Readers Write In #438: 63 Years Later, Kaagaz Ke Phool Still Looks Magnificent

Posted on January 26, 2022

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By Vikas Yadav

Suresh Sinha (Guru Dutt) is a successful film director. His ecstatic fans surround him for an autograph, and the camera films their faces with a sliding motion, hinting that this obsession is unstable and fugacious. Indeed, this glittery stardom yields zero personal merriment. Suresh is separated from his wife and daughter (the latter is forced to live with the former). His commodious dwelling is occupied by dark shadows and forlorn winds. When he enters his house, he gets lost in the gloom. This star has not shined in years. At least not for himself, just for the others. 

The public views celebrities as armored gods. To the common eyes, money plus fame equals jubilation. We think only smiles and laughter remain inside the glowing, luxurious apartments. We forget that even our favorite superstar is nothing but a normal human being. He cries, he bleeds, he dies, just like everyone else. Sadness is also a part of their life. I mean, look at Suresh. He has many fans and a shitload of money, making him powerful in status. Yet, he is unable to fight for the custody of his daughter. He is unable to permanently hold on to his love. And when he cannot even hold on to his talents, his whole world comes apart. 

Kaagaz Ke Phool announces itself to be a tragedy in the opening itself. An old Suresh roams around the studio where he had spent his life making movies. His appearance suggests that the time has not been kind to him. The rest of the movie reveals exactly what happened to him. How this star fell from the sky and crashed into the gutter. It’s no coincidence that we see him preparing to shoot for Devdas – a story filled with adversities. Suresh finds his Paro in the form of Shanti (Waheeda Rehman). And like Devdas‘ protagonist, he loses her and takes up alcohol. Why, even the title itself informs us that this will not be a pleasant, happy ending type of movie! Kaagaz Ke Phool means Paper Flowers. The lovely posies, alas, are artificial. They look like flowers but do not emit their smell. Similarly, movie stars look like stars but do not always twinkle. 

Kaagaz Ke Phool was the first Indian movie to be shot in CinemaScope. You are continuously lost in its majestic glory. Over the years, the plot might fade away from your memory, but you would be able to recall some shots from it. Like the one in the morning where the characters appear from and disappear behind the fog. Or something as simple as the sight of Suresh sitting in the studio in the dark. These images burn in your memory and refuse to be overwritten.

When Suresh plummets in loneliness, he delivers flops. The studio replaces him, the fans abuse him, and his financial condition worsens. Soon, he starts to live like a beggar. This entire segment sends a harsh reminder that no matter how much you love your job, it won’t reciprocate your feelings with the same intensity. Eventually, the brightness fades, and you get lost in time. But the show goes on.