50 years of SAHIB BIWI AUR GHULAM: Some vignettes of the film

By Enkayaar, Glamsham Editorial

In our series to celebrate the 100 years of cinema, it has been fortuitously revealed that it has also been the fiftieth year for the cult film SAHIB BIWI AUR GHULAM, a classic perhaps that still is one of the landmarks of Hindi Cinema. It was officially the film which was directed by Abrar Alvi, though he was associated with Guru Dutt production for quite a long time.

Abrar Alvi in his book, Ten Years With Guru Dutt has compiled nuggets associated with SAHIB BIWI AUR GHULAM, which are otherwise not available for the aficionados of cinema. This was the first film under the banner of Guru Dutt whose script was ready before the shooting started. The role that eventually Waheeda Rehman had played in the film was first offered to Chaya Arya who was supposed to come down from London to act in SAHIB BIWI AUR GHULAM. Abrar Alvi still believes that though Waheeda Rehman played the role of Jaba in the film she was miscast and he would have liked a Madhubala or a Geeta Bali to execute the role.

Abrar Alvi became director by default. Guru Dutt first offered the film to Satyen Bose who wanted his unit to execute the work which was not agreed to by Guru Dutt. Then the film was offered to Nitin Bose, who did not respond, and then the film was offered to Abrar Alvi. Abrar Alvi informs that as far as Guru Dutt acting, he was stilted, and his magic lay in directing a movie. It was in SBG that Guru Dutt shaved off his moustache to enact the role Bhootnath.

Guru Dutt films are known for their imaginative lighting, and Abrar Alvi unconsciously attained the same through SGB. His understanding of the craft of cinema was evident in the scene in the film where Sapru is standing and the lights have been lit up. Alvi had used baby lights to light the scene and when Guru Dutt saw the scene he exclaimed that the effort was nothing short of genius. Guru Dutt was a master of the craft owing to his voracious appetite to read.

Abrar Alvi had reminisced about the same. The introductory shot in the film where Guru Dutt is introduced to Meena Kumari, when it was shot, could not project a radiant image of Meena Kumari as desired. Guru Dutt leafed through the books and told Abrar Alvi the reason. Broad faces, like the one Meena Kumari need to be captured with lens of lower density, and no wonder Guru Dutt still continue to be a reference point at famous centres of cinema learning around the world.

The famous scene of SBG where Rahman offers Meena Kumari the drink was a scene which was a reverse shot which had never been shot in the history of Guru Dutt Films. Guru Dutt's cinematographer Murthy was also taken aback, but it is now considered the signature scene of the film, and it has a stamp of Abrar Alvi on it.

Guru Dutt was a master of picturising the songs, and Alvi was faced with the dilemma of handling over the same to him in SBG, which he did reluctantly, but he did picturize one song in the film- Koi Door se awaz de, chale aao. Meena Kumari had in fact acknowledged that Abrar Alvi drew the best out of her.

Through this book Abrar Alvi has also laid the controversy to rest that he was indeed the official director of SAHIB BIWI AUR GHULAM. A skirmish had happened between Guru Dutt and Abrar Alvi during shooting, and Abrar Alvi had put in his papers. Guru Dutt then wrote to him that SBG "You have directed the movie; the credit is yours, discredit if any, is also yours."

SAHIB BIWI AUR GHULAM went on to create waves and is one of the most successful films made by Guru Dutt Films, commercially as also for acclaim that it generated around the world through the awards and citations. It indeed is proud possession for the world of cinema.

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