PYAASA is widely regarded as one of the greatest Bollywood films ever made.
The Guru Dutt directed classic about a struggling poet, who gains fame after being presumed dead and discarded by loved ones trying to cash in on his success, has left a lasting legacy since it was released on February 22, 1957.
Apart from being an entertaining movie and a big commercial success, it was filled with artistry in all areas from start to finish and inspired generations of creative talent
To mark the 66th anniversary of the iconic movie this week, Eastern Eye decided to present 10 reasons why it really is magnificent.
Guru greatness: First and foremost, Pyaasa is powered by the brilliance of Guru Dutt. He wrote, produced, and directed the timeless classic. When actor Dilip Kumar rejected the lead role, Dutt stepped in to deliver one of the greatest all-round inputs into a movie with a great performance on screen, while masterminding the creative side from behind the camera. This enabled him to leave an inspiring mark on the cinematic landscape.
Marvellous music:Pyaasa has one of the greatest soundtracks in Hindi cinema history. It perfectly combined the poetic words of legendary lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi with the magnificent music of SD Burman, and the wonderful voices of iconic singers Geeta Dutt and Mohammed Rafi. Legendary singer Hemant Kumar also delivers a top track. The timeless songs combined artistic excellence with a commercial sound.
Layered storytelling: The film was ahead of its time in terms of layered storytelling. Pyaasa has the central story line, but adds multiple layers, with metaphors, striking visuals, historical references, different bonds, and sub-plots. All this powers the central storyline, but adds different dimensions, like the protagonist’s own love story, in among the chaos of being abandoned and losing his identity, and art. All that makes it more relatable and compelling.
Strong symbolism: There is great symbolism, which includes constantly putting Vijay in the pose of Jesus Christ, and backlight to see him as a holy figure. There are powerful visual metaphors like the disillusioned lead descending a dark staircase and finding himself hitting a low in the depths of soulless men, in a red-light area. The bumble bee at the beginning searching for sweet nectar, but accidentally being trampled upon, represents a story that is about to be told.
Visual feast: The story-driven film, filled with emotions, also looks beautiful with the artistically framed scenes. Whether it is close-ups or intelligently framed shots, it is a real feast for the eyes and leaves a lasting impact
Strong female characters: Although it’s very much about the struggles of a male poet, battling against society, Pyaasa has perfectly crafted female characters. Dutt had originally wanted to cast established stars Madhubala and Nargis, but the roles were so well written that second choices Mala Sinha and Waheeda Rehman shone. They are brilliant as the wealthier woman with a cold heart he loves, who chooses to marry someone else, and the impoverished prostitute filled with warmth. Both performances would inspire similar film characters in the following decades.
Stunning scenes: There are many memorable scenes throughout the movie, powered by great writing, amazing visuals, unforgettable dialogues, and a rainbow of emotions. The moments are so great individually that many are like standalone works of art.
Amazing ending:Pyaasa has one of the best endings in cinema history, which was thought-provoking, rule-breaking, surprising, and so unique. Instead of wrapping up the story neatly and giving the struggling protagonist a happy ending filled with riches, he deserves, it flipped the script. A man trying to prove he is alive, finally gets so disillusioned with the greed around him and declares himself dead. He walks away from everything, including name, fame, and money, with a kind-hearted prostitute, but leaves a lasting comment about a selfish society, which resonates 66 years later.
Remains relevant: At a time when fast food films become outdated quickly, Pyaasa has stood the test of time and remains important. Central themes like greed and materialism, art not being appreciated, a corrupt society, finding love unexpectedly and mental health are more relevant than ever. It puts a mirror to society and the reflection can be clearly seen today.
Legacy: Whether it is fans, critics, and superstars of cinema like Aamir Khan declaring Pyaasa as their all-time favourite or it regularly making it into lists of the greatest films ever made, the legacy of this classic is immense.
There have been books about the movie, including one of the famous dialogues. Many elements of the filmmaking found their way into movies, in the subsequent decades. It was one of the first old Indian films to be restored and continues to inspire creative talent and celebrations like this tribute.