Title: Guru Dutt – A Tragedy in Three Acts
Author: Arun Khopkar
Translator: Shanta Gokhale
Publisher: Penguin India
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography, Film
There is no better way to get to know a film-maker than through his works. To watch them repeatedly – one after the other, till they charm you, make you smile, make you cry and make you think. That to me is the best way to know a filmmaker. To realize and understand what made him or her make movies like the ones you are watching, what is the psyche behind them, and what is the connect it has with you and the impression it leaves behind.
One such filmmaker whose works I have admired for years now has to be Guru Dutt. His cinema according to me was way ahead of its time. The depiction of a poet trying to come to terms with the world’s ways or the idea of a disillusioned filmmaker trying to cope with failure, Guru Dutt to me was a storyteller beyond words. He to me was successfully in creating poetry on screen – with eye movements, with body language and with silence. So when I got the opportunity to read, “Guru Dutt – A Tragedy in Three Acts” by Arun Khopkar, I jumped at it.
Arun Khopkar is an award-winning film director and scholar and it is through his eyes that the reader gets a sense of Guru Dutt and three of his films – Pyaasa, Kaagaz Ke Phool and Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam. Arun Khopkar does not talk about Dutt’s private life even once in the book and that is commendable. He looks at the person and the director through his movies which is most essential.
The technical aspects of Guru Dutt’s movies are explored more – with reference to lighting, the play of shadows, the script, the music, the plot of his movies and ultimately to me, “the man who never tried to fit in”. Khopkar’s language is simple and retrospective, which has been beautifully translated from Marathi by Shanta Gokhale. The idea of a troubled genius is clearly communicated throughout the book, and what I found most intriguing was how Khopkar has managed to understand Dutt layer by layer purely through his cinema and silences.
For me, each film mentioned in the book is precious. Khopkar’s views on each of these three films are unique and intelligent. His writing does not ignore the minor or secondary characters. He takes into account every aspect of those films and presents Guru Dutt to the reader – raw and brilliant.
The book is not a long read and as the writer describes in the preface, that it was just meant to be a personal documentation on the legendary filmmaker and nothing more. It somehow took the shape of a book and I am glad it did. “Guru Dutt: A Tragedy in Three Acts” is a book that will make you think about art and the genius that Dutt was to devote his life to art and sometimes the madness that came with the devotion. A short and effective read, this is one book on cinema which you shouldn’t miss.