(aka "Eternal Thirst" or "The Thirsty One" or "Thirst")

 

directed by Guru Dutt
India 1957

 

Part social commentary, part morality tale, part portrait of the artist, and part hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold tract, Guru Dutt, with his 1957 feature, Pyaasa (The Thirst), has delivered equal parts style and content in harmonious application. Undertaking the lead role, the director plays the part of Vijay, a poet come upon hard times, who while teetering on the brink of self-destructive despair, flails against a post-Partition India where society, intoxicated by the allure of materialistic fulfillment, has succumbed to cynicism. An anonymous street singer (Dutt’s wife, Geeta Dutt) articulates the work’s unifying theme, “Slake the thirst that lies deep in my soul.” This ravaged India is revealed in many ways as a Wasteland. The societal infrastructure has crumbled, and the thirst that pervades cannot be assuaged with chemical spirit or other material satiation.

Meena (Mala Sinha), who for Vijay was both his love and his poetic muse during their college days, left him for better material prospects, after which his mirage of a life of idyllic pastures dissipated. As a result, Vijay’s poetry became increasingly dark and heavy, and in exchange for his bliss-tinted blinders, he acquired a worm’s eye view of the world. While this perspective yielded insights into the surrounding social malaise, the myopic Vijay remained unaware of how much he was still a part of it.

Many Messianic references abound, with Vijay postured as a Christ figure, and with his sufferings meant to take on greater proportions. Continually, he does not blame individuals, but rather the society that so compels them. Fitting with the Christian symbolism, it is in the margins of the social system, amongst the disenfranchised (those denied human civility), where corruption is less widespread and where humanity may manifest itself most purely. Thus, it is a prostitute named Gulab (Waheeda Rehman), who truly recognizes the poet’s worth. While she reveals her love for him, gained through her love for his poetry, he can only see her as a poor creature to be pitied, and looks to Meena as his one love.

While Vijay is certainly the agent of much social commentary, he does not escape the larger commentary that the work engages in by virtue of subtle and not so subtle symbolism, as well as juxtapositions and resonant language. Encountering his old love at a poetry event where he fulfills the role of servant, he is inspired to recite some poetry of his own, “Who are the fortunate ones who gain the love they seek. When I asked for flowers, I was given thorns” (italics mine). Not by chance, the love he cannot recognize is Gulab, whose name means rose. And as for Meena, whose name means precious stone, two slight juxtapositions fix her place in the equation. A prostitute friend of Gulab says to someone, “You can hardly keep yourself, how can you feed me, too?” Meena soon echoes this sentiment as she explains to Vijay, “How could you bear my burden when you couldn’t feed yourself?” More forcefully, Meena’s husband says to her, “Wonderful. My wife’s no better than a streetwalker!” In the following scene, Vijay covers for Gulab by stating that she is his wife, completing the symbolic inversion.

The film, in fact, treats prostitution in a wider sense, where the materialistic populace has accepted its commoditization at the cost of its humanity. In her sole interaction with Meena, she is asked how she knows Vijay, to which she responds, “By good fortune.” When asked how could such a gentleman know someone of her background, she responds, “Good fortune.”

Guru Dutt pioneered the use of lenses of much longer focal length than the customary 50mm used in Bollywood at the time. This allowed him uncustomary extreme close-ups, thereby eliciting greater expressiveness from his actors without exaggerated theatrics. Dutt is purported to have said that 80 percent of acting is in the eyes, and 20 percent in the rest of the body. He is also regarded as the first to integrate song numbers within the narrative, keeping them all of a piece with the rest of the scenes. The songs would arise naturally out of a scene, as well as advance the narrative. Pyaasa is quite unconventional as a musical, as the song numbers coexist in the same realistic fabric as the rest of the numbers—with the arguable exception of two numbers—so non-musical lovers should not need not cringe from giving it a go. Both the musical scenes and the non-musical scenes share in common a certain rhythm where natural movement and realistically motivated movements are accented by the score, composed by S.D. Burman. The soundtrack utilizes thematic coloring, such that certain characters have their own theme songs that arise as fills and accents. Also, music is used to provide sound cues referencing various sound cues.

