Bollywood Rewind | Aar Paar: Guru Dutt blends comedy with noir


In this weekly column, we revisit gems from the golden years of Hindi cinema. This week, we revisit the 1954 release Aar Paar.

Filmmakers, no matter how diverse they might be, are often remembered for their particular styles or genres so when I recently watched Guru Dutt’s 1954 film Aar Paar, I was surprised at the light-heartedness of the film that effortlessly swings between comedy and noir, styles that are not necessarily associated with Dutt. Starring Guru Dutt, Shyama and Shakila in lead roles, Aar Paar is a charming film that’s primarily a love story with a hint of suspense thrown into it. The Dutt directorial is so delightful in its presentation that you can’t help but smile at the antics of its characters.

Aar Paar starts with Kalu Birju (Dutt) who is in prison for rash driving but his good conduct has gotten him off two months early. As Kalu starts looking for a job, he runs into Nikki (Shyama) and we witness one of the most adorable meet-cutes in Hindi cinema. As passers-by witness their chemistry, a woman sings “Kabhi Aar Kabhi Paar” and love starts to blossom. While Kalu’s life is filled with rainbows on this end, he has something else going on as well. In trying to deliver a co-prisoner’s coded message, Kalu gets involved with some criminals, who unbeknownst to him are trying to rob a bank. The fake bank robbery sequence is extremely clever as the audience does not even realise that this is a mock robbery until the sequence ends.

Guru Dutt’s Kalu Birju is an uncomplicated man who is far from the nuanced on-screen image that we often associate with Dutt.

At the villain’s den, Kalu meets a dancer (Shakila) who is trying her best to make him fall in love with her. With songs like “Babuji Dheere Chalna” and “Hun Abhi Main Jawan”, her seductive personality leaves Kalu spellbound, but not enough that he could let go of his love. Even when Kalu is heartbroken after Nikki does not elope with him, he continues to love her and sticks by her. Aar Paar is a unique film that could be classified into ‘comic noir’ – a suspense thriller with loads of light moments.

Aar Paar marked the first collaboration between Guru Dutt and Abrar Alvi, who later made Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. Aar Paar was Abrar’s first film as a dialogue writer and his work here is particularly impressive. Aar Paar has characters from every kind of economic and cultural background and their dialogues reflect their background.

The film’s music by OP Nayyar with lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri is a stroke of genius. Apart from the aforementioned songs, Aar Paar has tracks like “Sun Sun Sun Sun Zalima”, “Ye Lo Main Haari Piya”, “Mohabbat Kar Lo Jee Bhar Lo” among other timeless classics.

Watching Aar Paar in 2021 makes you think that some stories are actually timeless and that not because of their universal nature but mainly because of their sheer simplicity, and Aar Paar is one of those simple films that can bring a smile to your face.

Bollywood Rewind | Haqeeqat | Woh Kaun Thi | Junglee | Yaadein | Sujata | Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje | Jagte Raho | Baazi | Bees Saal Baad | Dosti | Mughal-e-Azam | Mother India | Anari | Chaudhvin Ka Chand | Boot Polish | Do Bigha Zamin | Devdas | Baiju Bawra | Shree 420 | Pyaasa | CID | Madhumati | Naya Daur | Awara | Sharada | Do Aankhen Barah Haath | Bandini | Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam

Aar Paar is streaming on Prime Video.

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