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The Unseen Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi

In 1963/64, filming began at Guru Dutt Films Pvt Ltd on what was tentatively titled Production No 9. The film, being directed by Shahid Lateef, starred Mala Sinha, Guru Dutt, Tanuja, Rehman, Johnny Walker and Deven Verma among others. Heavily influenced by the films of New Theatres when he was growing up in Calcutta in the 1930s, it is perhaps but natural that Guru Dutt decided to adapt one of their classics,  in this case the Hindi-Bengali bi-lingual President/Didi (1937). While the earlier film was set amidst a cotton mill, the setting for the upcoming film was changed to that of a newspaper office. The film was ultimately called Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi.

The story followed Amita (Mala Sinha) the editor of a newspaper, Jagriti, who dismisses reporter, Jiten (Guru Dutt), for his expose on some corrupt but influential builders, only to realize that his report is true when a mine belonging of them collapses. Convinced of his integrity, Amita re-hires him and promotes him to News Editor while secretly falling in love with him. However, Jiten has meanwhile met and fallen in love with Amita’s younger sister, Sunita (Tanuja), who reciprocates his love. Gradually, the pressure from the board of directors to fire Jiten mounts as his stories get too uncomfortably close to the truth and to make matters worse, Sunita finds out Amita too loves Jiten…

Shooting for the film was progressing smoothly. Some important scenes were filmed in Amita’s office, a song Aapke Haseen Rukh Pe was picturized  (supervised by Guru Dutt) and according to film’s second leading lady, Tanuja,  about 11 unedited reels of the film were shot, when on 10th October 1964, Guru Dutt suddenly passed away.

Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi was completed with Dharmendra taking over as Jiten, and after a long struggle, the film finally saw the light of day in 1966. Tanuja also recalled that all the artistes involved with the film insisted and saw to it that the shots of actors other than Guru Dutt, which were filmed while Dutt was alive, were retained in the new film as well.  Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi was advertised as Guru Dutt’s last offering but sadly, flopped miserably at the box-office. Though Shahid Lateef’s name was retained as the official director of the film, it is said the film was really completed by Dutt’s brother, Atmaram and writer, Abrar Alvi.

On viewing the released film, I think I can can put my neck out and say it was nothing like what Guru Dutt had originally imagined it to be. For instance, the scenes in the newspaper office that Dutt supervised, do see Mala Sinha properly directed. She is correctly restrained, understated and reined in. Make-up man Baburao Pawaskar recalled Guru Dutt kept telling her right through the filming to tone her performance down. This, as against her usual play-it-to-the-gallery-till-the-last-tear-is-wrung-out histrionics in other parts of the film. With the climax having her character suffer a heart attack and going insane simultaneously, and no Guru Dutt to control her, she inevitably goes OTT and how!

The following unseen stills of the film, courtesy Guru Dutt’s late son, Arun Dutt, show us what the film might have looked like with its original leading man.

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Though no one could confirm this one point, I also have a small niggling feeling that perhaps Guru Dutt was involved in the picturization of the song Woh Hanske Mile Humse on Mala Sinha. The play of light and shade, the sweeping crane shots and delicate tracking in and out shots while making judicious use of Mala Sinha’s close-ups seem to suggest Dutt’s signature style of filmmaking, which is missing in large portions of the film.

Note: This is a version of an article that I did for Scroll.in. You can read that piece here.

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