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Upperstall Review


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Hindi, Drama, 1965, Color

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Raju (Dev Anand), once a successful tourist guide, hesitates to return to his hometown of Udaipur after his release from jail and decides to search for his fortunes elsewhere. He ends up in a remote village temple wearing over his threadbare clothes a saffron scarf which had once belonged to some passing mendicant, and finds himself suddenly elevated to the position of a holy man. Six months pass; Raju's mother (Leela Chitnis) and Rosie, a dancer and Raju's lover (Waheeda Rehman), arrive at the jail to take him home but are told he was let off six months earlier. Rosie takes Raju's mother home and relates her own side of the story. She was the daughter of a professional temple dancer who, in an attempt to give her a respectable existence, married her off to a middle-aged archeologist, Marco (Kishore Sahu), who not only had no time for her but also forced her to leave dancing as it was not considered a respectable pastime. On an excavation, they took Raju as their guide and while Marco spent his days and nights at an excavation site, drinking and whoring, the rebellious and neglected Rosie tried to commit suicide. She was saved by Raju, in love with her by now, and encouraged by him to leave Marco and lead a life of her own. Rosie left Marco and and came to live with Raju. Naturally tongues wagged at the sanctity of their 'live-in' relationship and soon Raju was abandoned by all his friends and even his mother. Neglecting his own career, Raju groomed Rosie to become a professional dancer. Soon Rosie became the rage of the country as Nalini and Raju suddenly found himself a rich man, but their personal relationship started to deteriorate when he took to drinking and gambling with this new found wealth. When Marco tried to reenter Rosie's life, Raju forged Rosie's signature in an attempt to keep him away from her. Meanwhile, failing to revive the relationship they used to share, Raju left Rosie and went back home. However Raju's forgery was discovered and he was arrested. Though she initially misunderstood his motives, Rosie met him in jail and promised to wait for him. Back to the present. Raju now has got accustomed to being a holy man, but in that role he has actually helped the village to acquire its own school, hospital and postal service. One day he tells the villagers a story his mother had told him long ago of another holy man who had kept a fast for twelve days to bring rain to a parched land. Unfortunately, before the story is forgotten, drought hits the village. The villagers beg him to fast for them. For Raju the playacting becomes the reality. He starts believing that this is a task assigned to him by god. Raju's mother and Rosie reach there and watch helplessly as Raju slowly drifts towards death due to the fasting. The rains come at last, and while the villagers dance wildly outside, Raju dies of starvation....

Guide is one of the most remarkable films of Indian Cinema and truly a film that was ahead of its times. Based on RK Narayan's novel The Guide, the film is immortalized by Director Vijay Anand's bold, unconventional strokes;who would have dared to show a man and woman living together outside the sanctity of a marriage way back in the 1960s? And that too in a milieu as traditional as that of Hindi cinema which doesn't allow nonconformist relationships even today! In fact, it is one of the earliest efforts in Indian Cinema to actually show its two leading characters as frail human beings who could make mistakes in life, sin and yet be unapologetic about it. Consequently Dev Anand, who also produced the film, was advised by all and sundry not to touch this project with a bargepole but it speaks volumes of his conviction towards the subject matter that not only did he get a film made on it but a film that remains one of the landmark films of Indian Cinema.

Guide was made in two versions - an English version in collaboration with Pearl S Buck and directed by Ted Danielewski to introduce Dev Anand to western audiences and of course the Hindi version directed by Dev Anand's younger brother, Vijay Anand. Initially Vijay was dead against directing this film causing Anand to approach elder brother Chetan Anand who was busy with his own film, Haqeeqat (1964) and then Raj Khosla but things didn't work out here either. Vijay Anand was approached again and this time he took on the film, albeit reluctantly. Ironic because Guide today is regarded as perhaps the best film that Vijay Anand had made and rightly so.

The film, alive with its riot of colours, works best as it looks at the development of the relationship between Raju and Rosie. Raju's courage and compassion, and the hypocrisy of 'respectable' society's attitude toward 'public women' are powerfully portrayed, as is the chemistry between him and Rosie aided by tender, poignant moments and superb dialogues. However their later falling out, at the height of Rosie's success, is rendered more sketchily -- the film implies (in contradiction to its earlier message), that worldly success inevitably corrupts and that career women must indeed construct (in Rosie's words) 'a sort of fortress around the heart.'

