Guide – A Mortal Man Became An Immortal Institution
Guide starts with a dashing Dev Anand (Raju) walking out of jail in the outskirts of Udaipur.
Cast: Dev Anand, Waheeda Rehman, Kishore Sahu, Ulhas, Mridula Rani, K N Singh
Director: Vijay Anand
“He held destiny’s finger and walked the path chosen for him. He, a mortal man became an immortal institution.” ~ Guide
After being soul starved for some good cinema in the last couple of months, I decided to ditch the video store and browse through my own rather modest collection of movies.
As I juggled between a cup of coffee, my phone and a bunch of DVD cases, my gaze fell on a half hidden DVD cover sticking out, revealing just a peek of Waheeda Rehman’s flawless face. I pulled it out and there she was, resting her head on Dev Anand’s shoulder with the word Guide written on top of the cover.
“Guide” I remembered loving this movie as a teen, humming its songs and asking my parents stories about its making etc… Forgetting everything else I decided to rediscover my old love once again.
Guide is based on R.K. Narayan’s book – The Guide and follows more or less the same story. Needless to say it was a story much ahead of its time, even considered “bold” for its different portrayal of the Indian woman and man, love, sex and marriage. Even though it’s inherently the journey of a man, this movie has many more complex and fascinating layers.
The film starts with a dashing Dev Anand (Raju) walking out of jail in the outskirts of Udaipur. This clearly establishes the wonderful quality of writing that we will experience throughout the entire movie. When most heroes were giving grand entrees in other films, our hero simply walks out of a jail without any fan fare. He looks tired but has a glimmer of hope and relief in his eyes.
Right at the beginning of the movie we are presented with the first dilemma as he stands at crossroads as to whether he should go back to his village and face the stigma of being a thief or just simply walk away. At this point we have no idea as to why and how he became a thief and it adds to the intrigue.
Through flashbacks we become aware of Raju’s past. He was once a much sought after guide whose life changes after meeting Rosie (Waheeda Rehman) a born dancer who is married to an aged archeologist. The contrast between Rosie and Marco is depicted beautifully.
Rosie is bubbling with life and Marco seeks out long dead relics of the past. Rosie is music, laughter and Marco is books and silence. They have nothing in common except complaints and bitterness. Adding to this is his hatred for dance.
Through the course of the story Raju sees a transformation in Rosie as he spends more and more time with her. In his words she transforms from a “40 saal ki aurat” to a “16 saal ki nadaan ladki, masoom shararaton se bhari huyi”.
And this is probably also the point when Raju starts falling in love with Rosie. He sees her dancing, singing, laughing. The words “Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai” depict Rosie’s dreams for living a full happy life. The immortal music of Sachin da brings alive her emotions and takes you right inside the heart of the story.
Eventually Rosie moves into Raju’s home after leaving her husband, much to the shock and disapproval of Raju’s mother and the villagers. Society doesn’t accept their relationship. His trusted friends turn into foes and when his mother leaves him, all he is left with is his love for Rosie and Rosie herself.
We see them living together and it’s a very bold step to show considering its a Hindi film. The beauty of it is that it’s never clearly shown whether they have consummated their relationship or not. What happens between them behind closed doors stays that way. They are together and that’s what matters.
But things don’t stay the same. Once Rosie becomes an accomplished stage dancer, money and power commercialize Raju and in his bid to control Rosie he makes mistakes which land him in jail.
Destiny takes Raju on a new route when a group of villagers start seeing him as a holy man and believe that if he would keep a fast without food or water for 12 days, a long destructive drought would end.
The journey is complete. A tour guide becomes a spiritual guide.
Guide was released in 1965 but it’s not just a film for that particular era. It’s a timeless story. The story of how a simple man went on to do great things. The characters in Guide are all flawed but yet so beautiful.
Rosie isn’t completely modern and bold but neither does she conform to fit the role of an ideal “bhartiya naari”. She wants career, ambition and she also needs love and family. She wants everything in life. Don’t we all? It doesn’t make her bad. It makes her real.
And Raju isn’t perfect either. Even though he is a knight in shining armor for Rosie, he is also a selfish man. When he wanted Rosie he was willing to leave his widowed mother and when Rosie becomes cold towards him he tries to control her.
But then this very same selfish man risks his life to uphold the faith of dying villagers. He becomes more than a man. He becomes a thought. An idea of faith. An institution of greatness. This is when a human being becomes immortal.
The fantastic screenplay, direction and music adds to the experience of watching this evergreen movie. The dialogues are haunting yet subtle in their language.
A perfect example is when Raju is asked by a villager as to where he has come from and where will his journey end, Raju replies, “Aana jaana hamesha apne haath mein thodi hota hai dost. Insaan sochta hai main udhar chaloon, kismat kaan pakad ke idhar le jaati hai. Sochta hai idhar chaloon, naak pakad ke udhar ghaseet leti hai. Tung aakar maine kismat ko apne paas bulaya aur poocha, bata tu chahti kya hai. Kehne lagi, manmaani chhodo, meri ungli pakad ke chalo. Theek hai maine bhi kaha, tathastu!”
(“Our journey is not in our hands. You think you should go this way, destiny holds you by the ear and takes you the other way. You think you should go that way, destiny pulls you by the nose and drags you in the opposite direction. Fed up, I called destiny near and asked, ‘Tell me, what do you want.’ Destiny said, ‘Keep your whims aside. Hold my finger and walk with me’. ‘All right,’ I said, ‘So be it!’”)
For me these lines sum up everything about this evergreen movie and maybe even about life itself!
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Editor’s Note: Guide achieved the unique distinction of having all its songs become chart-toppers. SD Burman’s classic compositions in Guide rank among his evergreen hits to this day.
R K Narayan’s award-winning novel Guide became the subject matter of a movie that made film history. The film Guide has since been studied and discussed in several books on cinema.
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