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Dinesh Raheja

Studied artificiality was at its height where heroines were concerned in the late 1960s. Beehive bouffants and out-there eyeliner were the norm of the day.

Fresh-faced, scrubbed-clean Jaya Bhaduri was a gale of fresh air when she appeared on the scene in the 1970s. Her first film Guddi (1971) was courageously built around this persona. And as a film, refreshingly reflected her endearing unpretentiousness.

Producer Director Music Director Stars
 NC Sippy  Hrishikesh Mukherjee  Vasant Desai  Jaya Bhaduri, Dharmendra, Samit
Small-scale but dexterously crafted, Guddi is a gentle coming-of-age fable about a young, full-of-beans girl's rites of passage to mellow adulthood. It encompasses its starstruck protagonist's startling realisation that even glamorous male movie stars are but hard working human beings leading rather banal, mundane lives.

Guddi is that rare film on the film world. And a thumping box office success. In the film the Mumbai film world seems to have an inexhaustible lode of intrinsically decent and eccentrically delightful characters. There seems to be practically no seamy side to Bollywood in this Alice In Wonderland parable.

Perhaps that's where its appeal partly lies. This sunny, deeply humane family film still manages to deliver a mighty emotional wallop.

The teacup-sized Kusum aka Guddi (Jaya Bahduri) is a sparkly-eyed schoolgirl on the cusp of childhood and adulthood. A prankster, she is seeped in film culture (Mala Sinha bhi pehenti hai [Mala Sinha also wears this], she says when she wants to wear a frock) and wears constellations in her eyes about her favourite actor, Dharmendra.

Born in a well-to-do family, Guddi has a benign bhabhi [sister-in-law] (Sumita Sanyal) as a mother figure. Guddi is shown to be sensitive enough to want to study hard in school so that her bhabhi is not blamed for not taking care of her.

Bhabhi takes Guddi to Mumbai for the holidays to stay with her mamaji [mother's brother], (Utpal Dutt) a Professor Of Experimental Psychology. When bhabhi fixes up Guddi's match with her engineer brother Navin (newcomer Samit), Guddi grimaces.

Hrishikesh Mukherji and co-writer Gulzar take care to underline the cultural imperialism of films by making Guddi mouth some delightfully filmi lines. When her bhabhi's matchmaking comes to light she runs to the terrace and tells Navin Yeh shaadi nahin ho sakti. When he asks for an explanation she pleads Mujhe majboor mat karo. Finally, she reveals that she is in love with film star Dharmendra.

Here, the professor decides to take matters in hand. Through his connections, he meets Dharmendra, puts forward his case and asks the reluctant actor to help his starstruck bhaanji [niece]. The twosome now plot and plan to get Guddi to see the behind-the-scenes sweat and grime of a whole lot of people that go into forming the make-believe world of films.

After a series of visits to the studios with Navin in tow, Guddi is shorn of her illusions as she gets a reality check on films and film people. A villain in films (Pran) may be a nice guy in real life; an onscreen miser (Om Prakash) may be totally different in person. Meanwhile, Dharmendra too sportingly does his bit to build up Navin in her eyes --- including losing to him in tennis and taking a beating from Navin to prove his chivalry.

In her own sweet way, Guddi finally wakes up to the fact that she is in love with Navin, after all.

It may sometimes feel sugary, but this tale is so winning because Guddi's character is an everygirl whose dilemmas are accessible to most. As an insider, Mukherhji also handles with pathos the depiction of the wasted lives of a struggler chasing a mirage. Asrani plays Guddi's friend's brother who runs away to be a hero but ends up an extra. Dharmendra's speech about the impermanence of film while standing in front of a burnt shell of a studio is also potent.

Mukherji got several stars like Dilip Kumar, Mala Sinha, Biswajeet, Navin Nischol, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan and Vimmi to put in special appearances, showing them hard at work in the studios.

Dharmendra in a fair-sized role is a true sport --- the kind of star you believe would take so much trouble over a fan.

Despite the big names, the film's main character is more than capable of shouldering the film. Jaya fits right into the rhythms of her character. When she fires up that smile, she looks every inch a wet-behind-the-ears schoolgirl. It is hard to think of any other actress in this part.


* Amitabh Bachchan was to play Jaya's first hero originally but Hrishikesh Mukherji wanted a totally new face to play Navin's role. After Amitabh became famous in Mukherji's own Anand, the director decided against casting him.

* Jaya Bhaduri was studying at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, when Hrishikesh Mukherji saw her diploma films. He called her to the principal's office and offered her the title role. Jaya had done a role in Satyajit Ray's Mahanagar. On Jaya's first day of shooting with Dharmendra, he came up to her and asked, "You are the heroine of the film? Tumhari umar kya hai [How old are you?]"

The Music:
Famous songs from Guddi:
  Song  Singers
  Humko man ki shakti dena
 Vani Jairam
  Bol re paphihara  Vani Jairam

* This was veteran Rajkamal composer Vasant Desai's last major hit. In keeping with the backdrop, some old fiilm songs were used like Tujhe jeevan ki dor se from Mukherji's Asli Naqli and Aa ja re from Madhumati which was made by Mukherji's mentor Bimal Roy. They added a piquant flavour to the film.

* Desai's compositions like Hum ko man ki shakti dena and Bole re papihara was much appreciated. They brought singer Vani Jairam to the fore.

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