RAJU, THE GUIDE

On 26th September was born Dev Anand. The thought that gives me immense joy is that my son shares his birthday with my favourire Dev Saab, the evergreen Funtoosh, the Guide and the star of Indian cinema. Needless to say I am a staunch Dev Anand camp follower. There was time I adopted his hair style, his flamboyance and mannerisms. SD Burman was my favourite music composer. My filmgoing partner and my best friend was a hard core Shammi Kapoor fan. Shammi Kapoor was my very close second favourite actor. I never fought with my friend over the superiority of one over the other. We have seen most of Dev Anand's and Shammi Kapoor's films together.

Here let me confine to Dev Anand.

I have seen all his films, except the last few he produced, directed, and acted. The last few films he made were so bad, I doubt if Dev Anand himself had seen them. Still I salute him for his conviction on his abilities and enterprise. In the preface of his book Romancing with life, Dev Anand writes, “On the one hand it is quite easy (to write about your own life), because unlike fiction, in which you have to invent characters, create situations and incidents, and concoct a believable narrative, the story of your life has already been played out in front of your eyes, and you are intimate with its every detail. All you have to do is to open the window of your memory, and let the story run past, spool after spool - spicing it up a bit here and there, deleting bits that are unnecessary, and making it play to a rhythm that grips the reader, absorbs and inspires him throughout its unfolding.”

His repertoire of films is too large, I am confining to the film Guide, made more than 50 years ago.

As if Guide was made for Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman. Perhaps RK Narayan would be unhappy to hear this. The film was made more than 50 years ago, but doesn't look dated. The film was made under the banner of Navketan Films, and was directed and edited by Vijay Anand. Film's screenplay was also written by Vijay Anand. SD Burman was the music director of the film. Its lyrics were penned by Shailendra. Fali Mistry was the cinematographer. Its cast include Dev Anand, Waheeda Rehman, Kishore Sahu, Anwar Hussain, Leela Chitnis, Jagirdar, Rashid Khan, and many others.

The film is based on RK Narayan's most famous novel, The Guide. Narayan wrote the novel in the mid-sixties. He has described the circumstances that led him to write The Guide: “A recent situation in Mysore afforded the setting for such a story. A severe drought had dried up all the rivers and tanks; Krishnaraja Sagar, an enormous reservoir feeding channels that irrigated thousands of acres, had also become dry. As a desperate measure, the municipal council organized a prayer for rains. A group of Brahmins stood knee-deep in water (procured at great cost) on the dry bed of Kaveri, fasted, prayed, and chanted certain mantras continuously for eleven days. On the twelfth day, it rained and brought relief to the country side. During my travels in America, the idea crystallized in my mind. I stopped in Berkeley for three months, took a hotel room and wrote my novel.” 

The central characters of the story are Raju - The Guide (played by Dev Anand), Rosie - The Dancer (Waheeda Rehman), Marco - The archaeologist (Kishore Sahu). The story is about ambitions, insecurities and jealousies. Rosie, a suppressed wife, walks out on her husband. Rosie longed for affection and care from her husband, but the differences in their wave-length causes discontent in their relationship. She becomes a celebrated dancer with the help and support of Raju. Raju is a “sentimental adulterer, a dancing girl's manager, a swindler, a jail-bird and a martyred mystic.” Rosie, Marco's wife, abandoned by Marco, realizes with Raju's help, her ambition of becoming a dancer. Rosie's success in the show world swells Raju's head. He turns to an easy life, gambles away her newfound wealth, and lands up in jail. When Raju comes out of prison, he is mistaken for a godman. His fake new life faces a challenge. The villagers, thinking him to be a godman, believe he can bring the rains by praying and fasting. How can a fake saint let down the thousands of people who have faith in him! Raju risks his life and goes on fast. Referring to the fasting ritual by Raju to appease rain-god, Narayan writes: “He felt suddenly so enthusiastic that it gave him a new strength to go through with the ordeal.” The rains come, just as the man breaths his last.

One might ask - Was Raju a saint, or a fake?

Raju was a reluctant Guru. He was not comfortable with the role people had foisted on him, but he could not entirely shake it off. Raju was trapped into sainthood. Some, however, think Raju was fake as he accepted sainthood when thrust upon him. Raju was a transformed man in the end. He understood that he could not correct the villagers' misconception about him. They thought, as a true saint he can bring rain through his genuine fast. He might have thought, it was better and nobler to die a martyr than live an ignoble life, despised by others.

RK Narayan's The Guide is not about social conflict, nor about philosophical confrontation. Its dimensions are ethical, presented in a subtle way. Life is “neither all white nor all black but the grey, twilight world of contemporary life quivering hesitatingly between tradition and modernity, East and West, inextricably mixed up in the minds of individuals ...” Narayan does not try to glorify the superstitious rituals. Similarly he does not deny the existence of a strong strain of faith among the villagers in the native rituals.

