Recently I re-read the 1958 R.K. Narayan’s classic novel “The Guide” and also watched on YouTube the 1965 Dev Anand’s film of the same name.
The book is an all-time best- seller as it has had nearly 80 reprints and the film, of course, was a box office super hit. I remember seeing the film at “Maratha Mandir” theatre in Mumbai in 1966 and even a year after its release the house was jam-packed.
The Director (Vijay Anand), actors (Dev Anand, Waheeda Rehman and Kishore Sahu) and Music Director (Sachin Dev Burman) were all outstanding. Dev Anand had admitted in an in interview with Shekhar Gupta many years later that this film was indeed a high point in his career.
The story is somewhat unique in the sense that a young beautiful lady passionately devoted to classical dancing and married to a much older and self-centered archaeologist, has an extra-marital relationship with an ordinary but very understanding tourist guide. Narayan develops the circumstances leading to this situation beautifully and the climax is even more dramatic.
When Dev Anand read the book, he was keen to make it into a film. Since someone had told him that the author lived in Los Angeles, USA, he travelled all the way there only to find out that the author actually lived in Namma Mysuru. They finally met and a deal was struck.
When Narayan saw the movie, he was displeased on two counts. He had hoped that the film would be shot in and around Mysuru but Anand had chosen a more glamorous place like Udaipur as the location. More importantly, he did not appreciate the depiction of the husband indulging in drinking and prostitution. Anand had to explain to Narayan that for the Indian audience to accept heroine’s infidelity, putting down the husband was essential. Notwithstanding these minor aberrations and certain other cinematic liberties, the movie depicts the story line fairly faithfully.
According to Dev Anand, revealed some 40 years later, there was a problem with the Censor’s Board. He arranged a private screening of this movie to the then I&B Minister (Indira Gandhi) who after seeing the movie ordered the Censor’s chief to pass it. Also according to Waheeda Rehman, though she liked the dancing part of the character, was reluctant to do this vamp-like role but “Dev Sahab persuaded me.”
However, the movie did deviate from the book at the climax. In the last scene of the movie, the hero is explicitly shown to possess some supernatural power by bringing in rain in a drought-affected area, whereas in the last paragraph of the book the same was just implied. That is R.K. Narayan’s touch of genius. For lovers of light reading and those who admire old Hindi movies, I recommend re-visiting both these classics.
– U.B. Acharya, Jayalakshmipuram, 4.9.2017
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