The review definitely acknowledges Guru Dutt’s attention to mise-en-scene (literally “placing on stage”)-- particularly his symbolic use of blocking, his conscious use of song, frame, and character expression. Before the review I had not considered Vijay’s potential responsibility for his own misfortune, the director’s intentions of portraying him as a victimized struggling artist were apparent to me. However, since the point has been raised, I am uncertain as to why Vijay is so, well, unfortunate. How he became homeless is a loss to me. In a flashback we see him attending classes, owning books, riding bikes with his college sweetheart, Meena. We later see the brothers discussing how much they spent on his education. Why was he not capable of finding a job and being a poet? I’m not sure being a poet is exactly a full-time job. Vijay’s present tense rejection from his family seems to be a result of his ‘disgraceful’ dependance on others, a result of his social status. We do see him try to make some money, working as a coolie for roughly thirty seconds. But generally I agree with the reviewer, we don’t see him making many strides to changing his current state. For Vijay being likened to Krishna, a God of erotic love, it’s surprising to see him so impotent in the face of his struggles. However, perhaps I am reading this wrong. He is impotent in the face of societal corruption, but is forever fruitful in his poetry-- and apparently in his wooing of women.
Speaking of the ladies, I felt their roles could have been further acknowledged in the review. Meena and Gulabo function as foils for one another. Both women are weak in the knees for Vijay, and both are in their respective ways prostitutes. Gulabo is a prostitute for a living, which we see as she attempts to seduce Vijay into her apartment until she realizes he’s broke. Meena’s ‘prostitution’, on the other hand, is less literal. Meena is a societal prostitute, who has sacrificed love for wealth and comfort. We see Vijay accuse her of this. Gulabo, however, ends up on the moral pedestal and arguably wins the viewers’ hearts because she sacrifices the little money she has to have Vijay’s poems published. Instead of asking for money in return for Vijay’s poems, she gives Mr. Ghosh all her possessions to simply secure their release. Gulabo embodies real love and we see her as a natural counterpart for Vijay-- both are manipulated by society in the name of wealth. In terms of Christian imagery, Gulabo is Vijay’s Mary Magdalene. Vijay saves her and they become companions, leading a message of love together.
Pyaasa is a story of desire, the title literally means “thirst”. We see characters battle with their desires- we see Vijay thirst for water and hunger for food, we see less honorable characters desire for wealth, but mostly we see characters thirst for love. And Vijay’s case, Vijay thirsts for love but also thirsts for a better society.This is the desire that is arguably harder to quench, which is perhaps why the closing scene of Gulabo and Vijay walking off together appears to be an infinite span of a flattened globe, with continents’ shapes and water laid at their feet. Perhaps they will be walking quite a while.