In Black and White

Hollywood and the
Melodrama of Guru Dutt

Darius Cooper


 

6.25 x 9.5 inches, 92 pp. 2005

ISBN : 9788170462170


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‘For Guru Dutt, melodrama was not merely a suitable entertainment mode to woo the box-office or the Hindi film audience of the 1950s and 1960s. In his capable hands, melodrama became a revealing and critical genre through which the contradictions and deceptions of the middle-class or proletarian Indian aspiring towards bourgeois stability could be depicted, explored, commented upon, and critiqued. Becoming his own producer and director in the 1950s, he adopted a critical distance from the mainstream Hindi film industry and gradually dissociated himself from the cliché-ridden escapist and idealistic melodramatic narratives churned out by most of his contemporaries . . .’

 

Born on 9 July 1925 into a Saraswat family of Mangalore and educated in the liberal climate of Calcutta, Guru Dutt started his own production company in 1954 with Aar Paar, and never looked back till Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, 1962, his last film. On 9 October 1964, he committed suicide. His oeuvre is now widely regarded as one of the most rich and significant legacies of Indian cinema, amongst the finest examples of the melodrama mode.

 

This volume aims to lay before the reader the particular melodramatic tradition of the Hindi film that Guru Dutt typified. The critical fragments spread over the book’s six chapters are taken from the body of work done by critics in elevating the Hollywood melodrama, primarily of the forties and fifties, to critical acceptability and respectability. Dutt’s Indian melodramas, functioning around the same time, seem to be assembled in very similar ways and when examined under these rubrics, reveal a high level of vision and craftsmanship. 


Darius Cooper is Professor of Literature and Film in the English Department at San Diego Mesa College, USA. His first book, Between Tradition and Modernity: The Cinema of Satyajit Ray was published by Cambridge University Press in 2000. His essays on Indian cinema have appeared in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), East-West Film Journal (Hawaii), The Journal of Commonwealth and Post-Colonial Studies (Georgia), Women’s Studies (Claremont), The Toronto South Asian Review (Canada), Asian Cinema (Pennsylvania) and in the anthology Colonialism and Nationalism in Asian Cinema (Indiana). He has also been published widely as a poet and short fiction writer.

 

Film Theory
Cinema