Actor-filmmaker Guru Dutt continues to be an inspiration to filmmakers and audiences. While discussing the relevance of his films with veteran writers Dinesh Raheja and Jitendra Kothari, authors of the books on the screenplays of Guru Dutt, filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra averred, “’Kaagaz Ke Phool’ is a flop film and here we are discussing it. So who decides failure? Cinema is beyond the box office.”

The point Chopra was seeking to make is that there can be no defining ‘failure’ in the conventional sense when it comes to a genius like Guru Dutt. Agreeing with this, Farhan Akhtar, added, “There is a tangible gauge for success that we have created called the box office. Unfortunately, the success of a film is being based only on those figures. If an idea sustains for decades after it was made — that success is a lot more valuable than the money that it made.”

“I do get affected by failure,” interjected Dibakar Banerjee, “Guru Dutt was a broken man after ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’ flopped. The lesson to learn from that is that it is okay to be rejected.”

Anurag Kashyap, who has admitted that he “wanted to know everything about Guru Dutt”, shared that he is most enamored of the fact that Guru Dutt poured himself into his movies. “While watching a Guru Dutt film I was curious to know — Who shot the film? Who wrote the dialogues and songs?” added Kashyap. “I wanted to know everything about Guru Dutt so I went on a journey to interview everyone from the industry about him. I went and sat in his office where he wrote his scripts, in his house. For me, the curiosity to know the man and his mind was through his movies. His grandchildren work with me in my office.

“Also, the images of his films haunt me till date. I loved the way Guru Dutt played with light to enhance the mood and the emotions. Taking a cue from the PYAASA song, ‘Yeh mahalon yeh takhton yeh taajon ki duniya…’, I made an entire movie, GULAAL. When I saw Guru Dutt’s movies closely, I realised his writer Abrar Alvi (who directed SAHIB BIBI AUR GHULAM) used the language that people spoke in, which was a very big surprise for me.”

Farhan Akhtar finds heartening the fact that “Guru Dutt talked about female emancipation which is something that people are still struggling for, and he spoke about it in an engaging story. He was technically very superior. I have heard stories of how he started the use of track trolleys in KAAGAZ KE PHOOL. But he used technical devices for the desired effect — to enhance the story and not just as a gimmick. I think he has influenced us in many ways – in the background song in my LAKSHYA (2004), ‘Kitne baatien yaad aati hain,’ there is a moment where Preity and Hrithik are seated in a bunker and we had just one source of light which is coming through the opening in the bunker with the focus on their faces and their expressions. You can’t help but think about what this man has done. It’s definitely an influence that plays in your head.”

“Certain moments stay with you — the beam of light stays with you,” agreed Dibakar. “The union of music and visual is also what I remember about Guru Dutt’s films. Unfortunately, a session like this (four directors sitting on a platform and discussing a filmmaker) never happened with Guru Dutt in his lifetime. He never enjoyed having two young directors of the ’60s, say Yash Chopra and Vijay Anand, discussing his work in front of the media. I am making Hindi films largely because I saw (Vinod Chopra’s) ‘Parinda’ when I was in the eleventh standard. Something like that never happened to him.”

To Dinesh Raheja’s question on whether self-esteem withers with failure, Farhan countered, “No, but maybe to a degree some of your beliefs could be shaken. You truly are a creature of your environment. I think it’s very important to stay focused even when things are not good and to have around you people who like you for the person you are, and not because you are successful. These people will always assure you that as long as you are genuine about your beliefs, you will always get another chance to prove yourself.”

Dibakar rounded off the discussion by declaring, “I get affected if my film does not do well. My solution to this is, you lay low, lick your wounds and you depend on a very thick hide to come back.”