Thirst made 'Pyaasa'
By Nagendra Kumar
‘Pyaasa’ was one of the best ever films produced, directed and starred by Bollywood. It was known for its soulful music and the performance painted by poignancy by all the actors right from lead actors and actresses to the smallest roles throughout the film. The irony behind ‘Pyaasa’ was that Gurudutt desired to make this kind of a pessimist film after he emerged as the one and only actor, director and producer who made a great success with consecutive box office hits. ‘Pyaasa’ was released in the 1957. Prior to this, films like ‘Baazi’, ‘Jaal’, ‘Aar Paar’, ‘CID’ and comedies like ‘Mr & Mrs 55’ flowed from the creative heart of Gurudutt . Nobody could ever imagine that Gurudutt would one day incline towards such a thought like ‘Pyaasa’.
As the total story revolves around a prostitute, it, in the very beginning itself, was subjected to a lot of criticism. Few close aides of Gurudutt even murmured it to him, but Gurudut persisted in his preparation for the film. Pyaasa means thirst. Gurudut was struck with such thirst for that theme that nobody, however much closer are they to Dutt, utterly failed to dissuade him from attempting ‘Pyaasa’. The character of Vijay which Gurudutt was forced to portray was an underdog and was deadly against the then charismatic image of Gurudutt. Why he indulged with ‘Pyaasa’ still remains as a mystery. Another stroke of curiosity interests us.
Dilipkumar, the tragedy king of those times, was the first choice of Gurudutt for the lead role. Another mystery lies in the fact that the tragedy king declined to take the offer. People around expected that Dutt would leave the project since the theme of the film was slightly pathetic and tragic. Gurudutt, undeterred, proceeded forth with his interest. He himself deliberated the character. There was another confusion clouded the project. Nargis and Madhubala, who were on the top list of Bollywood, were supposed to play the lead roles. But, they could not conclude as to which character they should opt for. Then Dutt decided to cast Waheeda Rehman and Malasinha who were struggling to make a niche for themselves in the industry. After the release on February 19, 1957, ‘Pyaasa’ dazzled the world and created an unprecedented sensation.
The writer of the film Abrar Alvi visited a red light area in Bombay along with his friends to read the atmosphere in the location of prostitutes. Then he met a prostitute with the name Gulab. Waheeda’s character was based on Gulab only. When Abrar Alvi was about to set out from her house he heard a strange sentence from Gulab. She said that it was the first time and Alvi was the first to respect her in a life of sheer abuse. Alvi, later, wrote the same dialogue for Waheeda that shook the theatres. Once it was declared to be the biggest hit of that year, distributor pressurized Dutt to include a song for relief in such pessimist film. As a result, Hum Aapki Ankho Mein song was added.
‘Pyaasa was full of engrossing tales behind the screen. Dutt was particular to shoot few important scenes in real locations of red light area in Kolkata. The pimps in the area thwarted him to implement his idea. Then Dutt recreated the same location in the studio. Apart from the history ‘Pyaasa’ created, it won several feathers to its cap. Time magazine rated it to be one of the best 100 films of all time and prided on labeling it with ‘the soulfully romantic of the lot’. In the year 2001, on the Valentine day, Time magazine once again felicitated ‘Pyaasa’ by choosing it as one of the best romantic films in the top ten. In the flow of the later decades, ‘Pyaasa was worshipped by film folk as a cult film. Unfortunately, it all happened after once Gurudutt departed from this world.