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File:Pyaasa 1957 film poster.jpg
Film poster
Directed byGuru Dutt
Produced byGuru Dutt
Written byAbrar Alvi
StarringGuru Dutt
Waheeda Rehman
Mala Sinha
Johnny Walker
Music byS. D. Burman
Sahir Ludhianvi (lyricist)
CinematographyV.K. Murthy
Edited byY. G. Chawhan
Release date
  • 22 February 1957 (1957-02-22)
Running time
146 minutes
Box office₹29 million[2]

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Pyaasa (English:Thirsty, or more idiomatically, "Wistful") is a 1957 Indian drama film, produced and directed by Guru Dutt, written by Abrar Alvi, and starring Dutt with Waheeda Rehman and Mala Sinha. Set in Calcutta, West Bengal, the film tells the story of Vijay, a struggling Urdu poet trying to make his works known in post-independence India, and Gulabo, a prostitute with a heart of gold, who helps him to try and get his poems published.[1] The music was composed by S.D. Burman.

With the commercial success of thrillers such as Baazi, Jaal, Aar Paar and CID, as well as comedies such as Mr. & Mrs. '55, Guru Dutt and his studio were financially secure and established. From 1957, he could now make movies he really wanted to make, including Pyaasa. In 2002, Pyaasa was ranked at No. 160 on the Sight & Sound critics' and directors' poll of all-time greatest films.[3] In 2005, Pyaasa was rated as one of the 100 best films of all time by Time magazine, which called it "the soulfully romantic of the lot."[4] Indiatimes Movies ranks the movie amongst the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films.[5] On the occasion of Valentine's Day 2011 Time magazine declared it one of the top 10 romantic movies of all time.[6]


Vijay (Guru Dutt) is an unsuccessful poet whose works are not taken seriously by publishers or his brothers (who sell his poems as waste paper). Unable to bear their taunting that he is a good-for-nothing, he stays away from home and is often out on the streets. He encounters a good-hearted prostitute named Gulabo (Waheeda Rehman), who is enamoured with his poetry and falls in love with him. He also encounters his ex-girlfriend Meena (Mala Sinha) from college and finds out that she has married a big publisher, Mr. Ghosh (Rehman) for financial security. Ghosh hires him as a servant to find out more about him and Meena. A dead beggar to whom Vijay gave his coat and whom he tries to save unsuccessfully from the path of a running train is mistaken for Vijay. Gulabo goes to Ghosh and gets his poems published. Ghosh does so feeling he can exploit the poems and make a killing. The poems are very successful. However, Vijay is alive and in the hospital after the train mishap.

Ghosh and Shyam, Vijay's close friend, refuse to recognise him and he is committed to a mental asylum since he insists that he is Vijay and is thought to be mad. Vijay's brothers too are bought off by Ghosh not to recognise him and a memorial is held for the dead poet. Vijay, with the help of his friend Abdul Sattar (Johnny Walker) escapes from the mental asylum and reaches the memorial service, where he denounces this corrupt and materialistic world. Seeing that Vijay is alive, his friend and brothers side with a rival publisher for more money and declare that this is Vijay. At a function to honour him, Vijay becomes sick of all the hypocrisy in the world around him and declares he is not Vijay. He then leaves with Gulabo to start a new life.


In the original ending, Guru Dutt wanted to show that Vijay left all alone, but on the distributors' insistence the ending was changed. The film was originally titled Pyaas (thirst), but Guru Dutt later changed it to Pyaasa to better describe the film.[7]

The role of Shyam was originally to be played by Guru Dutt's real life friend, Johnny Walker, but was then assigned to one of Guru Dutt's assistant directors. Guru Dutt wanted to film red light area scenes on locations in Kolkata (then Calcutta), but the crew was attacked by a group of pimps. Guru Dutt however, recreated sets on the basis of photos taken at Kolkata.

It is also surmised that the story is based on the life of the film's lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi who had a failed affair with poet and writer Amrita Pritam .


