Guru Dutt was the sun, Abrar Alvi the moon, says author Sathya Saran

August 9th, 2008 - 11:53 am ICT by IANS  

By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, Aug 9 (IANS) Legendary filmmaker Guru Dutt and his scriptwriter Abrar Alvi were two great creative minds and opposite personalities that sparked off great ideas and motivated each other to give their best, says veteran journalist Sathya Saran who has authored a book on the late actor. “Guru Dutt was like a king, a great dreamer, but he required someone to translate his dreams into reality. Abrar was the man on the ground, the engineer. He held Dutt down,” Saran, who has written “Ten Years With Guru Dutt: Abrar Alvi’s Journey”, told IANS in an informal chat at Hotel Mansingh in the capital.

“But the two were completely in sync and there was a comfort level between them despite the hundreds of heated arguments they had at work,” she said.

According to Saran, it was an interview of the veteran Bollywood scriptwriter in a leading national English language daily that prompted her to call Abrar. The scriptwriter had said that he had several stories to tell if someone was willing to listen.

Abrar had written the scripts for Guru Dutt hits like “Mr and Mrs 55″, “Pyasa” and “Kaagaz Ke Phool”.

“I was going through a rough patch personally, the book provided an avenue to escape into another world,” she said.

The result was a peek into the life of Guru Dutt through the eyes of one of his closest allies, Abrar Alvi, who began as Dutt’s driver and chaperone and rose through the ranks to become one of Bollywood’s legendary scriptwriters and the director of Guru Dutt starrer “Sahib, Bibi Aur Ghulam”.

Abrar, according to Saran, was logical to the point of exasperation, very down-to-earth and very creative. “But he was completely rooted in reality. Guru Dutt, on the other hand, was multifaceted, whimsical and extremely superstitious. He used to trudge up the slope for two and a half hours to pray at the Haji Malang shrine, nearly 15 km from Kalyan on the outskirts of Mumbai, every month.

“He dragged Abrar on these pilgrimages with him, but Abrar preferred not to climb the hill as he was not into religion,” Saran said.

Explaining the differences between the two, the author said Guru Dutt was also a thorough researcher. “He had a passion for words and their etymology. When he went to Paris, he was obsessed with why some French words sounded so Indian. He had diverse interests, which probably fuelled everything creative in him,” Saran said.

Abrar, felt Saran, was unsung despite his way with words. “I guess it was something that happened. He was tested time and again and was found right. And Abrar got so caught up in the whirlpool of creativity and excitement to be working for a great director like Guru Dutt and being feted on the sets that the idea of taking credit did not occur,” she analysed.

Moreover, Guru Dutt’s personality overshadowed that of Abrar’s. “Whenever you are near the sun, everybody else turns into the moon. But I don’t think he deliberately remained or else he would have left after ‘Aar Par’ in 1954. He must have got enough from the rarefied atmosphere,” Saran said.

Abrar, though discreet about the women in Guru Dutt’s life, harboured strong views. “Abrar kept a gentleman’s agreement. He refused to divulge the details. Maybe, because Guru Dutt did not confide in him,” Saran said.

But Guru Dutt, according to Abrar, was not a kiss-and-tell man. “Abrar believes that his relationship with Waheeda Rehman, however emotional it might have been, never went beyond a point. But he was upset with the way Guru Dutt dropped Waheeda,” Saran said. “Abrar felt it was unjust. He said Guru Dutt was pandering to his male ego.”

Most of the book, Saran said, was based on conversations with Abrar Alvi. Recollecting the making of the book, she said, “I used to go to his 10th floor apartment in Andheri every Saturday and spend at least five-six hours with him, prodding him to speak. I took notes, everything in my own handwriting. I have two diaries full of the notes I jotted. I took the afternoon local train to Andheri and then the bus to his house.

“There were days he would be very moody and say ‘Meri tabiyat theek nahin hain (I am not well). And then I had to coax him to talk.”

There was not much by way of preparatory groundwork for the book. “There was only one book that I read before beginning my interactions with Alvi. It was a Marathi book by Arun Gokhale, a director, who made a case why Guru Dutt was the real director of ‘Sahib, Bibi Aur Ghulam’, and not Abrar. I often used points from the book to trigger Abrar into conversations,” Saran said.

Saran’s favourite Guru Dutt movies are “Sahib, Bibi Aur Ghulam” and “Pyasa”. “As part of my research, I saw all the Guru Dutt movies because I had to relate to the sequences Abrar was talking about.

“I saw ‘Kagaaz ke Phool’ when I was in college. I was very impressed but I felt that though the movie was beautiful, it was depressing. Somewhere he should have done something to take up, lift it. It was like a whirlpool that took one down, and down. But I could strongly identify with the character in ‘Pyasa’,” she said.

Abrar Alvi’s favourite movies were “Pyasa”, as well as “Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam” because he directed it, Saran said.

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