It has been 50 years since the doe-eyed Guddi (played by a Jaya bachchan) arrived on a movie set to meet her hunky idol (the He-Man Dharmendra, playing himself). Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s 1971 film with the message that “all that glitters is not gold” remains as relevant today to his harsh take on life when the arc lights are out and the carpets are turned off. red are coiled.
Guddi is a star struck girl who admires Dharmendra to the point that she refuses the marriage proposal of the boy next door Navin (Samit Bhanja). She says she dedicated her love and her life to the actor, just as Meera gave up all the things in the world for Giridhar. That’s when his uncle (Utpal Dutt) decides to show him the reality of the glamorous world. Through his multiple visits to film sets, Guddi (Jaya) realizes how wrong everything on screen is. By moving away from the imaginary world, she connects to her reality and to the people around her.
What’s interesting is how the director, via Dharmendra, represents the truth of Bollywood. Before Guddi visits sets for the first time, there is a sequence where Utpal Dutt talks to Dharmendra about everyone’s contribution to the set of a movie. An actor receives a script from the screenwriter, a cameraman highlights it, and a director tells him how to act, but only he who is in front of the camera earns the name and fame. It is sad but also true that even in 2021 the situation is a bit similar. Even though the definition of fame changes with the influences of social media, 360-degree coverage and the advent of OTT, the cult of fame has been shaken but barely destroyed. Obviously, some things have not changed in the Hindi film industry even in 50 years.
In another sequence, Dharmendra takes Guddi to the filming of a scene starring Om Prakash. Speaking of food, a worker loses consciousness. Dharmendra orders the people on the set to take her to the hospital. Soon Om Prakash subtly talks about the disparity in the workplace. He hints that while the stars take a lot out of it, the people who help them barely survive.
In another scene, Pran’s body double is injured during an action sequence. Navin said to worried Guddi: “It would be cut from the film. It will not be shown. Both scenes provide a startling glimpse into what lies behind making a movie and how people at the bottom of the ladder are exploited and overworked.
The film also stars Asrani as Kundan. A struggling actor who has been dazzled by the twinkling lights of the film industry, his character arc shows just how much disappointment and heartache there is at the end of a Bollywood trip. As the film nears its climax, we also see Dharmendra taking Guddi to a ruined film set. He remembers Bimal Roy and a few iconic films shot on sets, but just like the site, the filmmaker and the films are forgotten and are a thing of the past. Dharmendra also mentions how the lives of stars remain popular until such time as they are successful. He states that once a hero or heroine is out of the spotlight, no one remembers them.
We also get to know the truth about the life of a reporter or photographer by watching the film. In one footage, when Dharmendra cuts a reporter off for repeatedly asking for his photo, the reporter replies that he has a family to look after. He adds that people in the media care more about cinemastars because they want to make money. He says that if there is no fat face on the front page of a newspaper or magazine, it will not be chosen and read.
Likewise, there are several other instances that make viewers find the real heroes rather than investing in people performing for the camera. In a country still obsessed with its stars, it is perhaps the film which is still essential today for its bombs of truth.