Bimal Mitra is the author of the story Sahib, Bibi Aur Ghulam. Guru Dutt made a film on it in the early 60s, just before he died. The film adaption of the story brought the two gentlemen together. They spent some time together working on the film script. The director Guru Dutt, always on the look-out for new story ideas would call Bimal Mitra from Kolkata whenever he felt like writing a script or discussing stories in the last 3-4 years of his life. Mitra has written this book on the basis of those intermittent times he spent with Guru Dutt, at his home in Pali Hill, Mumbai. At his farmhouse in Lonavala or at other locations like a deserted Mahabalipuram on the outskirts of Madras.
Bimal Mitra claims to be very close to Guru Dutt. He thinks he is like him, who he thinks likes talking to him and whose calls he could never refuse. Though what comes out of the writing is someone Guru Dutt employed for a purpose. Someone he could splurge on for he wanted some work out of him. Also someone he probably connected with because of his growing up in Kolkata. Guru Dutt did that to many people and like most successful people do, he probably made all of them feel important and special.
The book is more about the author himself than Guru Dutt. I had expected it to be Guru Dutt’s biography that it definitely is not. It does not even tell you about his last years properly. All you get to read is how Guru pampered author, how he got to stay in his luxurious bungalow. How Guru took him along on his trips and how they would discuss stories when he could not sleep at night. He chooses to ignore the times when Guru left him to write while he was busy shooting or even partying. He does not give you insight into how they chose stories for film adaptations. What kind of stories he wanted to make films on. Of course, since he lived in Guru’s house, he became privy to his personal life to an extent.
He got to hear both the husband and the wife off and on, though none seem to have confided in him truly. He assumed they had found a savior in him. Bimal Mitra also assumed he was closest to Guru. His true character comes out in the incident when Guru is not well in Lonavala and his concern is not to get him medical aid. Instead, he leaves him with his family members so that he does not have to shoulder any responsibility. Wonder if he would have made even a single trip to meet Guru Dutt if he had not paid all expenses.
In the beginning, he mentions he would write about Waheeda Rehman angle. In Guru Dutt’s story, it is probably the most intriguing part but the author hushes the subject throughout the book. She just makes fleeting appearances on the sets of films she acted in. The author mentions her in the domestic discord but physically she is never there. So you as a reader do not understand the reason. The author claims as if there was nothing between the two, which is difficult to digest because if nothing else, they definitely created some beautiful work together. Similarly, he mentions a doctor who did the post-mortem on Guru’s body after he died and says he will talk about that in detail later and never does.
There are too many loose ends in the narration and Bimal Mitra tells it in a strange non-linear way. Crisscrossing incidents and confusing the reader. There is a hell lot of repetition. You keep hearing his self-praise for his works all the times as if he is still hustling you to buy his books. His citing the fact that his story Sahib, Bibi, Ghulam had reached all kitchens in the country and any modification for the film is not going to impact his sales gets irritating after a while.
Editing is quite bad though the language is good. There is no linkage of the title to the narration. It looks like an attempt to leverage the writing skills of the author and pull off Guru Dutt’s name in publishing this book. Also, an attempt where the reader is totally ignored. Maybe this book was relevant when it was written. Today no one is interested in knowing what was served on which day of author’s stay with Guru Dutt. To me, the author comes out as opportunist – both from Guru Dutt’s angle and from reader’s angle.