Golden Era

Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)

Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam
Tum Rahe Na Tum, Hum Rahe Na Hum …

One of the finest song delivered by Geeta Dutt in Guru Dutt’s final directoral venture ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’. Kaagaz Ke Phool till date is considered just second to Pyaasa by many. A cinematic masterpiece that went over the audience’s heads and sank like the Titanic so to say.

Starring: Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman, Johnny Walker, Veena, Baby Naaz


The film tells in flashback the story of Suresh Sinha (Guru Dutt) a famous film director. His marriage to Bina (Veena) is on the rocks because her wealthy family sees Filmmaking as a job lacking in social status. He is also denied access to his daughter Pammi (Naaz) who is sent to a private boarding school. On a rainy night Sinha meets a woman Shanti (Waheeda Rehman) and gives her his coat. She comes to the film studio to return the coat and disrupts the shooting walking in front of the camera. Seeing the rushes Sinha is sure that she is a star in the making and she is cast as Paro in Devdas. Shanti becomes a star and she and Suresh, two lonely people, come together. They are spoken about in gossip columns and even Pammi’s friends make life miserable for her. She pleads with Shanti to leave Sinha’s life and Shanti withdraws becoming a school teacher in a small village. Her withdrawal leads to a decline in Sinha’s fortunes and he finds himself down and out. Shanti is forced to return to films since she has a contract with the studio but cannot help him, as he is too far-gone. Finally Sinha remembering his glorious past dies in the empty film studio in the director’s chair, a lonely and forgotten man.

The Film

Most critics consider it’s failure due to its inconsistent story and faltered screenpaly, which could not be justified by normal moviegeors during those days. However in its better moments it is nothing short of brilliant. Lyrical and poetic, it represents some of the finest work that Guru Dutt has ever done.

As Guru Dutt himself admitted in an interview to Filmfare in 1963,

It was good in patches. It was too slow and it went over the head of audiences.

After the film flopped, a dejected Guru Dutt never officially directed a film again. Though Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam (1962) bears his unmistakable stamp, the direction is credited to Abrar Alvi.

But for all its flaws, like any Guru Dutt film, the highs far outweigh the lows. Technically the film is perhaps his best film. The camerawork with its use of light and shadows is magical. The frames have been beautifully composed keeping in mind the cinemascope format. ( It is India’s first ever film in cinemascope and got cinematographer V.K. Murthy the Filmfare award ) The relationship between the director and his protégé is delicately handled on a very human plane. The film making scenes are shot with meticulous attention to detail. The ambiance of the film studios is most effectively created. (Although audiences could not digest this breaking down of the myth surrounding the film world, its aura and glamour ) And song picturisations, as mentioned already a strong point of Guru Dutt, are taken to new heights particularly Dekhi Zamaane ki Yaari and Waqt ne Kiya Kya Haseen Situm the latter perhaps the best ever song sung by Geeta Dutt.

Ironically, today Kaagaz ke Phool enjoys a cult following and goes house full whenever re-released.

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