Birthday: July 9, 1925
Died At Age: 39
Sun Sign: Cancer
Also Known As: Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone
Born in: Bangalore
Famous as: Actor, Producer, Director, Choreographer
Spouse/Ex-: Geeta Dutt, Suvarna, Vijaya
father: Shivashanker Rao Padukone
mother: Vasanthi Padukone
siblings: Atma Ram, Devi Dutt, Lalita Lajmi, Shashidhar, Vijay
children: Arun Dutt, Nina Dutt, Tarun Dutt
Died on: October 10, 1964
place of death: Mumbai
City: Bengaluru, India
Cause of Death: Drug Overdose
Founder/Co-Founder: Guru Dutt Movies Pvt. Ltd.
Who was Guru Dutt?
Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone, famously known as Guru Dutt, was a renowned Indian filmmaker, most remembered for his cult classics such as ‘Pyaasa’ and ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’. He was one of the greatest icons of commercial Indian cinema of all time and his movies were some of the best ever made. His style of film making was very contemporary, sometimes ahead of his generation which is evident from the fact that he first used close-up shots with 100mm lens camera in his films which later became famous as 'Guru Dutt Shots' in the Indian cinema. Ironically his films earned recognition and interest much later in the 1970s and the 1980s and have received a cult following in the recent past. His movies dealt with a wide range of subjects such as love, poverty, unemployment, equality and social values. In addition to being a great director, he was also a phenomenal artist who excelled in action, production, writing and even choreography. He had a difficult marriage and that probably led to his untimely death at the age of just 39. Despite all his struggles, his imaginative use of light and shade, and a striking ability to weave multiple thematic layers into his narratives, he is considered as one of the greatest filmmakers of Indian cinema.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born on July 9, 1925 in Bangalore, India, to Shivashanker Rao Padukone and his wife, Vasanthi Padukone. He had three younger brothers, Atmaram, Devidas and Vijay and a younger sister, Lalitha.
His father used to work as a headmaster and later became a bank employee. His mother was a homemaker who gave private tuition and also wrote short stories. He spent his early childhood in Bhowanipore area of Calcutta where Bengali culture and intellect became a part of his personality.
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He started his career as a telephone operator at a Lever Brothers factory in Kolkata. But soon he left the job and returned to his parents in Mumbai in 1944.
Later he was hired as a choreographer to work under a three-year contract with ‘Prabhat Film Company’ in Pune. He later went on to become an actor in the company and also served as an assistant director.
In 1944, he acted in a small role as Sri Krishna in the movie ‘Chand’. The next year he worked as an actor and an assistant director in the movie ‘Lakhrani’. In 1946, he served as an assistant director and choreographed dances for the film ‘Hum Ek Hain’.
In 1947, the contract with the film company ended and he was given the job of a freelance assistant with Baburao Pai, the CEO of the Prabhat Film Company and Studio. But soon he was rendered unemployed and wrote short stories for ‘The Illustrated Weekly of India’, a local weekly English magazine.
The turning point in his life came, when Dev Anand asked him to direct the movie ‘Baazi’ under Dev Anand’s production company. The film released in 1951 and became an instant hit.
He went on to direct two more films, ‘Jaal’ (1952) and ‘Baaz’ (1953), but none of them proved to be successful at the box office. In 1954, he directed, produced as well as acted in the movie ‘Aar Paar’ which was an immediate success.
Later, he directed several other movies such as ‘Mr. and Mrs. 55’ (1955), ‘Sailaab’ (1956) and ‘Pyaasa’ (1957). He was also the leading actor in ‘Mr. and Mrs.55’ and ‘Pyaasa’, both of which received commercial as well as critical appreciation.
In 1959, he made his most ambitious project ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’ but it proved to be a bitter disappointment at the box office and he lost over 1.7 million producing the film.
Later, he acted in a couple of movies under his production: ‘Chaudhvin Ka Chand’ (1960) and ‘Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam’ (1962). Both the movies proved to be commercially and critically very successful.
He also acted in some movies outside his production such as ‘12 O' Clock’ (1958), ‘Bharosa’ (1963), ‘Bahurani’ (1963),‘Suhagan’ (1964), and his last project ‘Sanjh Aur Savera’ (1964).
In 1957, he produced, directed as well as acted in the movie ‘Pyaasa’ which was an immediate success and is considered one of his most celebrated works. It is the story of a poet, rejected by an uncaring world, who achieves success only after his apparent death.
In 1959, another one of his classics ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’ was released. It was a self-absorbed tale of a famous director who falls in love with an actress. The film was a box office disaster in its time but later became a world cinema cult classic in the 1980s.
Awards & Achievements
In 2002, Sight & Sound critics' and directors' poll ranked him at #73 in its list of all-time greatest directors, making him the eighth highest-ranking Asian filmmaker in the poll.
In 2010, he was included among CNN's "top 25 Asian actors of all time".
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1953, he married Geeta Dutt, a professional playback singer, despite strong family opposition. They were blessed with three children: Tarun, Arun, and Nina. But the couple had an unhappy married life and later separated because of his workaholic nature and partly because of his relationship with actress Waheeda Rehman.
He had attempted suicide a couple of times before his death but was rescued by friends. He died on October 10, 1964 from an over consumption of alcohol and sleeping pills. It is still a mystery whether his death was a suicide or an accidental overdose.