Title: Guru Dutt: An Unfinished Story Author: Yasser Usman
Publisher: Simon and Schuster India ISBN: 978-9386797889
Genre: Biographies and Autobiographies
Usman is well-known when it comes to chronicling the life of people from the Hindi film industry. His works are on Rekha, Sanjay Dutt, Rajesh Khanna, and now to join this bandwagon is the tragic life and works of Guru Dutt, who was born Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone. Usman’s book is a window to the actor, writer, and director’s life in great detail, not hesitating to speak about it all – the loves, the losses, the addiction, the abundantly talented persona, his relationship with his family and wife, and above all the love for his craft, which shone on screen.
To write a biography and that too about such a tortured soul could not have been an easy task. The idea to remove oneself, and look at the text only as an outsider cannot be easy. At the same time, this book is written with such brilliant eye-for-detail, bringing to fore so many details of the man’s life – as a human being, as an artist, and as someone who loved and lost.
The book starts from birth and ends at death, and all of it that took place in-between. From Dutt’s need to make movies that reflected life, and at the same time he also knew how to make commercial hit films. He was of the opinion that for every art-house film he made, he would follow it with a commercial viewing experience. Usman in great details charts every movie that Dutt was associated with in whatever capacity and through those films makes us know the man. Of how he wanted every shot to be perfect – hence the several takes and retakes. Of how portions would be filmed and not used. Of how films got shelved and he incurred losses and jumped right back.
In all of this, what struck me the most was his personal life. The inner turmoil that Usman speaks of so poignantly, and this is where I thought the writing couldn’t be distance from what Usman felt for Dutt. 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 idea of a troubled genius is clearly communicated throughout the book, and what I found most intriguing was how Usman has managed to understand Dutt layer by layer purely through his cinema and silences.
As a reader I didn’t want to take sides. There is no villain here. It is just how life played itself out for the artist, that he couldn’t bear living. I loved the parts of Geeta and Guru Dutt’s life – of how they were so much in love, their pain, anguish, competition, and also how they tried to make things work but could not.
Guru Dutt: An Unfinished Story by Yasser Usman is a very detailed and easily accessible read about a man who went away too soon. He was a tortured soul. He was constantly haunted by life, and that was brought to life most beautifully on screen through his films. Yasser Usman pays the most befitting tribute to a genius, through this book.