Friday, November 13, 2009
Pyaasa ( thirsty one ) 1959
One of the powers of the film is the lean and lanky Johnny Walker, the yet unbeaten arch-comedian of Hindi cinema, enacting the tel maalish wala or oil-massage man. His body seems to be made of plastic and his limbs revolve around the rest of him like a catherine wheel. He puts every nerve and fibre into his acting . He is not one of your dead-pan comedians. His face has a million muscles and they are all moving. He is an expressive whorl of motion gathering power from an inner spring. When he speaks he pulls all his vocal chords to convey the love and good nature and desire to make people happy which is his centre as it was Chaplin's. And there is a profound sadness which echoes Guru Dutt's own, accounting for the rapport they had in real life too. ( He was Dutt's discovery.)
In fact all the characters--Tun Tun the comedienne, Rehman as the villainous publisher, and a host of others--enact within the safety zone of their much loved stereotypes, repeating themselves while remaining fresh, again like the Tramp. Mehmood, who was later to forge his own brand of comedy, is seen here as a villainous brother-in-law.
The film pantheon in those days was very much a small closed circle and actors tended to play variations on familiar themes. They were usually playing themselves. The audience would start tittering as soon as Johnny Walker appeared and gave any reason to provoke that reaction. That is what they wanted and had payed for and what the imperative of economics of the industry, the money and risks involved, dictated. Guru Dutt himself falls in this category. Along with Dilip Kumar he is the eternal love sick boy just as Dev Anand is the happy go lucky modern type. They all had their oft imitated or parodied trademark mannerisms.