  • Guru Dutt as Vijay
  • Mala Sinha as Meena
  • Waheeda Rehman as Gulabo – This was her first major leading role in Hindi cinema.[8]
  • Rehman as Mr. Ghosh
  • Johnny Walker as Abdul Sattar
  • Leela Mishra as Vijay's mother
  • Kumkum as Juhi
  • Shyam Kapoor as Shyam
  • Mehmood as Vijay's brother
  • Tun Tun as Pushplata
  • Moni Chatterjee as Chatterjee


The movie boasts one of the best performances of S.D. Burman, Sahir Ludhianvi, Geeta Dutt and Mohammed Rafi to produce one of the most lyrical Hindi musicals. Pyaasa marked the last collaboration of the long-lasting team of composer Burman and lyricist Ludhianvi.[9] Music expert Rajesh Subramanian reveals that Guru Dutt wanted Rafi to sing "Jaane Woh Kaise Log". But Burman had decided to record it in Hemant Kumar's voice. A major argument took place between the director, composer, writer Abrar Alvi and Geeta Dutt. Finally Dutt, who remained unconvinced, had to give in to the pressure.

1."Aaj Sajan Mohe Ang Lagalo"Geeta Dutt04:56
2."Ham Aapki Aankhon Me"Geeta Dutt, Mohammad Rafi05:42
3."Jaane Kya Tune Kahi"Geeta Dutt04:10
4."Jaane Woh Kaise Log"Hemant Kumar04:49
5."Sar Jo Tera Chakraye"Mohammad Rafi04:33
6."Ye Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaye"Mohammad Rafi05:08
7."Ye Hanste Huye Phool"Mohammad Rafi07:50
8."Jinhen Naaz Hai Hind Par"Mohammad Rafi06:06
9."Tang Aa Chuke Hain Kashm-e-Kashe Zindagi Se"Mohammad Rafi04:23
10."Yeh Kooche Yeh Neelam Ghar Dilkashi Ke"Mohammed Rafi03:11

In 2004, as part of a Sight & Sound feature "celebrating the relationship between cinema and music", Pyaasa was named by Olivier Assayas as one of his favourites, going so far as to say that it was "possibly one of the most remarkable transpositions of poetry on screen".[10]

The film then and now[edit]

  • There was a debate between writer Abrar Alvi and Guru Dutt on film's ending. Abrar wanted the protagonist to accept and compromise with the prevailing material social reality; Guru Dutt insisted otherwise.
  • The song "Sar jo tera chakraye", composed by S.D Burman, was based on a tune from the British Movie Harry Black, which was later released in India as Harry Black and The Tiger. S. D. Burman was initially not happy in copying a western tune, "but later changed it so well that when the producer of Harry Black and the Tiger visited India, he heard the song and not only failed to recognize the tune, but commended Dada on it.

(Source: ‘Ten Years with Guru Dutt – Abrar Alvi’s Journey’ an authorised biography by Sathya Saran, Pages 71 and 72)

  • Pyaasa was to be made with actresses Nargis Dutt and Madhubala in the roles Mala Sinha and Waheeda Rehman played eventually. But the two actresses couldn't decide which role they wanted to play and Guru Dutt eventually opted for two then new actresses, Mala and Waheeda.[11]
  • Guru Dutt wanted Dilip Kumar to play the leading role in the movie, which the tragedy king declined. Guru Dutt himself played and movie went on to become one of the most commercially successful movies of the year.
  • The popular song "Hum Aapki Aankhon Mein" was added to the movie on behest of distributors to bring some relief in rather pessimistic film. It was never planned in the original cut.[12]
  • After a slow opening, Pyaasa went on to be a major commercial success of the year. This gave Guru Dutt the confidence to make a repeat on a grand scale. However, Kaagaz Ke Phool went on to be a commercial disaster. The movie picked up a cult following the world over in the 1980s, long after Guru Dutt died.
  • Waheeda Rahman's role in Pyaasa was based on a real life character. Abrar Alvi and his friends were visiting Bombay and they decided to visit the red light area. Alvi got talking to a girl who called herself Gulabo. According to Alvi "As I left, she thanked me in a broken voice, saying that it was the first time that she had been treated with respect, in a place where she heard only abuses. I used her exact words in the film."[13]
  • Guru Dutt and his movies, including Pyaasa, have a large cult following in France and Germany. It was a huge commercial success during its 1984 French Premiere, something Guru Dutt never witnessed during his lifetime. Since then, the movie has been screened to huge mass appeal the world over, like the recent screening at The 9th International Festival of Asian Cinema held in Vesoul, in February 2003.[14]
  • Is a Time top 100 movie of all times
  • Is a Time readers choice top 10 movie of all times[15]


