Saturday, October 22, 2005

Guru Dutt's Yin, Bachchan's Yang

It's easy to see why Amitabh Bachchan was branded the "angry young man". He possessed a certain stature and could easily turn up the thunder in his voice. His hands were the hammer of the gods. He could smash a chair, throw punches, kick, swear and shoot. When AB got into a fight, God was in heaven and all was right with the world.

We were watching "Pyaasa" on DVD last night and while thinking of Guru Dutt's character, I was struck by how he and AB really are India's Yin and Yang of angry young men.

Most of us are familiar with Pyaasa (even those that have not seen it.) The neglected and suffering poet's story is probably as much a part of our film mythology as any of the popular AB films that came before the dreaded 80s. Though it seems almost fantastic now that back then, Indian audiences actually wanted to see Artists (and their Tortured Souls) up on the screen. (Or not - "Kaagaz Ke Phool" was a flop.)

Here's an interesting coincidence: AB, in many of his films, was simply "Vijay". Guru Dutt's poet in "Pyaasa" is also a Vijay. It's a harmless, generic, everyday Joe kind of a name. Vijay also lacks a surname, so Vijay could be a Konkani, an Allahabadi, anyone really.

Dutt's Vijay does not fight with his fists. He does not even fight with his words, even though he plays a poet. Like any introverted passive-aggressive, he rejects. That which he cannot accept is rejected. He is very angry, but what can he do? What can anyone do? When it all becomes overwhelming, he simply turns his back to the world.

That is where Guru Dutt's angry young man is so different from AB's character (GD was 35 when Pyaasa was made; AB, a wet-behind-the-ears 33 in Deewar). One Vijay fights like a wildcat. The other Vijay could easily audition for Hamlet. The poet, the intellectual and the coolie, the dockyard worker. But they are not very different. If one Vijay will not pick up a shoeshine tip that was casually tossed, the other cannot stand to see his poetry in a trash-can. It moves their souls, it makes them mad.

The poet Vijay's rejection of the world make me uncomfortable even after so many viewings, but it is probably because I cannot help but watch his films in the context of his suicide. (In fact, watching some of those scenes reminded me of another artist and I could not figure out who it was. It is Kurt Cobain, of course - another famous passive-aggressive.)

Is it accurate to say that the poet's anger is really more representative of Indian anger, and AB's anger just a fantasy? After all, what do most of us do when we hear about corruption in the government - we turn on the TV, listen to music, refresh our browsers, discuss fine art, propose grand political and economic solutions - anything but confrontation. Confrontation is the younger Vijay's business.

Two such wonderfully complex and different "angry young men" prototypes have been available to Bollywood for 4 decades, yet anger is no longer a sellable emotion. Do the audiences not care? I thought summer's here and the time is right for fighting on the streets? There must be an angry lot somewhere in India. Where are their stories? Who is their Vijay?

A fine bunch of pussies is what we seem to have become now, fixated on weddings and receptions. Imagine that - weddings and receptions! "Domesticated Young Indian", isn't that the incredible new "us". How sad - my generation - the one raised on AB films, and the generations that followed - seem to be capable of neither walking away like one Vijay nor taking it outside like the other.

3 sidenotes:

October 10 was Guru Dutt's 41st death anniversay. Not one major online news outlet gave a rat's ass.

Are there words to describe SD's music?

I find Pyaasa to be a satisfying film, but not a great film. I know, genre conventions must be respected blah blah, but still...

7 comments:

Vinay said...

Interesting comparison. As for your thoughts on Pyasa, I agree it's not a great film. I think the movie's stature in Hindi films is largely because of Sahir's extraordinary verse, probably without due realisation on critics' and viewers' part. Pyasa minus Sahir is an ordinary film, actually a poorly made one.

kannan udayarajan said...

I concur with your point that Guru Dutts anger symbolizes the classic Indian reaction to issues,grave or not.

But human kind always has this inner trait of idolizing and hero worship,for which they need extraordinary dieties...precisely the reason why Guru Dutt failed to be an icon though he represented the ordinary man through his films..

Nirav said...

Its a good comparison drawn... and compare that to the today's generation Karan Johar hero, who might even cry on the screen when he should be angry!

Again I agree with Vinay about Pyaasa... Sahir made the movie what it was... and though it was not exactly my kind of movie, considering that it was made in that era, it definitely was a great movie

km said...

Vinay, Nirav: what can one say, Sahir's contribution to the art of song-writing itself is stupendous.

Kannan: if GD's reaction was the "classic Indian reaction", what does it say about today's "heroes" and the new Indian reaction? Someone once told me that Rahul's (SRK) refusal to elope with Simran (Kajol) in DDLJ represents the new youth fantasy: the rebel who waits for official blessings.

km

Jabberwock said...

Hi, I just had a completely bizarre experience: was reading this post with KBC on in the background and had just got to the para where you mentioned Pyaasa when I heard AB asking a contestant which Guru Dutt film the song "Yeh mahalon, yeh takhton..." was from. Gave me a real scare. Blogincidence?

km said...

No Jedi Mind-tricks here, I promise, Jabberwock!

Even better: I was thinking of blogging something about David Dhawan today (don't ask), and I noticed your post ends with a mention of the man.

Krishna

fish said...

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Now we are going to create an imagined event in our lives that has the same strength and potency as that image. So relax and let's go.

Imagine something that you do everyday, something that you did yesterday, today and will do tomorrow. Let us take the example of waking up tomorrow morning. Don't try to add or take anything away, just think about it and analyse the scene. Is it dark or light? Are you lying next to someone in bed? Do you still feel tired? Has the alarm clock sounded? Are you irritable that you have to get up or full of joy at the dawn of a new day?

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Ok open your eyes. What was the difference between the two images? Can you spot any? Did you use more, less or roughly the same senses in your fantasy event as you did in the future one? Did you see them from different angles? Was the picture bigger in one than the other? Was the sound clearer, the feelings more acute or the smell stronger? Take some time and go back to each scene in your mind. How does the future event differ from the fantasy one? Are you looking at both from a different vantage point? Do you see yourself in the image of one but not the other? Analyse the scenes and see where they differ.

Have you identified how the future event differs from the fantasy one? If you have then its time to make visualization work for you! Take a goal that you have been working on or would like to achieve. Nothing too far-fetched at this point please! Pick something that is possible but at the moment seems a little impractical. Once you have it form a mental image of what it would be like to have, be or do that thing or be in that experience. Remember to form it the same way you do a memory. Give it the same strength visually, in sound, feeling, taste and touch - use your mind in its natural state. All you have to do is imagine the scene.

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Once you know what the differences are in each image begin to change the goal image so that it is seen the same way as the future event in your imagination. Place the visualized scene in exactly the same position with the same perspective as your future event.

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One more thing to remember: During the day think about your goal often. This reinforces the visualization and will begin to dispel doubt from your mind. personal-development.info