Guddi was a many-splendoured thing. People say that about a lot of things these days, ‘Oh it was ahead of its time.’ But with Hrishikesh Mukherjee directorial Guddi (1971), you can make that claim with confidence.
Much before we were introduced to the filmy self-referential device of ‘fourth wall breaking’ (which has been abused several times since Deadpool and Fleabag’s success), Mukherjee did something similar with Guddi. He made a movie about movies — the glamorous world of Bollywood and what it entailed, including tackling important subjects like the influence of the celebrity culture and fandom, phrases that are thrown about casually in present day and age.
For those not familiar, Jaya Bachchan (then Jaya Bhaduri) made her film debut with Guddi. At 22, Jaya wonderfully pulled off her part as a naïve 16-year-old schoolgirl who was madly in love with her screen idol Dharmendra, who appeared in the feature, as, well, Dharmendra. Things take a dramatic turn when Utpal Dutt’s character, Professor Gupta, takes it upon himself to teach a lesson to Jaya’s Guddi about the make-believe world of cinema. Gupta reaches out to reigning film star Dharmendra through a mutual friend and conspires with him to pull back the curtain of this dreamworld from Guddi’s eyes.
What follows is a well-written, ably directed narrative of showbiz and its traps. In one memorable sequence, Guddi visits a film set and is explained (and pretty much sees for herself) how many movies are shot on constructed film sets, and that stars do not participate in fight scenes themselves, but hire stunt persons to do their job. The ones where they actually participate, they feign the fight and no one really gets wounded.
A school-going Guddi is disheartened. Does that mean the person she thinks she loves is not really Dharmendra? Is nothing true, or sacred? Poor Guddi learns this the hard way. And while there are many such parts to appreciate about the movie, the one scene which has stayed with me since I last watched Guddi a few years ago is when she first encounters Dharmendra. The gorgeous Dharmendra makes the otherwise chatty Guddi forget that she is capable of speech. She blushes furiously and then proceeds to ask for his autograph. Dharmendra is not obviously shy, he in turn questions her about the titles she has watched.
In one of his tweets, the veteran actor had spoken of the film’s intention and impact: “We made Guddi, to (make) aware school girls and boys that film world is all false. Don’t get carried away. But in vain. I still say there is a big difference between craze and love…”
Here’s an interesting trivia about Jaya Bachchan and Guddi. The actor had a huge crush on Dharmendra, in real life. It is said that when Dharmendra first entered the sets of Guddi, Jaya had apparently hid behind the couch as she was too nervous to face the star. Years later, Jaya Bachchan confirmed as much during a media interaction for Sholay reunion. When asked about collaborating with Dharmendra, Jaya admitted, “He was the only hero whose photograph I kept as a child.”
But Dharmendra was not the only superstar to have featured in Guddi, the film also had a number of guest stars making cameos as they rushed in and out of camera. In a chat with journalist Subhash K Jha, Hrishikesh Mukherjee had joked, “Guddi was my only multi-starrer film.”
Guddi is available to stream on YouTube and Amazon Prime Video.