Book Review: Ten Years with Guru Dutt - Abrar Alvi's Journey

By Joginder Tuteja, Bollywood Hungama News Network

Reading Sathya Saran written 'Ten Years with Guru Dutt' leaves one with mixed emotions. On one hand, this simple read about filmmaker Abrar Alvi's association with legendary Guru Dutt makes for an interesting read due to some simple writing which is almost like flipping pages of a dramatic novel. However, on other hand, one almost ends up wondering if whatever written in this 200 page book is indeed true. That's because it almost seems to be a propaganda in motion, what with chapter after chapter trying extra hard to establish two factors - a) Abrar's closeness to Guru Dutt and b) Abrar 'really' being the director of Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam and not Guru Dutt, as has been widely speculated even though the film was made almost 50 years back.

These are the two factors, which though form the USP of the book, almost end up annoying a reader since page after page, there is an attempt to establish and re-establish this fact (or perhaps fiction)! Also, the book appears to be quite skewed in it's portrayal of Abrar Alvi and his relationship with his mentor, Guru Dutt. 'Guru Dutt trusted me', 'Guru Dutt listened to me', 'People around us knew how close I was to Guru Gutt' - statements like these make an appearance at regular intervals which leads one to the conclusion that the book is perhaps more about what Abrar Alvi 'thought' of Guru Dutt than what the legendary filmmaker actually was.

One also pities the fact that beyond the spoken words by Abrar and the printed chapters by Sathya Saran, there is absolutely no record of what had actually transpired 50 years back. Agreed that this exactly is the case for majority of biographies and autobiographies but in case of this book, one does take it all with a pinch of salt since beyond Sathya and Abrar, who get into a conversation with each other, hence leading to the elaborate detailing, there is not a single name mentioned or interviewed who could validate or confirm any of the claims.

To be fair to Abrar Alvi, there is a good probability that the filmmaker actually shared a relationship of comfort with Guru Dutt, as he states time and again while giving an account of his ten years association with the maker of films like Pyaasa, Kaagaz Ke Phool and Chaudhvin Ka Chand amongst others. There are quite a few interesting incidents highlighted in the book and the most anticipated of all i.e. his love affair with Waheeda Rahman, is stated in good detail.

One gets to know that though Guru Dutt hadn't quite warmed up to Waheeda Rehman in his first few meets with her, it was only gradually that he started falling for her. So much so that his marriage with Geeta Gutt too was threatened to a great degree that resulted in him spurning Waheeda once for an all. Though the story isn't quite the one that has been untold, it is the detailing which goes in the book along with innumerous sequence of events that eventually led to a heart break which makes one flip over the pages with urgency. One such interesting chapter revolves around how Guru Dutt was almost getting converted into a Muslim so that he could get married to Waheeda Rehman!

Apart from the story revolving around Guru Dutt-Waheeda Rehman, what also interests a reader most is the sequence of events which led to Pyaasa and the subsequent filming of the masterpiece as it turned out to be. As admitted by Abrar himself, he was involved with a prostitute named Gulabo. Spending time with her on a regular basis got him close to her and soon he started studying her mannerisms, her background and how she behaved in a particular way. Though she got emotionally attached to him as well, Abrar found himself distancing from her over a period of time. Eventually, their relationship came to a tragic end with Gulabo meeting with an untimely death. However, it left a strong impression in the mind of Abrar that resulted in the birth of Pyaasa.

In fact there are a couple of other anecdotes attached to Pyaasa as well. Apparently, Guru Dutt and Abrar Alvi even made a round of 'kothas' to get a 'feel' of the ambience while working on a subject which had a streetwalker as one of the important protagonists in the film. Also, even though Guru Dutt went on to play the main lead in Pyaasa, he was apparently not happy with his own work after shooting for a few reels and decided to approach Dilip Kumar to replace him. The book gives an extensive account of how Dilip Kumar was highly impressed with the plot but still didn't go on to play the lead due to a fall-out that stemmed from clash of ego.

While the book primarily revolves around the relationship shared between Abrar and Dutt (though strictly from Abrar's point of view), there are a few other big names who find a mention as well. Johnny Walker being an almost permanent name in Guru Dutt's films, Mehmood finding a big break in the banner, love-hate relationship shared between Raj Khosla and Abrar Alvi (both being assistants to Guru Dutt), S.D. Burman's inherent trait of being a miser, Meena Kumari's dreadful tale of being beaten up by her possessive husband Kamal Amrohi - all of this finds quite some prominent mention in this book which takes a journey down the memory lane.

As stated earlier, if one leaves the points around over-emphasizing of Abrar's relationship with Guru Dutt aside and treats this book as a work of fiction mainly for entertainment purpose, it makes for an interesting read. Sathya Saran's writing is simple as well as it alternates between first person (from Abrar's point of view) and her own account of events that unfolded decades back. A unique experience. And one must credit the author for this who spices up the proceedings at regular intervals to get the right ingredients of love, drama, thrills, sensuality, confrontation, back stabbing, hatred, professional fall-outs and behind the scenes functioning of Hindi cinema in place.

Price: Rs. 499/=

Rating: ***

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