This film has been digitised and restored by Mumbai-based Ultra Media & Entertainment. As per the report, the original camera negative had come to them from the archives completely melted, with parts damaged or lost. Their biggest challenge was the flickering. Every frame was at a different angle and there was no stability. After several clean-ups, they managed to retrieve the actual content from the original camera negative, but it lacked clarity and depth. 45 restoration experts worked for almost 4 months on over 2 lakh (200,000) frames. The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm optical soundtrack. The company sent it to the 72nd Venice International Film Festival held in 2015, where it competed with 20 other films and was selected to be screened as part of the Venice Classics section along with 11 other films from all over the world.[16]

Related films[edit]

  • The theme of the film is similar to Kishore Sahu's 1943 film Raja.[17]
  • The 1961 Kannada movie Kantheredu Nodu by A. K. Velan had a similar storyline.[18] This film was remade in Malayalam as Kavyamela (1965) and [17] in Tamil as Devi (1968). Starring Muthuraman and Devika, it was directed by A. K. Velan.[17]
  • Pyaasa was also remade in Telugu as Mallepoovu (1975).[19]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Dwyer, Rachel (21 November 2015). "A Poetic Tale of Redemption, But Will Today's Audiences Like It?". The Wire.
  2. "Box Office 1957". Box Office India. 1957. Archived from the original on 2 January 2010. Retrieved 3 June 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  3. "2002 Sight & Sound Top Films Survey of 253 International Critics & Film Directors". Cinemacom. 2002. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  4. "The Complete List." All-Time 100 Movies Time magazine. 2005
  5. "25 Must See Bollywood Movies – Special Features-Indiatimes – Movies". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 15 October 2007. Retrieved 19 July 2007. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  6. Corliss, Richard (11 February 2007). "Son of the Sheik | Top 100 Romantic Movies | Entertainment | TIME.com". Entertainment.time.com. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  7. "Lots in a movie name". The Times of India. 10 April 2010. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  8. Anindita Ghose (August 2006). "Of Names of Women in Hindi Cinema.: An Exploration in Semantics" (PDF). e-Social Sciences. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-12-24. Retrieved 2 April 2009. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  9. "Pyaasa". Upperstall.com. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  10. "The Best Music in Film". British Film Institute. Sight & Sound. September 2004. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  11. "Pyaasa: Guru Dutt's masterpiece". Rediff.com. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  12. "Pyaasa". Upperstall.Com. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  13. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 January 2007. Retrieved 24 May 2007. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  14. "Media & Culture > Bilateral Relations". Embassy Of India – Paris. Archived from the original on 26 August 2007.
  15. "All-Time 100 Movies". Time. 12 February 2005. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  16. "PYAASA GOES TO VENICE". Mumbai Mirror. 26 August 2015. Retrieved 26 August 2015.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 "Kavyamela 1965". The Hindu. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  18. "The dream merchant turns 85" Archived 14 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine. The Hindu. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  19. "Telugu Cinema – Research – Analysis – Over dose of love stories". Idlebrain.com. Retrieved 17 January 2012.

External links[edit]