Starring – Guru Dutt, Mala Sinha, Waheeda Rehman , Rehman, Jhonny Walker, Kumkum, Tuntun(Uma Devi) and others.
Director/Producer – Guru Dutt
Writer/Dialogues – Abrar Alvi
Lyrics – Sahir
Music – S D Burman
Cinematography – V K Murthy
The opening scene shows the poet Vijay (Dutt) lying in a park, observing the beauty of nature – a bee hovering over a flower. However he is pulled out of his beautiful world by a passerby who carelessly crushes the bee under his foot. A metaphorical scene which sets the tone for the rest of the film.
We find out that neither this poet nor his poems are accepted by the society, his poems are sold by his brother as waste paper to the kabaadi(junk dealer).He is driven out of his house by his brothers , fails to get his poems published and is left by his college girlfriend Meena (Mala Sinha) who marries a rich publisher Mr. Ghosh (Rehman).
However amidst the hopelessness and despair, there is light in Vijay’s life when he meets prostitute Gulab (Waheeda Rehman) who falls in love with his poems and subsequently with him.
After some drastic turn of events, Vijay is declared dead after a beggar crushed under a train is mistaken to be Vijay. Gulabo gets the poems published by Mr Ghosh who hits a jackpot as the poems are an instant success.
However with the help of his friend Abdul Sattar (Jhonny Walker); Vijay returns on the occasion of his death anniversary and shocks everybody.
Eventually Vijay renounced the society and along with Gulabo leaves for some distant place; where hopefully he can live in peace.
- “Aaj Sajan Mohe Ang Lagalo” and Jaane Kya Tune Kahi” by Geeta Dutt
- “Ham Aapki Aankhon Me” – duet by Geeta Dutt, Mohammad Rafi
It is said that this song was added to the film after the film distributers complained that they would want a romantic song to this rather pessimistic film to help the film do good business. This is why the song ; although a beautiful composition looks slightly out of place in the film.
- “Jaane Woh Kaise Log” by Hemant Kumar
This song was recorded by S D Burman in the voice of Hemant Kumar. However Guru Dutt insisted that since rest of the songs have been sung by Mohammad Rafi , for the sake of consistency of the hero’s character this one should also be sung by him. However Guru Dutt agreed after being convinced by Abrar Alvi and the rest is history – ‘Jaane wo kaise log’ is considered one of Hemant Kumar’s most famous songs.
- “Sar Jo Tera Chakraye”,”Ye Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaye”,”Ye Hanste Huye Phool”,”Jinhen Naaz Hai Hind Par” and “Tang Aa Chuke Hain Kashm-e-Kashe Zindagi Se” by Mohammad Rafi
‘Sar jo tera’ is inspired by a song in the Hollywood film Harry Black and the Tiger. In fact S D Burman was not happy when Guru Dutt asked him to use this tune;
“public mujhe marega” was his response. However eventually he agreed to do a customized version of the original song.
“Jinhen Naaz Hai Hind Par”- the chakla by Sahir was picked by Guru Dutt from Sahir’s collection and was not specifically written for Pyaasa. However Dutt had made up his mind to use the chakla in Pyaasa and eventually picturised it by recreating a brothel (kotha) set in in the studio.
Lastly the infamous SD- Sahir conflict – Sahir always considered lyricists to be above music directors, in fact it was Sahir who made All India Radio announce the name of lyricists with the songs along with the singers and music director. Since Burman da did not like the idea of music directors being lesser mortals; a major conflict arose. The Last song in which the poet returns on his death anniversary was not done by Sahir and SD together as a team. Pyaasa sadly marked the end of SD-Sahir partnership.
The Inside Story
Although Guru Dutt got success with the 1955 comedy ‘Mr and Mrs 55’ , his heart was always into making closer to life social dramas. Dutt had also watched the recently released ‘Pather Panchali ’ and was rather impressed by the courage of one Satyajit Ray from Bengal to have made such a documentary style hard hitting film. So after some discussion with his friend Abrar Alvi, Dut decided to go ahead with ‘Pyaasa’.
Apart from the central character of Vijay; the poet (which is said to be based on the life of Sahir), the other key character in the film was Gulabo which was inspired from the real life Gulabo. In real life , Gulabo was the daughter of Brahmin but eloped with a policeman who turned out to be married. She was not welcomed back by her family and eventually she ended up in a brothel. It is Abrar’s relationship with Gulabo that provided the finer details of her life to be used for Waheeda’s role in Pyaasa. In fact its Gulabo’s character which takes Pyaasa to the next level ; it almost reaches the same stature as that of the central character of Vijay. Prior to Pyaasa, Waheeda was only known by the song ‘kahin pe nigahein , kahin pe nishana’ from CID (although she began with Telegu films). Waheeda admits to three of her all time favourite roles as those in Pyaasa,Kaagaz Ke Phool and that of Rosie in Guide.
In Pyaasa , Gulabo’s character is introduced with a song – she is trying to lure her potential customer (Vijay) but whom she later humiliates for following her without having any money with him. A rather deceptive introduction to a character which gradually unfolds itself as the film progresses.
Initially Guru Dutt wanted the roles of Meena and Gulab to be played by Nargis and Madhubala , but there was some disagreement on which role they wanted to play , so eventually Dutt decided to go ahead with Mala Sinha and Waheeda. Likewise , it was Dilip Kumar who was Guru Dutt’s initial choice for Vijay’s role. However when Dilip declined the offer , Dutt decided to play the role himself (although he was fully aware of his limitations as an actor).
Lastly , how can you omit Johnny Walker form a Guru Dutt film? Johnny Walkers role as KumKum’s sweetheart was based on a real-time maalishwala seen by Guru Dutt in Calcutta.
Pyaasa went on to be a major box office success of the year and it gave Dutt the confidence to go ahead with Kaagaz Ke Phool which turned out to be a commercial faliure. Pyaasa did not win any Filmfare awards for 1957 (the awards were dominated by Naya daur and Mother India).Ironically, Pyaasa is now in the Time top 100 movie of all times list and is considered a cult film world over.
Finally, some beautiful couplets by Sahir which are used in Pyaasa for Vijay’s college reunion scene.
(Ref: ‘Ten Years with Guru Dutt – Abrar Alvi’s Journey’ an authorized biography by Sathya Saran