What is it about Guru Dutt that fascinates you?
I wish to be associated with Guru Dutt's films one way or the other because he was such a genius. For reasons, I can't fathom, I was always drawn to cinema that was sensitive and appealed to the intellect. Guru Dutt's films are thought-provoking and at the same entertaining. His films hold you spell-bound. The other day, I was talking to somebody about Sahab Biwi Aur Ghulam. He said he knows about it, but what he had in mind was Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster! I had to tell him, they are not the same! That's why a certain awareness has to be created. In fact, there are other directors like Bimal Roy, K Asif and Hrishikesh Mukherjee, who I would like to archive. If I get to do the original screenplay of Anand, I will be excited. This is a Vinod Chopra initiative and I am happy to be a part of it.
Which is your favourite Guru Dutt film?
Saheb Biwi Aur Ghulam. I think it's a masterpeice. There's a whole ambiguity in the man-woman relationship, which they leave it your intepretation. Our films usually give answers, Guru Dutt's films don't. Do you want to value fame or not is left to you, like in Kagaz Ke Phool. His films have open endings. In my first book on Saheb Biwi... I gave my interpretation to what I felt was the relationship between Meena Kumari and Guru Dutt. I also questioned why so many scenes were left in a grey zone. They were not black and white, which I liked.
What does your second book on Chaudvin Ka Chand bring forth?
I have talked about how Guru Dutt shaped bromance, which we saw later in films like Sangam, Dosti and Dil Chahta Hai. Chaudvin Ka Chand laid the seed of bromance. Of course, Waheeda Rehman is integral because two friends fall in love with her but the friendship between Johnny Walker, Guru Dutt and Rehman is pivotal to the film. It was very layered and beautifully done. Even Johnny's track is not an independent one. His girlfriend is a courtesan and it's to her Guru Dutt goes when he wants Waheeda to feel insecure, and go to Rehman. It's all intricately woven together. It was a purely commercial film, but when I was writing the script, I realised how seamlessly one scene falls into the other.
How did you go about writing the screenplay of these films?
They gave me a rough screenplay, which they must have salvaged. But in those days there was no leather bound script. There are minimum instructions in it and the scene changed several times. So, I saw the film at least 40-50 times. In fact, there was a time when I could hear Meena Kumari's voice in the night, the way she says tumne mujhe sharaabi kahe. It would keep ringing in my ears. I also wanted to get how many times she says that line in the film and it's no less than 19 times in different ways. I really enjoyed doing the project, I found it very involving. I could go into the director's mind, while writing and mulling over it. I could appreciate each scene. I also did the song translations in English keeping the rhyme and meter intact.
I will be coming up with the third book, this one on Kagaz Ke Phool.