Amidst the several musical interludes, the film lyrically reflects on the gargantuan gap that separates the facile glamour of the silver screen and the material, spiritual and emotional poverty of everything else.
You wait, even wish for an emotional outburst, a torrid embrace, a crazed kiss, even an exchange of harsh insults, yet nothing happens. The director, presumably patterned by Bernal after legendary filmmaker Lamberto Avellana (director of well-regarded films like Anak Dalita (The Ruins, 1956), Badjao (1957) and Kundiman ng Lahi (Song of the Race, 1959)), becomes Bernal’s mouthpiece for his aches and hopes for Philippine cinema.
In Guru Dutt’s Kaagaz Ke Phool (Paper Flowers, 1959), a film director, played with piercing sensitivity by Dutt, sees his career flounder as the career of his muse, a beggar he discovers while shooting a scene in his adaptation of Devdas and subsequently grooms to become a very successful actress, blossoms.
The painful downfall of the director who at one time was celebrated by crowds of adoring fans after a very successful run of one of his films and at a later time is seen alone, walking the paved ways of his former studio in tattered rags, unrecognizable by his friends and peers, destroys the very core of these double lives that are forced to exist to suit the inflicted fantasies of working in cinema notwithstanding the need to endure the realities of living.
Bernal has made startlingly accurate observations, pertinent up to this day.
The dichotomy in Philippine cinema, as characterized by two existing and seemingly irreconcilable halves that form it (one half is a capitalist creature, more interested in profit-making than culture-creation; the other half is the problematic so-called independent film scene, where most of the interesting works hail from but is largely ignored by the populace), becomes the wellspring of his woes and frustrations.