Pyaasa

You come to a foreign land and you begin searching for your own roots. Not that I had ever lost touch with them, but I do tend to look for and cling to anything that reminds me of my Indianness even more these days. I guess I'm a little homesick. But it's not just that. There's just so much great art in our history (lesser in the present) to admire. So here are some classic movies and inspiring songs that remind me of the many works of art back home.

One of my favorite Hindi films is the timeless Gurudutt masterpiece 'Pyaasa'. I haven't watched a lot of old hindi films but every time I watch this (and I've watched it several times) I wonder what happened to Indian cinema since then. Why did it all go to hell? The 1950s are considered the golden age of Indian cinema, when the newly independent Indian nation was discovering itself with masters like Satyajit Ray and Gurudutt achieving international critical acclaim. A far cry from the mindless populist drivel spewed by so regularly today by uncreative directors using incompetent actors.

Pyaasa is a tragic story about a heart-broken poet who struggles unsuccessfully to get his work published. Because he doesn't do anything 'useful', he is shunned by his brothers, his love and society in general. He does find an admirer, and love and finally popular acclaim, through a series of fortuitous events, but wonders whether it is all worth it.

The movie is not without flaws. Apart from the fact the technological deficiencies, like extremely low resolution black and white images, some abrupt editing and the likes, it also has some of the most horrendous acting possible. Many of the sideroles are populated by loud, obnoxious, overacting characters. But despite the flaws, the film has a deeper soul than most films; a pulsating throbbing nerve of raw emotion making it impossible not to reflect and ultimately love this movie.

Gurudutt is brilliant as the troubled heartbroken poet, always observing and reflecting on himself and his environment. You can't help but feel for his underdog character. Waheeda Rehman is excellent (and stunning) in her role.

But the highlight of the movie is definitely its songs. They add so much to the movie, nudging the story gently along, revealing the inner workings of the poet's troubled mind. Each song is a gem, though some are more precious than others. Do listen and of course, watch the movie!


Comments

  1. I love the first para.... very aptly written... I find that is the case with so many Indians who are living abroad :)

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  2. My dad tells me Pyaasa was actually this hit in its time. But when Kaagaz Ke Phool was a box office disaster, Guru Dutt kinda lost faith in his style of story-telling.

    He started making simplistic movies becoz he thought those were the only movies people will want to watch.

    That is perhaps how Hindi cinema went to hell.

    Becoz people didnt appreciate and encourage the good ones.

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Avanti: Yea, and it can get very acute in some cases.


    @TUIB: I watched Kaagaz ke Phool too, but it isn't anywhere near as good.
    I agree with the second observation. So many good movies flop at the box office while slickly packaged drivel does great business. Also the reason why our TV serials suck. Fortunately we have better taste in music, though even that has become more of a disposable commodity over the years.

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