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Interviewing the people behind the Guru Dutt Exhibition

Guru Dutt Exhibition
The Guru Dutt Exhibition was held in Paris last autumn. The organizers behind it are Sally & François Picard. With the love of Indian Cinema and support from their entourage, they put together this exhibition, without having any 'filmi' connection. Here, they open themselves in an interview.
As a lover of Indian Cinema, this is your first exhibition in France to show case the world of Indian Cinema to the local French public. What inspired you to choose Guru Dutt?

S & F - The idea did not come from us. Last year in May, as we were staying in Bombay (we were the “heroes” of a shooting for French television about Indian cinema fans), an Indian friend filmmaker introduced us to Rashid Irani, a film reviewer at the Hindustan Times. After a long discussion which had nothing to do with our exhibition project, Rashid Irani himself unwillingly gave us the idea. He praised Guru Dutt’s films, particularly the scene of Pyaasa when the poet gives his coat to a beggar. We already loved these films, therefore we had some posters ready for something, somewhere. So Guru Dutt came to our mind for an exhibition.

 

 

Did you envisage meeting the family of the late Guru Dutt for discussing your ideas ? If yes, what are your impressions of your meeting?

S & F - We happened to learn through Nasreen Munni Kabir, Guru Dutt’s biographer, whom we had contacted, that we should ask permission from the family. We were given Arun Dutt’s e-mail and this is how we communicated. We had to send 2 or 3 e-mails to explain our project and convince him. He finally gave his OK after 3 months, but we never met him. We intended to meet him after the exhibition, while we were in Bombay last January but he could not come to Bombay and we had no time left to visit him in Pune. What a pity.

 

Your association with Nasreen Munni Kabir must have helped you for this project?

S - This association was essential as we felt we needed a safeguard. Nasreen is the one I first thought of as I read her books and watched her documentary about Guru Dutt. Moreover she was generous enough to write the English texts of our catalogue and I translated them to French. We usually called each other on Sundays (she was staying in London at that time) and sent e-mails back and forth.

 

François Picard

Did you plan to visit India for inspiration/ organization before the exhibition?

S & F - We already had Guru Dutt posters at home in Paris, but we took advantage of our stay in Bombay last May to find more posters and lobby cards in Chor Bazaar. As our posters sellers found new material in the Summer, it was brought to Paris by an Indian friend living here and visiting her family in Bombay in August 2008


How long did it take for your idea to realize into the actual exhibition?

S & F - The whole process started in May 2008 to end in September when the exhibition started.

 

How arduous was the task of organizing the exhibition ?

S & F - In May 2008, we already knew where the exhibition would take place. We happened to meet another India lover in 2007 who is the tenant of an ancient bookshop near the place Saint-Michel. From time to time he organizes an exhibition mostly about India. This is how we met him. When we suggested our exhibition he agreed.
We first choose the visual that we used for the invitation, catalogue, advertizing poster (from the
Baaz poster).
Advertizing in the press was the most difficult part as we had concentrated on the printed material and very few time was left. Nevertheless, as we are not professionnals in this matter, we took some advice... and the telephone and we got some articles in magazines.
Another arduous part was the framing of the posters and lobby cards, these manual tasks took some week-ends.

 

What were the obstacles that you encountered in putting together such an enormous body of work?

S - We make a complementary team. François is the printing specialist. He takes care of the priting material in all their stages. I am more for research, reading and writing. But we are both weak in publicizing. But we learnt the lessons from the first exhibition. Next time...

Sally Picard

A successful exhibition is a great reward in itself. Any thoughts?

S & F - What does “successful” mean ? For us, it is sharing our love for Indian cinema and to arouse curiosity for another world. Some visitors came several times after seeing Guru Dutt’s films at the Musée Guimet “Indian Summer” festival that took place at the same time (we made cross communication with the Musée Guimet). Indian visitors were all amazed that we did this exhibition which rendered them nostalgic about their childhood souvenirs (of watching Guru Dutt's films or listening to the songs from his films). Our Friends, who we had not seen for a long time, came to support us during the exhibition. All this was very rewarding and fulfilling.

 

We gather that your next project is to showcase the work of Raj Kapoor. When can we expect to see it in Paris?

S & F - Yes, we want to show case Raj Kapoor in Paris coming autumn, if we find the adequate exhibition hall. This hall is our present concern.

 

In addition to your interest for Indian Cinema, what are you other passions in life....

S & F - Well, Indian books, Indian television, Indian music, blogging about India, and preparing next exhibition, next trip to India...

 

What do you do to relax and rewind..

S & F - Listen to Oudh or watch Indian comedies like Om Shanti Om or Padosan, or go for a walk in Paris, have a lunch in a Thai or Vietnamese restaurant (not Indian !). We are very lucky because we have the same passion for India.

 

The Raj Kapoor exhibition slated for this autumn will trace the Showman's career and his landmark films through original posters, photos and programs. Update on the exhibition will be available through our bimonthly newsletter.

The Guru Dutt Expo Official website

Visit the blog of Sally & François

Interview of Sally & François by Fantastkindia- a French webzine

 

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Meeting a self-confessed Indophile

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Celebrating Indian Cinema in Paris