Kaagaz Ke Phool released in 1959, and was the last film made Guru Dutt directed. Although it is considered one of the most iconic movies in bollywood today, at the time, the film had a disappointing run at the box office, and its failure is said to have deeply affected the filmmaker. Saturday marks the 97th birthday of filmmaker Guru Dutt and we revisit the film to celebrate the occasion. †Read also| Guru Dutt: A master director who was tormented by life†
Kaagaz Ke Phool is a masterclass in the art and craft of cinema. Starring Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman, Kaagaz Ke Phool told the story of a popular film director, who sees a downward spiral in life after losing his daughter in a custody battle to his wife. The personal tragedy also affects his professional life. Guru played the role of the filmmaker and Veena played his wife while Baby Naaz played his daughter in the film. Waheeda played the role of a woman whom the filmmaker sees. He gives her a break, but abandons her when she becomes a popular star.
As the film begins, we see an old man enter an empty film studio. Guru as Suresh Sinha, the main character with all white hair and dressed in a dhoti and faded scarf, walks past the structures and setups on a film set as he reminisces about his glorious past as a successful filmmaker, and the flashback takes us on his journey . Dekhi Zamane Ki Yaari plays in the background and puts into context how crowds gathered around him when he was a successful man; but he’s a lonely soul now that he’s lost all the money and the glamour.
Suresh’s chance encounter with Shanti (Waheeda Rehman) has the typical charm of classic movies – it’s raining heavily and the filmmaker’s car breaks down halfway while he’s on his way to the train station. He sees Shanti hiding under a tree and tries to strike up a conversation. Shanti wards him off with a rude and curt reply, only to realize he actually meant no harm. He eventually gives her his coat and leaves for Bombay without much ado.
Before Waheeda finds her way to Guru DutIn his studio, we get a glimpse of his benevolent nature and how he provides women on set with enough space so they can take care of their children before going to work. Seeking a perk, Guru eventually offers the lead role of his film to Waheeda, who reluctantly accepts it and it’s an upward journey for her in this. The film is also a commentary on the film industry and how it functioned, especially in the part where the filmmaker loses his fame and money.
Another interesting and remarkable sequence is when Waheeda visits Guru Dutt, when he is living the life of a poor man. You can see love and pain woven into the frame where he offers her an upturned bucket to sit on and says, “Ye dekho mera sofa, ekdum naye design ka. Sheher ke aur kisi raees ke pas nahi hoga (Look at my sofa , which comes in the latest design. No other rich man would have these).”
The final shot in the film – the death of the filmmaker on a lonely and dark film set in the director’s chair is yet another commentary on the lives of celebrities.
Using the story of Abrar Alvi, Guru Dutt made a film that portrayed the pathos of a lonely man, the struggles of a woman who gained a foothold in the film industry. and the sorrow of a successful man cast into a life of darkness.
Kaagaz Ke Phool was the first Indian film to use the widescreen, “the CinemaScope format”, which was used “under license from 20th Century Fox (India) Pvt Ltd”. Cinematographer VK Murthy used the unprecedentedly large canvas to provide some of the most iconic frames in Hindi films. Guru Dutt, born Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone in Bengaluru, also used lighting in the film to convey the emotions of his story.