Re-visiting the cinema of Guru Dutt, you soon realise what an extraordinary visionary he was. From Pyaasa, Kaagaz Key Phool to Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, his work not only encapsulated the importance of a story but also reached technical heights.
Kaagaz Key Phool (Paper Flowers) made in cinemascope in 1959 is perhaps one of his most outstanding works after Pyaasa and Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam.
Suresh, played by Guru Dutt is a successful film director who can do no wrong. In a small town, on a stormy evening he meets Waheeda Rehman sheltering under a tree. This meeting is significant – here you see the kind of a man who lends a shivering Rehman his coat. She meets him again, when she is in the big city of Bombay looking for work. She seeks him out to return his coat and walks into a camera test. An extraordinary scene which perhaps today would be beyond the imagination of any director working in Hindi cinema -the simplicity and the naturalness of the sequence demonstrates Guru Dutt’s appeal.
By accident, Rehman has succeeded in completing a screen test and the hunt is on to find her and Suresh turns her into a star. Dramatic, visually striking and deep the vision of his work is relentless – there are no broad strokes here.
Lyrics by Kaifi Azmi – waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam, tum rahey na tum, hum rahey na hum (the passing of time has granted the beauty of pain, you have not remained yourself, I have not remained myself) and photography by V.K. Murthy, the film remains timeless. Amitabh Bachchan cites it as one of his all time favourite films.
As the story of their love affair develops, Suresh delivers work that fails at the box office. Coupled with the demise of the studio system and the passion and love for visually striking cinema, the director’s down fall is guaranteed.
Complex, moving, original and visually striking, Kaagaz Key Phool remains timeless.