The film is enhanced richly by the two central performances. Dev Anand gives perhaps his best shaded performance in the title role, playing him perfectly with just the right amount of grey and his perfectly nuanced performance won him his second Filmfare Award for Best Actor. Good as Dev Anand is, however, the life and soul of Guide is undoubtedly Waheeda Rehman. It was a daring role to play in those times, of a woman who leaves her stifling impotent husband and lives with her lover, a guide who helps her in her ambitions to become a famous dancer. Waheeda was in fact told she was committing professional suicide taking on this role. However it is to her credit that she was more than able to humanize Rosie to get the viewer's sympathy with her rather than against her. Whether breaking the metamorphic pot of social constraints or dancing precariously over a ledge in keeping with her dangerous new desires, Waheeda Rehman is outstanding in the film with her portrayal of an adulterous, career-minded, strong woman. Never has she looked, acted or danced better! Though RK Narayan disowned the film, he had no complaints with Waheeda's performance as Rosie. She too won the Filmfare Award for Best Actress for Guide. However, after Guide, Waheeda's career graph was strange to say the least. Her commercial successes Ram Aur Shyam (1967) and Patthar ke Sanam (1967) hardly challenged her histrionic ability and the films that did so - Teesri Kasam (1966), Khamoshi (1969) and Reshma Aur Shera (1971) bombed at the box-office in spite of some of her best work as an actress. Dev Anand and Waheeda are supported perfectly by the supporting cast, particularly Kishore Sahu and Leela Chitnis.

The other highlight of Guide is its phenomenal musical score by SD Burman. The film represents perhaps Burman Dada's greatest work and he is aided tremendously by Shailendra's lyrics and the flawless rendering of the songs by Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar and himself. Each and every song be it Aaj Phir Jeene ki Tamanna Hai, Tere Mere Sapne Ab Ek Rang Hai, Din Dhal Jaye, Gaata Rahe Mera Dil, Piya Tose Naina Lage Re, Mujhse Chhal Kiye Ja and Kya se Kya Ho Gaya (a rare case of two songs back to back), Allah Megh De and Wahan Kaun Hai Tera is perfectly written, composed and sung. It is indeed shocking that Burman Dada lost out on the Filmfare Award to Shankar-Jaikishen for their populist score in Suraj (1966), which great as it was, came nowhere near to Guide's scintillating musical score. Guide also sees Vijay Anand at his peak and more than reinforces his reputation as Indian Cinema's premier song picturizer. Special mention must be made of Aaj Phir Jeene ki Tamanna Hai (The famous low angle tracking shot of Waheeda dancing along the ledge of the temple continues to amaze one even today) and Tere Mere Sapne which he canned in just 3 shots with complex character and camera movements - truly a great filmmaker at the heights of his craft. The film is brilliantly photographed in Pathe Colour (the English version was filmed in Eastman Colour) by Fali Mistry and processed abroad which has helped the print retain its vibrant colours even today. And special mention must be made of Hiralal's choreography resulting in some of the most famous dance numbers of Hindi films.

Initially, Guide had a tough time being sold because of its so called bold theme but thanks to Production Controller Yash Johar's perseverance, the film was finally sold and released to great critical acclaim and was a big commercial success as well even though, as mentioned, RK Narayan was most unhappy with the final film as he felt it deviated too much from his novel. One of the major changes that Vijay Anand did was to change the setting of the film from Malgudi to Udaipur and while this did give the film an exotic, grand visual look, admittedly perhaps this took away from the ambiance of the small town of Narayan's novel. The ending too of the film was significantly different from that of the novel. But then Vijay Anand has always maintained that he was never interested in merely copying any work of art from one medium to another unless there was scope for value addition and to be fair to him, he has made Guide into a rich and unforgettable cinematic experience. The English version said to be closer to the novel and in spite of a nude scene using a duplicate instead of Waheeda Rehman, flopped miserably but the Hindi version remains a classic to this day. Need one say more?

Upperstall review by: Karan Bali aka TheThirdMan

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