I appreciated this review of Pyaasa for reaffirming certain thoughts that I had about the film, as well as for opening my eyes to some new ones. The symbolism involved in the use of constricted spaces is definitely something I noticed while watching. I also completely agree with the appropriateness of the ending, and Dutt “not taking the easy route out,” as the reviewer puts it (though I do feel that the option of the two endings described may be an over-simplification). While I, personally, would not be as hard on Johnny Walker's character, it is understandable how he can be seen as a diversion at some crucial points in the film. Perhaps all of these observations about the film are made even more interesting in the context of Guru Dutt's actual life, and the production of this film. Such insights are provided through the readings on eLC.
Vijay is certainly limited. His character feels constricted, both by developments within the plot as well as with camera angles and the use of space, as mentioned in the review. I like the reviewer's observation that Vijay does not make any of his own choices (until the end). The choices seem to be made for him, or he is the victim of misfortune. I had not thought of this while watching. On this front, it is very interesting to draw parallels between Vijay's character and Dutt's personal life. The film was shot and edited three or four times before the final version. Originally, there was even a different ending in which Vijay simply leaves without Gulab. This ending was received poorly by the film's distributors. Vijay's character, and everything about the way his world is filmed, could be interpreted to be Dutt's artistic expression of himself. In my opinion, this background makes Vijay, and the restricting symbolism, all the more poignant.
The appropriatness of the ending is described well in this review. I felt that the observation that “people are unable to recognize goodness or beauty if it comes humbly, but only if it comes wrapped in wealth and fame already” was a great reading of the film, and I would have been devastated if Vijay had embraced the wealth and fame. Like the reviewer said, “The only way to escape the bounds of the material world, in Pyaasa, is to disdain wealth and fame entirely.” That being said, I do not think that there were only the two possible endings described in the review. I was actually pretty worried about what was going to happen at the end, because it could have been much more depressing. Once again looking at the film from a production standpoint, Guru's brother says that the ending of Pyaasa was changed. Vijay originally finished talking to Meena and just walked away alone. That means without Gulabo! I cannot imagine this. Gulabo seems to be the perfect embodiment of the rejection of the wealth and fame, and she seems necessary to portray this rejection. If Vijay had just walked away, I feel that it would have been a more lost and apathetic Vijay, rather than a man consciously rejecting the fame and wealth. I make this point to highlight the importance of Gulabo's presence. She puts meaning behind Vijay's renunciation of the fame and fortune.
The reviewer's critique of Sattar's character is definitely understandable. He does often seem out of place and silly. If I were to defend him, it would only be because I enjoyed his presence so much because he is so funny! Johnny Walker, the comedian who played Sattar, was actually originally recruited for the role of Vijay's false friend, who is willing to take payment to pretend he does not know Vijay. Director Dutt had to change this, literally because he thought that audiences would not respond well to their favorite comedian in such a negative role. This would definitely explain why Sattar sometimes felt so unnecessary.
This was an enjoyable and insightful review of an excellent film. For me, it is pretty fascinating to draw parallels between the film and everything that went into creating it. Yet, I also feel the need to note the limitations of doing so. It would be unfair to analyze Vijay's every move and attribute it to something about Guru Dutt. Still, further reading on the man's life certainly makes the story resonate.