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'Guru Dutt: An Unfinished Story' Reconstructs a Mesmerizingly Tragic Story of the Legendary Filmmaker

Rasheed Kidwai
·3-min read

Singer Geeta Dutt considered epic Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam as a real life story of Guru Dutt, her and actress Waheeda Rahman, says a new book on the life of Guru Dutt "Guru Dutt: An Unfinished Story" (Simon & Schuster) by author and film chronicler Yasser Usman.

Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam was released in 1962. It was adopted from Bimal Mitra’s Bengali novel Shaheb Bibi Golam. The movie was considered much ahead of its time, having dealt with the issue of adultery and challenging the institution of marriage and patriarchy.

Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone, popularly known as Guru Dutt, was an icon actor and film maker credited with producing some of the best Bollywood cinema. In 2005, his masterpiece Pyaasa had featured in TIME magazine's All-Time 100 Best Movies list.

Reconstructing a mesmerizingly tragic story of Guru Dutt and his equally accomplished wife and singer Geeta Dutt through archives, interviews and fresh insight, author Yesser Usman quotes a number of reliable sources to suggest that during the making of Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam, Guru Dutt and Geeta had grown further apart. They had realised that their marriage was not working. Geeta Dutt too had taken to alcohol and sleeping pills majorly and left the Pali Hill bungalow to live in his mother’s house.

On January 1, January 1961, writer Bimal Mitra had flown from Calcutta to Bombay to witness Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam getting launched. There was a big surprise in store for everyone during the lunch when Mitra and the crew saw Guru Dutt, Geeta Dutt and Waheeda Rehman eating together.

A curious Bimal Mitra said to have asked Geeta, ‘Hello! Good to see you. Never seen you in the studio before?’ ‘The film was being launched today, so I came,’ replied Geeta. Guru Dutt interrupted, ‘No, I have called Geeta,” adding, “Waheeda didn’t know how to tie a Bengali style sari, so I asked Geeta to tell her.’

The gripping, graphic account continued. ‘How am I looking?’ asked Waheeda to Mitra. ‘Very good,’ was the reply.

‘Am I looking like a Bengali girl?’ ‘Hundred per cent!’ answered Mitra while noticing that the two women were referring to each other as Geeta Ji and Waheeda Ji. Post lunch when Guru Dutt and Waheeda left for the shot. Mitra asked Geeta, ‘How did you like the shooting?’

Geeta replied, ‘It was good! There was a time when I had asked him not to make this film.’ Mitra says he could not resist asking her, ‘Why?’

‘Because, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam is the story of our lives,’ said Geeta Dutt stoically.

Yesser Usman has quoted Johnny Walker as advising Geeta Dutt, ‘Studio ke darwaaze aur ghar ke darwaaze mein jitna faasla rakhoge, sukhi rahogey. Nahi to ghar mein kaam ki baatein hongi aur studio mein ghar ki baatein hongi. Tum confuse ho jaaoge ki tum aa rahe ho ya ja rahe ho. And you’ll pay a price for it and it’s very very costly. Nobody can afford it.’

On 10 October 1964, the celebrated actor was found dead. He is said to have been mixing alcohol and sleeping pills. This was his third and fatal suicide attempt. In 1963, his ties with Waheeda Rahman were over. Geeta Dutt subsequently suffered a serious nervous breakdown. She passed away in 1972.