash ke aisa na hota. (Why do people start understanding each other? If only, this wouldn’t happen.)
There are many such dialogues which touches one.
The overall feeling that I had was that of Guru Dutt wallowing in self-pity and tragedy of life. Well, who should know it better than yours truly.😉
But all said and done, the film is well shot. It is India’s first cinemascope film. The film is a large canvass and provides breathtaking shots not of exteriors in panoramic views but of the interiors (of the studio) and giving a deep insight to the psyche of the people involved in the story. Even the bad quality of my moserbaer dvd couldn’t really hide the splendour of it.
The music by S. D. Burman and Kaifi Azmi’s lyrics are stupendous. The short song ‘Haar kabhi jeet kabhi, khaye ka rona re’ is used in a sensible manner, in a sense that the sensibility of this song is lost on Suresh, who is filming it, thus the brevity of the song and reason in his life.
The story takes place, at least till Suresh’s downfall, in the pre-independence days of India, which is but not reflected in the costumes and sets. Guru Dutt thankfully doesn’t fall prey to include the patriotic fervour of those times in the story.
What I further liked was the depiction of the life of junior artistes. There is for example this scene of a female extra having to leave her baby in the hands of its sibling so that she can go to work or how they group in front of the studios.
There is indeed a Hindi movie called Vidyapati. It was directed by Debaki Bose and he went ont o win the Berlin Golden Bear for his film Sagar Sangamey which was also released in 1959, the year of release of Kaagaz ke Phool as well. Did Guru Dutt place it because Vidyapati ‘s message was also of love without expectations?
There is this scene with Tun tun and Mohan Choti where they praise Suresh’s punctuality and its connection to gambling luck of Mohan Choti’s character. When Suresh takes up drinking, he is nor more punctual and both the above characters moan Suresh’s downfall. Between botht he scenes there is at least a gap of a few months but both the characters are wearing the same clothes. Most probably both shots were taken on a single day. In fact in all scenes featuring Tun tun, she is wearing the same costume and even the same earrings.
When Shanti goes to the party and is rebuked by Suresh, her eye brows are removed. But in the scene, which takes place next morning her eyebrows are intact.
A remake? NO (though I may revise my opinion😉 )
Three year later Sunil Dutt would name his film company Ajanta Arts, the name of the film company, where Suresh Sinha was employed.