That artists and writers don’t earn enough is social scandal that is centuries old. The film ‘Pyaasa’ takes inspiration from life histories of innumerable artists and writers who have died in penury to illustrate the point.
Produced and directed by Gurudutt, the movie also stars him as the protagonist. Vijay is a struggling poet who is trying to get social acceptance and recognition. His verses are considered useless by his 2 brothers and is sold off as waste. While Vijay’s mother argues the case of her youngest son and urges his elder brothers to take care of him, they are ruthless in their treatment and throw him out of the house.
Vijay rummages the shop of the old man who sells waste paper in search of his precious poems or ‘nagma’. The note books in which he had scribbled his poems have been bought by a prostitute, Gulabo, who sings the songs enchantingly. While sleeping in the park, Vijay listens to her songs and follows her. Gulabo, however, turns him away rudely, when she realises he is not a worthy customer.
She regrets this soon as she finds a few lines of his poetry that fell from his pocket and realizes that Vijay is the poet whose lines she had been singing all the while.
In the meanwhile, Vijay meets his ex-girl friend who is now married to a successful publisher, Mr. Ghosh. Ghosh hires the services of Vijay as a servant. At a party at Ghosh’s house, Vijay renders his poetry with elan and is well received by the public. Dejected at his fate, Vijay wanders aimlessly to the railway tracks where he gives his coat to an old beggar shivering in cold. The beggar is then run over by a train and it is believed that Vijay has been killed.
Mr. Ghosh in the meanwhile discovers the potential of Vijay’s poems from the note books that Gulabo gives him to preserve the memory of the great poet and publishes his works. His poems are a great hit and receive great public acclaim. A recuperating Vijay realises that his poems are a rage and asserts his identity. Influenced by Mr. Ghosh who does not want to share the profits, Vijay’s friends and family refuse to accept who he is.
Vijay then reaches a grand memorial service purportedly organized in his honor. Vijay is hurt by the hypocrisy of the society and in front of the whole crowd accepts that he is not ‘Vijay’, the poet.
He decides to start a new life with Gulabo, his only true friend and lover.
Hailed as a classic,the film though melodramatic strikes a chord with the audience even today. Though a few scenes look contrived,the film sends a powerful message across and forces the viewer to introspect upon the deteriorating values in the society.