Dutt wanted someone else to take the role for two reasons. One, he thought himself not to be good enough, simply put. And two, he wanted to focus all his attention on directing the film. He was very keen on taking Dilip Kumar, who was at the top of the industry at the time and would have played out the character beautifully, without a doubt. This despite the fact that a considerable length of the film had already been shot with him in the lead.
Such a perfectionist was he, that he made no compromises on the quality of his films. The story as narrated to Dilip Saab who argued that Gulabo’s role shouldn’t be so important, the heroine’s should be. Of course, he wanted Madhubala to play the heroine instead of Mala Sinha, who eventually played the role.
Dilip Kumar argued quite a bit with Abrar Alvi, the scriptwriter, but Alvi wouldn’t hear of it, and Kumar had to give in.
Although Dilip Kumar agreed to play the hero, he never turned up on the sets on the day the shoot was to begin. No one knows why, till date.
Pyaasa was also the last time the famous duo S.D Burman and Sahir Ludhianvi worked together.