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Kaagaz Ke Phool – 1959 Dutt
- Guru Dutt’s final film as director. He would pass away in 1964 at the age of 39. This is his follow-up to the astonishing 1957 film Pyaasa. These two films make for a sublime pair—fluid camera movements—like the best of Renoir.
- Depending on sources it is either the first or second widescreen film from India- this uses the CinemaScope process, aspect ratio is 2.35 : 1, and is in black and white.
- With Satyajit Ray also producing most of his major works in the last 1950’s—it is a bit of a wonder the “Indian New Wave” or something comparable never caught on as a label for these two giants of cinema—even in retrospect. Dutt and Ray were producing major works during the same era
- Opens with a muscular crane shot – Dutt elevates the camera- sort of sets the tone for the film. I’m not sure at this time in cinema if anyone outside of Ophuls moved the camera this freely.
- Dutt plays Suresh Sinha, and Waheeda Rehman plays Shanti. There are some changes, but the story isn’t drastically different from A Star is Born. It is told in flashback with Dutt as an old man in the movie studio
- Dutt is certainly sentimental, and many (including Ray enthusiasts) may have some problems with the self-pity (especially playing himself) or the scenes where he gives her a sweater and she gives it back to him. There are some commonalties with Welles: parts of the story, the directors acting themselves, and surely the lighting in a few instances is right out of Kane (or Paths of Glory or Chimes at Midnight)
- Just a constantly floating camera, kinetic – forward tracking shots in—often with big, bold spotlight lighting and wind pushing out enormous billowy curtains- beautiful
- The actor Johnny Walker plays Rocky here for comic relief- it isn’t a major flaw but if you wanted to chop off 10 minutes or more (it is already over 2 hours) you could get rid of his character altogether. Walker plays variations on this role in most of Dutt’s work and this may be his least charming effort.
- For Shanti’s audition for the movie producers the lights go up, the doors swing open, and the camera strolls in
- After hearing about his accident Dutt cuts from Shanti’s curtains to Suresh Sinha’s
- The key scene, the jaw-dropper, and if you’ve seen an image from Kaagaz Ke Phool it is probably from this, is the light walking back into the empty studio with the doorway behind him. The five minutes where they meet in that empty studio is the best five minutes of the film. Two actors, a massive spotlight, and Dutt’s sweeping camera – all doing a dance.
- From the beginning- both this and Pyaasa have a grandeur about them. Lots of extras, big emotions, big sentiment, big camera movements—even if we’re talking about clichés (or architypes)—it has rarely been done with Dutt’s bravado. La La Land comes to mind
- Another standout is the shot of the sand as the waves crash on it—these highpoints fly at you- the film includes 10-15 sequences that would be the best scene in most films. There’s another of the camera backpedaling out of a room as they auction off the items in his home. Dutt’s very next shot is of the camera speeding forward on Suresh Sinha drinking in silhouette
- It is a lyrical romance and tragedy. It has the added painful irony that Dutt himself would run into financial issues and this would be his last film (his character has the same problems)
- Must-See – very worthy companion to Pyaasa.