Vijay Anand, the director of the film Guide, was the commander of the ship in every sense of the word. He was given to direct the film after Chetan Anand and Raj Khosla could not be brought into the film as directors. Thanks to Priya Rajvansh (Chetan Anand wanted Priya Rajvansh to play Rosie and that was totally unacceptable to Dev Anand) and Waheeda Rehman (she did not want to work with Raj Khosla as her experience of working with Raj Khosla in CID was not that good) that the film landed ultimately into the lap of Vijay Anand. I can't imagine anyone except Vijay Anand handling the film with such subtlety, finesse, maturity and flair.

Song picturisation is the high point of the film. Imagine the breathtaking dances of Waheeda Rehman and you are in the seventh heaven. One can see in the songs and dances the conviction of a director in the characters he is bringing on the screen. “On the silver screen, Waheeda Rehman the actress, effectively conveys her character's repressed energy and desires through her many breathtaking dances. She's subtle as ever, and her expressive eyes flash fire as well as frighteningly cold rage.” In the film when Rosie lets herself a go, I am talking of song picturisation of 'Kaanton se kheench ke yeh aanchal', it looks so spontaneous and smooth. In the song, Vijay Anand has beautifully shown Rosie breaking all conventions, metaphorically, riding in a truck trolley and breaking a pot.

Vijay Anand had to face tremendous hardship in bringing out the spontaneity, youth and vigour in the character of Rosie played by Waheeda Rehman. This is how Raju Bharatan described it in his book, A Journey Down Memory Lane, “To quote Goldie (Vijay Anand): Dada (Burman) had the Kaanton se kheench ke yeh aanchal tune going exactly as I had pictured it before Shailendra came to put it in the words for Lata Mangeshkar to render the number with all the delicate vocal shadings I wanted. My dilemma simply was how to get Waheeda going. Time and again, I had to impress upon

her that she must be viewed as totally breaking her mental shackles. Waheeda, after some eight years in films, was still so full of typical Indian reserve that I had a hard time getting her to feel totally carefree – in tune with Rosie's temperament in Guide. I had to reemphasize to Waheeda how I needed Rosie to shed all misgivings for her to take off with Dev, astride that truck, lip-synching Kaanton se kheench ke yeh aanchal. Finally we managed, but only I know how!”

In spite of the differences, with RK Narayan in his approach to make Guide, Vijay Anand has very ably managed to portray the complex subject that the film is all about.

Before writing anything about the man behind the film version, let me confess, I am a great fan of his. As if I own him. During those days I felt everything, good or bad he owed, was mine. I can't think of an actor who could have been a better choice for Raju.

Raju is a clever guide. He manipulates people through his wit, charm, and 'gambit of words'. People adore him. He says what people want to hear. Who else, other than Dev Anand, could be the guide, Raju.

Allow me to digress a bit from the film and go to the 'evergreen' man. Dev Anand learnt the hard way to remain 'evergreen'. In the 65 years of his film journey, Dev Anand never lost his flamboyance. He knew the ways to manipulate the time horizon. He understood the illusions and distortions of time. He practiced the tricks of eternal open endedness. Chronological time could not erode his zest for life. His style represented time. Writers wrote roles for him. His films told simple stories in simple language. His directors knew that his face had the potential of high 'audience engagement factor'. He had a good ear for music. His 'music centre' could 'hear' as well as 'feel' the music.

Dev Anand never found it stressful to maintain his star image. He knew that he must look good. He understood it long back that standing in front of the mirror is one of the requirements of facing the camera. He was able to see both 'self' as well as 'others' in the image, as he knew that without others, self is non-existent. He knew the fundamentals of risk taking. He moved forward even when he did not know the way. He was confident that he would find the way. Often his confidence backfired, but he knew that imperfection is normal. Till the end, new relationships mattered to him. Hardships faced during the earlier days did not make him pessimistic. It is fine, if he was occasionally stubborn and unreasonable.

One of the best gems from the film repertoire of SD Burman is Guide. Think of the numbers and you know why I am saying this: Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai (Lata Mangeshkar), Din dhal jaaye raat na aaye (Mohammed Rafi), Gaata rahe mera dil (Kishore Kumar & Lata Mangeshkar), Kya se kya ho gaya (Mohammed Rafi), Piya tosay naina laage re (Lata Mangeshkar), Saiyaan beimaan (Lata Mangeshkar), Tere mere sapne (Mohammed Rafi), Wahan kaun hai tera (SD Burman), Hey Ram hamare Ramchandra (Manna Dey & Chorus), Alla megh de paani de (SD Burman).

Guide got all the major Filmfare awards of that year - Best Film, Best Director, Best Story, Best Dialogue, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Cinematographer (colour). One of the finest film compositions from the kitty of SD Burman is undoubtedly Guide. Yet the irony is that the film was denied that year’s Filmfare award for best music. It went, instead, to Shankar Jaikishan's Suraj. What a mess!

