A timeless tale of bittersweet reality of the world – Pyassa

Credit: Guru Dutt Films

The influence of cinema is different for each individual. One of the vital things that cinema does is introduce us to the world we don’t know much. Showcase the reality we don’t want to talk about and give us a lesson and message for the lifetime. Mostly we consider those movies timeless or cult. There are so many movies worldwide, which we can safely label eternal or cult. One such film that inspired me and many is “Pyassa” by Guru Dutt. Released in 1957, everything about the movie is amazing and extraordinary.

The poet Vijay (Guru Dutt) is introduced lying on the grass praising and criticizing nature around him idyllically. He goes to a newspaper editor who calls his poetry rubbish. Vijay poems speak about hunger, poverty and unemployment and the editor suggest him to write about love. Vijay was forced to be alone as his brothers condemn his poems as mere waste papers and thrown him out of the house. As per them, he is good for nothing but Vijay get his deserved and desperate affection from his mother. It is evident that Vijay is a struggling poet who cannot get anyone to publish his work; He is gradually isolated by a spacious society that faces no reservation in immortalizing the dead but finds it tough to exalt the living. Vijay, educated yet unemployed, represent the unfortunate state of the youth in the post-colonial India.

Fortunately Vijay meets Gulabo (Waheeda Rehman), who charmed by his soulful poetry fall in love with him. He accidentally meets his college love Meena (Mala Sinha), who is now married to a wealthy newspaper publisher Mr. Ghosh who gives Vijay a job at his office. Things only get worse for Vijay as he finds out his mother is passed away and this pushes Vijay further into depression. Inevitably, he chooses alcohol to escape and forget the reality. He goes to the street and sings a poem about the dishonesty and dignity of this world. Finally Vijay decides to take his own life and lie on a railway with an elegiac suicide note near to him. A train comes down and leaves Vijay severely injured. He was taken to the hospital and then to an asylum as the world conclude that he is not fit enough to live in this conventional world.

Credit: Guru Dutt Films

Because of his prolonged disappearance, many including Gulabo concludes Vijay is dead. Gulabo takes all of his poetry and goes to publishers to get it published. She generously offers all her savings to get the poems published as she honors the man she unconditionally loved. Poetry’s book immediately becomes a massive hit with the public, and now Vijay has all the love, fame and attention from the world. But still, Vijay is not in the frame to witness it. Because of his Poem’s success, Vijay family gets a reasonable amount of money. But still, they prefer to keep Vijay out of the picture and keep the money for themselves. Meanwhile Vijay gets away from the asylum and anonymously and coincidentally reaches to a theater, which honors Vijay’s first death anniversary. He now understands the self-centered and greedy nature of the people around him. His thoughts have now moved from bitterness (love, family, work) to a criticism of the entire world. A mass riot of destruction breaks out at the hall, but somehow he escapes.

Later Vijay gets invited to another public meeting to speak about his poetry and finally he gets his deserved chance to prove his real potential and identity. But Vijay deep down feels he is not the same anymore. He meets Gulabo telling her that he wants to go far away. Where? She asks. He replies ‘from a place I don’t have to go future.’ Together they go away from this selfish and materialistic world.

Credit: Guru Dutt Films

Guru Dutt impeccably took command of the entire project as both producer and director. Pyaasa was initially titled ‘Pyaas‘ hinting at the thirst for success and fame in the poet’s life. But Guru Dutt kept it Pyaasa to keep it in line with character story. This story is based on the real time experience of legendary song writer Sahir Ludhianvi. Guru Dutt wanted Vijay as a writer but later replaced it as a poet. Sahir Ludhianvi wrote some of the memorable poetry and songs. Legendary composer S.D. Burman scored for the film. Burman’s haunting music gave soul to the golden words of Ludhianvi while Mohammed Rafi, Geeta Dutt, and Hemant Kumar added magic to these words through their refreshing voices, turning story to an epic poetry on celluloid.

One of the brilliant aspects of pyassa is that each scene or each frame matches with emotions of the characters. Filmmaking of guru Dutt was entirely new at that time. Giving importance to every detail of the story and scene leaves Pyaasa still loved and admired by all art lovers. The storytelling was unique; the plot was sentimental and still doesn’t feel dull. V.K. Murthy, whose cinematography in the movie is so meticulous, fills us with beautiful and unforgettable visuals. Pyassa was a successful movie that time and gained more love over the years. Just like Vijay, Guru Dutt couldn’t see the entire success before his eyes. He passed away a few years after the film. The movie has made his place in the top 100 movies of all time list of times magazine.

The movie came 63 years ago, yet it makes perfect sense. In harsh days now the world is filled with, Pyassa is undeniable reality check of life. It leaves us with various questions unanswered or answered and push us for self-discovery, the only solution for the entire world cumulatively. When we now see the world around us and compare it to the story of this movie, which is full of greed, materialism, betrayal, and pretense, certainly we don’t find any change in our way of living.  In the end, the song says – ‘What even if I get enough of this world?

If you have not yet seen Pyassa, you are missing on a gem of a film. You can find this classic movie on YouTube and Amazon Prime.


Arpit Nayak


  1. There is no doubt the movie was way ahead in time .. nice wrote Arpit..

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