A wonderful example is a scene where Gulab realizes who she just turned away with the threat of removing her sandal and tries to convey this to her friend. The rhythm, the use of Gulab’s theme, the genre-referencing musical motifs, and the lighting are sumptuous. Perhaps the most impressive song number is Aaja Sajan Mohe Ang Laga Le, where Gulab is turned away with her head bent, and a woman’s voice arises which initially seems to be hers, but it turns out to be that of a street singer whose song of the love of Krishna and Radha that also stands in for Gulab and Vijay. It’s an extraordinary scene depicting a simple event of Gulab indecisively observing Vijay who isn’t aware of her presence, yet the stellar montage, and the rhythmic fluttering of their clothes create pure brilliance.

Dutt’s collaboration with cinematographer V.K. Murthy, along with superb set design, provide a feast of expressionistic, low key lighting that rises to the aid of lyrical expressiveness. It’s all truly wonderful cinematic spectacle with fluid camera movements, creative mise-en-scene, and careful editing. Last but not least, the lyrics of poet Sahir Ludianvi, often based on his own poetry, adds a real resonance to the film.
out of

Fred Patton

Posters

Theatrical Release: 1957

Reviews    More Reviews  DVD Reviews

DVD Comparison:

Yash Raj Films (Forever Classics) - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Eros International (Guru Dutt Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Fred Patton for all the Screen Caps!

(Yash Raj Films (Forever Classics) - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Eros International (Guru Dutt Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC - RIGHT)

DVD Box Covers

 

 

Distribution

Yash Raj Films

Region 0 - NTSC

Eros International
Region 0 - NTSC
Runtime 2:18:01 2:18:05
Video

4:3 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.74 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

4:3 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 3.91 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

 

Yash Raj Films (Forever Classics)

 

Bitrate:

 

Eros International (Guru Dutt Collection)

 

Audio AC-3 6ch Hindi

AC-3 3ch Hindi

Subtitles English, None English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Yash Raj Films

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 4:3

Edition Details:

Documentary : "In Search of Guru Dutt" (84 minutes)

DVD Release Date: 2001
Keep case

Chapters 36

Release Information:
Studio: Eros International

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 4:3

Edition Details:
None

 

DVD Release Date: 2000
Keep case

Chapters 24

 

 

 

 

Comments The Eros DVD is at times significantly darker to the point of occluding detail. The lack of subtitled songs on the Eros part, especially given their essential role in advancing the narrative, is a grievous omission. Furthermore, the Eros subtitles reveal more grammatical mishaps. To drive the last nail in the coffin in favor of the Yash Raj release, the Eros disc is devoid of extras; meanwhile, the Yash Raj disc provides the very fine documentary, “In Search of Guru Dutt” by Nasreen Munni Kabir, which runs 84 minutes. Yash Raj wins hands down.

 - Fred Patton

 

 





DVD Menus

(
Yash Raj Films (Forever Classics) - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Eros International (Guru Dutt Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC - RIGHT)


 

 

 

 


 

Subtitle sample

(Yash Raj Films (Forever Classics) - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. Eros International (Guru Dutt Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM)
 

 

 


Screen Captures

(Yash Raj Films (Forever Classics) - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. Eros International (Guru Dutt Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Yash Raj Films (Forever Classics) - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. Eros International (Guru Dutt Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Yash Raj Films (Forever Classics) - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. Eros International (Guru Dutt Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Yash Raj Films (Forever Classics) - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. Eros International (Guru Dutt Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Yash Raj Films (Forever Classics) - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. Eros International (Guru Dutt Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 


Hit Counter


Report Card:

Image:

Yash Raj Films

Sound:

-

Extras: Yash Raj Films
Menu: Yash Raj Films

 


 

DONATIONS Keep DVDBeaver alive:

Mail cheques, money orders, cash to:    or CLICK PayPal logo to donate!

Gary Tooze

Many Thanks...