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Guru Dutt – The legendary film director, producer and actor

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10th Oct. 1964, may be one of the saddest days in the Indian Film Industry. This was the day when legendary film director, producer and actor Guru Dutt died apparently due to an overdose of sleeping pills mixed with alcohol. An air of loss and mystery continues to shroud the talented but troubled Guru Dutt’s premature death at the age of 39. In the short span of his 13 year film career, Guru Dutt has left an indelible mark on Indian cinema, never to be replicated but perhaps only imitated.

Guru Dutt born as Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone on 9 July 1925, in Bangalore to a Konkani Brahmin family had a tough childhood with financial difficulties, and was also affected by his parent’s strained relationship. He spent his early childhood in Calcutta and grew close to Bengali culture. At the age of 21, in 1945 he got a job at Prabhat Studios, Pune as choreographer and also started assisting film directors.  Actor Dev Anand was his close friend from Prabhat days. They shared a pact: if Dev produced a film, Dutt would direct it and If Dutt produced a film, Dev would star in it. In 1951 when Dev Anand produced Baazi under his Navketan Banner, as promised, he gave Guru Dutt a break to direct the film. Dutt’s debut film as Director became a mega hit. The Director graduated to hero opposite Geeta Bali in Baaz (1953). He later launched his own company ‘Guru Dutt Productions’.  His breakthrough as actor-producer-director came with Aar Paar (1954) which was followed by super hit films like ‘Mr and Mrs 55′, and ‘Pyaasa’. In 1959 he made India’s first Cinemascope film ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’ which failed so miserably at the box office that he never lent his name as Director to a film again. However, to date the controversy rages on whether Guru Dutt directed the hit films Chaudhvin Ka Chaand (1960) and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962) which he produced and acted in, as these films bore his stamp though Mohammed Sadiq (Chaudhvin Ka Chaand ) and Abrar Alvi (Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam ) names appears as director in the film credits.

 In 1953, Guru Dutt married Geeta Roy, a well-known playback singer. They had 2 sons and a daughter.  However, Guru Dutt’s alleged liaison with his discovery actress Waheeda Rehman and other factors led to the disintegration of his marriage with Geeta Roy. Waheeda also later broke off from him to establish her own identity outside his films. A very depressed Guru Dutt then began drowning his woes in alcohol. On 10 Oct. 1964, in his apartment in Mumbai, Guru Dutt was found dead in bed apparently due to an overdose of sleeping pills mixed with alcohol. His death at the age of 39 may have been suicide, or an accidental overdose. But buzz had it that this was his third suicide attempt. At the time of his death, he had separated from Geeta and was living alone. Geeta herself died in 1972 at age 41, after excessive drinking which resulted in liver damage.  Guru Dutt is said to have told “I wanted to be a director, I became one; I wanted to be an actor, I became one; I wanted to make films, I made them. I’ve money, I’ve everything, yet I’ve nothing”.