Guide was made in both English and Hindi. The script of the English version was written by Nobel Laureate Pearl S Buck ( author of The Good Earth), and directed by Tad Danielwski. RK Narayan was not at all happy with both the film versions, particularly the English one. Narayan was unhappy, because he thought, both the film versions could not capture the spirit of his story. The exotic locations of Rajasthan drowned the spirits of a small township Malgudi, known for its simplicity. Narayan said, “By abolishing Malgudi, they had discarded my own values in the milieu and human characteristics. My characters were simple enough to themselves for observation; they had definite outlines-not blurred by urban speed, size, and lend tempo.” Writes Narayan in Misguided Guide: “I could not share the flexibility of their outlook or the expanse of their vision. It seemed to me that for their purpose a focal point was unnecessary. They appeared to be striving to achieve mere optical effects.”

Narayan recalls his meeting with Satyajit Ray. He writes, “I recalled a talk with Satyajit Ray, the great director, some years earlier, when I met him in Calcutta. He expressed his admiration for The Guide but also his doubts as to whether he could ever capture the tone and atmosphere of its background. He had said, 'Its roots are so deep in the soil of your part of our country that I doubt if I could do justice to your book, being unfamiliar with its milieu...”

Satyajit Ray had first thought of adapting The Guide into a film with Waheeda Rehman in the lead, writes Nasreen Munni Kabir in her book Conversations with Waheeda Rehman. “She had to be a good dancer and he knew south Indians were usually good dancers, and so he had thought of me,” recalls Waheeda Rehman. If Satyajit Ray had made the film, it would have been a different film. It would perhaps had captured the spirit of the story. He would have made changes, not necessarily in the same proportions as Vijay Anand did. Perhaps, the film would have Soumitro Chatterjee (or perhaps Uttam Kumar) as Raju, though it is difficult to imagine them as Raju. Temperamentally, Dev Anand would not fit into the scheme of things of Satyajit Ray.

Ray surely would not have come to exotic Rajasthan (though he liked the place so much), even if Dev Anand was producing the film. Perhaps the music of Guide would have been by Ray himself. Perhaps SD Burman would have sung for Ray. Perhaps, Navketan's most prestigious venture would not have seen the light of the day.

Years later, in his tribute to Narayan after the author's death in 2001, Dev Anand said, “If only we had managed to ignore the commercial aspects, Guide could have made a milestone in the history of cinema.... And the author would have been a happier man.”

Cinema and literature are two different forms of art. Since the time it is invented, literature has been integral part of cinema. That is why Bengali, films are called 'Boi' (book). The endeavour of the film makers has always been to adapt famous literary works into films. The film makers have always found it difficult to completely adhere to the original storyline. This is due to various reasons. It includes the differences in their purpose. Regardless of honesty in purpose, often a film maker finds it difficult not to deviate from the original, as pure adaptations often don't work.

When a novel is adapted for a film, it is never the intention of the film maker to merely copy one art form to another. The director looks for the gaps in the story to fill them with his creative imagination. He wants value addition in his product. He wants to tailor it to suit the needs of his audience. To tell the story in his own way, the director makes changes, minor as well as major, and these changes are often the cause of conflict between the story teller and the director. The other reason of conflict is the clash between art and commerce. Often, art dies at the hands of entertainment. In a simple tale, often, glamour is added to make it entertaining. Raju of Malgudi becomes flamboyant Raju of Udaipur. Who will not like to create a visual grandeur when an ace cameraman is available to give it a shape, and when there are so many colours spread in the atmosphere?

The novel ends thus: “The morning sun was out by now; a great shaft of light illuminated the surroundings. It was difficult to hold Raju on his feet, as he had a tendency to flop down. They held him as if he were a baby. Raju opened his eyes, looked about, and said,'Velan, it's raining in the hills. I can feel it coming up under my feet, up my legs-' He sagged down.”

The end in the novel is open-ended. In the novel there is scope for imagination. One has the possibility to imagine the ending according to one's own liking.

The end in the film is close-ended. Raju the Guide passes away as the rains start pouring. In his final hour, Raju is with his mother, friend, girlfriend, and many admirers. It is symbolic of “reconciliation with the material world but also to witness his resurrection from the ordinary and ephemeral to the eternal and blissful.”

Dev Anand, the man had designed the contents of his amazingly crafted life the way he wanted it to be. He also made the film the way he wanted it to make. His last words in the film “Na dukh hai na sukh hai, Na din na duniya, Na insaan na bhagwan, Sirf main, main, main!” aptly describes the man, RAJU, THE GUIDE.

We love this builder of illusion and the symbol of eternal youth. The style he created became the trend. His confidence often got a shattering, and many of his 'experiments' failed, but that did not 'age' the evergreen Funtoosh. We love you, Mr Guide, in all frames of life.