Stories of Legends

The book Ten Years With Guru Dutt:Abrar Alvi's Journey, adapted for stage, is a study of Guru Dutt's genius

Anecdotes of creative geniuses are fascinating because they don't just let us peep into the inner workings of their minds, but also help us view their work in the larger narrative of their private lives. Such accounts on the lives of Hindi cinema's masters aren't new, but to get to see them on stage is something else.

The play Ten Years With Guru Dutt:Abrar Alvi's Journey, based on the book of same name, by veteran journalist-turned-author Sathya Saran — that chronicles the last decade of Guru Dutt's life told by his close friend, confidante and collaborator Abrar Alvi — picks up six of these stories. It premiered at Prithvi Theatre on November 20. "I felt it had a lot of visual potential, and wanted to adapt it for stage," says Saattvic, who has written and directed the play.

For those who are fairly familiar with Dutt's works — particularly those of earlier generations — this is a trip down nostalgia lane. Some of Hindi cinema's most celebrated characters, songs and actors associated with Guru Dutt, that are now part of Hindi film-lore, come to life in this 90-minute play.

The format naturally makes minor shifts in the narrative, mixing it with easy flowing language — English and a lot of chaste Hindi — but keeps the spirit of the original intact. "The process was interesting because it involves such great people's real life incidents and in a way, it was like re-imagining a screenwriter's imagination," says Saattvic, who marks his debut as a director on a professional stage with the play. He plays the young Alvi while Namit plays the older Alvi. Tariq Vasudeva plays Dutt and Dilnaz Irani a journalist. Some of the anecdotes, as fascinating as they are, don't make convincing transitions to the stage. For instance, the part where Dutt takes over shooting the songs of Alvi's film Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam despite his reluctance. In a scene where creative strengths fight a battle of egos, the tension simply doesn't mount — there is too much respectability and it comes across as cardboard cut-out portrayals. Some come off well, especially the amusing little story behind the title song of Chaudhvi Ka Chand, a song that would go on to become an all time classic. Composer Ravi created three intentionally poor tunes to convince Dutt about the original, which he had rejected before.

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