1951-1960AsianFilm NoirGuru DuttIndia

Guru Dutt – Aar-Paar aka Across the Heart (1954)

Kalu (Guru Dutt), a taxi driver who was sentenced to prison for speeding, is released two months before his term for good behaviour. His old employer refuses to let him drive his taxi again. Wandering the streets, Kalu helps a young woman Nikki (Shyama) to fix her car. Kalu goes home but his brother-in-law will not have a convict in the house so he finds himself on the streets. Kalu visits a club to deliver a message for Captain on behalf of a former jail mate. He gets a job at Nikki’s father’s garage and love blossoms between Nikki and him. When her father finds out, he kicks Kalu out. Kalu asks Nikki to elope with him but she hesitates and by the time she decides to do so, he has already left. Kalu returns to the club and takes up a job with Captain and his band of crooks which includes a dancer (Shakila) and a Parsi barman, Rustom (Johnny Walker). Captain is planning a Bank robbery and thinks Kalu would be useful in driving the getaway car. The cabaret dancer takes a fancy to Kalu but sees he loves Nikki. She seeks revenge and persuades Captain to have Nikki kidnapped. With Rustom’s help, Kalu manages to rescue Nikki and have the gang caught. He is a true hero and Nikki’s father gladly agrees to their marriage.

The Bad Girl

The Good Girl

The Barman

The Crime Boss

The film
It was with Aar Paar that Guru Dutt really arrived as a filmmaker to be reckoned with. The film was a crime thriller in the genre of Baazi (1951) but by now with Jaal (1952) and Baaz (1953) also behind him, Guru Dutt had polished his skills and Aar Paar stands out as among the best of the genre. The plot of the film may now seem formulaic but scores in its treatment. Its great strength lies in the way even the minor characters are fleshed out – be it the barman, the street urchin or the newspaper vendor. (This was one of the strong points of Guru Dutt’s films. And since he repeated artistes he worked with, the minor roles done in his films standout for their individual wit and integrity) And for once characters spoke with a language that reflected their background. The hero is from Madhya Pradesh in central India so he speaks in a particular style. The garage owner, a Punjabi, spoke with a punjabi slang. (Actually a glimpse of this was seen in Baazi itself when the hero is asked for his last wish before hanging and in true and typical Bambaiya street language says ” Ek special chai.” i.e. one special tea!)

Taking a further cue out of film noir, the city is very much a character in Aar Paar. Much shooting was done on actual outdoor locations of Bombay rather than confining oneself to the studios. In fact even the garage where the hero worked was shot on location at the South Indian Garage in Parel, a locality of Bombay.

In Aar Paar Guru Dutt took his talent for song picturisations to several notches above the commonplace. Many directors choose to enhance the fantasy elements by setting it in unreal and glamorous locations but in Guru Dutt’s films, the songs are rarely separate from the personalities who enacted them. Songs in his films often take place in locations inhabited by the characters in his films. A fine example here is the romantic duet Sun Sun Sun Sun Zaalima. The song is set in the stark and unromantic atmosphere of a garage with a car providing the centre-piece but the way the two lovers circle around each other within this restricted space is a brilliant piece of choreography. Further, Guru Dutt was very particular in sticking to the vocabulary of his characters even in the songs. And often started songs without any introductory music using it as an extension of the dialogue. Thus beyond considerations of language and space, the songs in his films appear better integrated than in most Indian films. Aar Paar was a major turning point in the life of composer O.P. Nayyar who went on to become an extremely successful music director. Songs like Babuji Dhire Chalna, Yeh lo Main Hari Piya, Mohabbat Kar lo, Ja Ja Ja Ja Bewafaa are remembered and hummed to this day

Last but not least, mention must be made of a wonderfully staged sequence in the film wherein it looks like a major gang operation is on only to be revealed at the end of it that it was just a test run! Truly zany!

1.37GB | 1:57:39 | 640 x 496 | avi




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