exposition

Our way to Guru Dutt

We have been travelling regularly to India for 20 years but only saw an Indian film 5 years ago. On January 15, 2003, in Chennai, on the festival of Pongal, we asked our rickshaw driver to choose a film for us. He took us to Casino Cinema, where Varsham, a Telugu film was playing. We sat among the audience and as soon as the hero appeared on the screen, the crowd came alive. We were struck by the energetic dances and music and the camera work. But were all Indian films the same?

To answer that question we decided to attend every Indian cinema event that took place in Paris. In April 2003, Devdas was released. We came out of the theatre with eyes moist with tears of happiness, and stupefied by the beauty of the dances. In 2003 too, we heard Nasreen Munni Kabir give a lecture on music in Indian cinema (with a clip showing the song Choli ke Peeche) and that further caught us in the spiral.

2004 was a great year. A retrospective, Vous avez dit Bollywood! at the Centre Pompidou gave us the chance to see the work of important directors of the 50s. Then we joined the Indian Cinema Events (ICE) an association created to promote Indian cinema and finally attended screenings at the first Été indien at Musée Guimet.

Everything followed from there. We read everything we could find in English and in French on the subject. Considering the lack of Indian films available in French cinemas and on television, we relied on our DVD sellers in “Little India” in Paris who were keen to provide us with unseen treasures. For the past 4 years, our daily life includes the viewing of an Indian film, reading a book on India weekly, a monthly Indian show and a yearly trip. This trip is the zenith of our crazy addiction. Crossing Bombay, back and forth, looking for books, DVDs, posters and film locations became our main goal.

During our last visit to Bombay, we met Rashid Irani - the Hindustan Times film reviewer - who launched a driatribe against current Indian cinema and said how much he missed the work of Bimal Roy, Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt. We talked about Pyaasa with such enthusiasm, recalling scenes and songs, that we realised that Guru Dutt was to be the theme of our first exhibition. We had already seen the films of this great film director/actor several times and felt we had to show our admiration for him in some way. We have been so moved by Guru Dutt’s universality of emotions, how he uses light and shade to create mood, the perfection of song sequences, and his quiet and constrained acting style. When we learned about his chaotic life and suicide at 39 years old, his films became magnified, more grief-stricken, and marked by a strange premonition.

Our exhibition is a modest tribute to an exceptional filmmaker and whose films stand proudly among the classics of world cinema. n

Sally & François Picard

 

All the exhibits are original posters. Some were printed for the film first release, some were printed later. It is not easy to date them precisely.

 

 

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