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Copyright 2004

ARCHIVES - INDIAN CINEMA

Classics

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Guide: Etched in memory

"Guide" is one of the wonderful classics ever made in Hindi. Released in 1965, it remains etched in my memory after all these years. I still remember most of the frames, most of the dialogues and certainly all the songs.

Why?

"Guide" has a great story. Adapted from an excellent novel, written in English by R. K. Narayan, the film hardly deviates from the text, although the author is said to have objected to one thematic variation.

But to me that hardly matters, because the screen narrative remains gripping, despite the change. Raju is a tourist guide, whose gift of the gab enthralls just about everybody who visits his town. Rosie, too.

She is eventually drawn to him when she finds her archaeologist husband, Marco, in love with the stone and the sculptures in the caves he discovers. In a dramatic scene when she confronts him in a cave and screams that she wants to live unlike the rock figures, Rosie and Marco find the chasm too wide to bridge.

Raju helps Rosie become a dancer, a dream that a tyrannical Marco had kept crushing. But the path of love seldom runs smooth. The riches that she acquires as an artist pushes Raju into a life of vices, and when he, in a moment of sheer weakness, forges her signature on a cheque, it signals the end of a beautiful relationship.

When Raju finally comes out of jail, he is mistaken to be a holy man in a drought-stricken village. Forced to starve for 12 days in the belief that this would bring rain, he transcends to another level.

"Guide" can be an enriching experience: it gives us a taste of colonialism, of capitalism and, ultimately, religious faith. Peppered with brilliant songs - "Tere mere sapne ab ek rang hai" and "Din dal jai" - the movie was crafted with feeling by Vijay Anand, who shaped his elder brother Dev Anand's celluloid personality and made some of the banner's (Navketan) best pictures like "Tere Ghar Ke Saamne", "Jewel Thief" and "Tere Mere Sapne" (based on A. J. Cronin's "The Citadel").

Dev Anand, who plays Raju, probably gave his career's best performance as the smooth-talking guide, who faces disappointment and tragedy with remarkable grace. Dev's later works suffered from an excessive mannerism that made one role indistinguishable from another.

Waheeda Rehman as Rosie may not have been as hauntingly beautiful or powerful as in some of Guru Dutt's films ("Pyaasa", "Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam"), but, nonetheless, she makes a splendid contribution in "Guide". Her extraordinary ability to emote, her greatness as a dancer and her presence made her an unforgettable actress.

If some of you have not seen "Guide", well, it is time you did.

(This story/review appeared in The Hindu dated July 2000)



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