6 February 2006 | javedakhtar1942
One of the two important films by Guru Dutt
Kaagaz ke Phool (KKP), along with Gurudutt's other film Pyaasa, stands for the film maker Gurudutt. It is more of a painting or a poetry in motion. These are films where story is the main actor each and every detail of which is done up to a fine precision. This film is now regarded by many as a classic and I wonder if it was appreciated as much when the film was released. Surely this film is one dimension less compared to the infinite dimensional Pyaasa; and perhaps this is a reason for its commercial failure. On the other hand, Pyaasa has impressed so many that it was also remade in Telugu (a south Indian language) by name "Mallepoovu" starring Shobhanbabu and Lakshmi. In comparison, the failure of KKP made Gurudutt further direct such artistry later. Of course, a film maker should make films close to his heart than worrying its saleability; but at the same time an appreciation would make him doubly sure that there are people supporting him in his works. Thus I feel that appreciating a work of art much later is no less criminal compared to killing the art itself. Sometimes people escape by saying "it was ahead of its times". My sincere request to anyone reading this review, is to appreciate things at the right time.
KKP is a film where director plays the main role; i mean the main character in the film is a director. It is easy now to guess that the story revolves around film industry. The story is set in the period where anything in the film industry was considered a taboo; particularly in 'high society' people. The director in those days is the final authority with respect to the choice of location, story and the crew (acting and technical) and the producer is limited to money matters. Our director in the film, Suresh Sinha is one such. He made lot of successful films that earned lots of money for the production company.
Suresh is now making a film Devdas and is looking for an actor for the role Paro. On one fateful rainy evening, he meets Shanti, an young girl shivering with cold. Suresh gives his warm coat to her and he leaves in hurry to Bombay. Shanti comes to Bombay to return his coat and is also searching for a job. He offers the Paro role to her and both get on well and they understand each other. They admire each other. Suresh is married and his wife stays away from him since he is a filmy person; also he is not allowed to meet his daughter, Pammi, who is in a boarding school at Dehradun. Once Suresh is hurt badly in an accident, on listening to this the reaction of his wife is "if he needs me,then send him to Delhi (from Bombay, where the Hindi film industry is based)" and this best describes their relation. Suresh sees her daughter in the doll belonging to her. Pammi's friends in school tells her that his father is involved with an actress (I wonder how small girls are even allowed to read such film magazines in those times! perhaps in boarding schools it is possible? keep my fingers crossed!). Then this small girl Pammi runs from the school and reaches Bombay. She meets Shanti and takes a promise from her that Shanti would leave all her work in Bombay and go away from Suresh's life. Shanti leaves Bombay, leaving behind her memories in a sweater that she made for Suresh.
With a suffering heart like the river longing for the fish that has been separated from it, Suresh has become a dried ocean. people refuse to give him any work and some of them say "you are not fit for direction!" Suresh loses all his wealth in next two years and his house auctioned and he leaves his house with two cherished things that he would not lose till he lost his life: the doll and the sweater.
The fate again brings Shanti to work, having lost the court case with the production company. She agrees to work provided Suresh is back as director. She meets Suresh and he tells her "I lost everything and I sold everything but not self-respect" and thus denying her proposal. But she bound by her contract continues. What happens later, should be seen oneself. I promise you that it is worth watching it.
The film is nicely supported by its music, the song "Dekhi zamaane ki
yaari" captures the theme of the film and "Waqt ne kiya kya haseen
sitam" captures the relation of Shanti and Suresh. Its photography is well-talked about and VK Murthy is responsible for it. If you are interested in knowing more about Gurudutt's works and this film in particular, then I have two suggestions. Get yourself a copy of any of Gurudutts films released by Yashraj Films. This DVD comes with a documentary taken by Nasreen Munni Kabir that was shot for a TV channel earlier. Otherwise, one could read a book written by Nasreen Munni Kabir (apparently,it is based on the work she did for the documentary) entitled "Gurudtutt: A life in cinema" published by Oxford press.
Finally an interpretation of the title Kaagaz ke phool (exact translation means "Paper flowers". Bees are looking for honey and hunt for flowers. The song "Dekhi zamaane ki yaari" says "Oh thirsty bees, fly away from here these are all Paper flowers (naturally they don't have what the bees are searching for!)". I interpret it as saying/requesting/asking the people not to look for wealth/success (in the popular meaning) and do not expect anything from this society in return of what you are doing. Do your job, simply!