There is an apparent buzz around Deepika Padukone’s upcoming film Gehraiyaan, which seemingly depicts flawed human characters, modern relationships, and falling out of love. But when it comes to complex characters and adultery, there is a clear OG — the 1965 Dev Anand-Waheeda Rehman starrer cult-classic Guide. The three-hour-long film is a cocktail of romance, melodrama, brilliant music-dance sequences, and a thought-provoking story.
Dev Anand’s brother, Vijay Anand, directed the film, but the idea of making an adaptation of R K Narayan’s novel The Guide was the brainchild of the former. Although Narayan did not like the adaptation of his story and called it the ‘Misguided Guide’, the film has been a favourite of many industry stalwarts like Naseeruddin Shah and Amir Khan, and also won an award at the Chicago International Film Festival. The English version of the film, scripted by Nobel laureate author Pearl Buck and directed by Tad Danielewski, was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007.
The film traces the story of Raju — the guide — an ambitious, loud-mouthed polyglot, who is seen coming out of jail in the very first scene. As SD Burman’s brilliant composition ‘wahan kaun hai tera’ plays in the background, audiences see Raju wandering across cities, landscapes, and the wilderness to find a shelter and finally taking refuge in a deserted temple, where the locals begin to see him as a saint. But he has an interesting past. The audience is shown how he met Rosie (Waheeda Rehman), a married woman on a tour with her husband Mr Marco (Kishore Sahu). Rosie and Raju embark on a new journey after she leaves her husband. Their choices have consequences, and their relationship takes new turns as the circumstances around them change. Raju’s character evolution from a guide to a rich man living off of Rosie’s earnings as a dancer to a spiritual godman is intricate. Did the villagers get to know about Raju’s reality? Could they accept his past? Why did Raju go to jail? And where is Rosie in his life? One can find these answers as the film progresses.
Complex, flawed characters
Even if the film largely revolves around Raju, Rosie is equally significant in the film. Rosie’s character is different from the quintessential heroines of the 60s. Nothing in this world makes her happier than dancing. She feels empowered when she wears ghungroo (dancing anklets) on her feet. ‘Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai’ — a song filmed on Waheeda — portrays Rosie’s true free spirit.
For Rosie, though, life isn’t as simple. Her identity as a daughter of a devadasi — a prostitute — always follows her like a shadow. Back when the film was made, a woman who would choose to leave her husband, rather than stay in a bad marriage, was a rare sight not just in films, but in real life as well.
What can one say about the charming Dev Anand? He plays a guide in Udaipur but has a far more interesting personality. Dev Anand is unlike any of his previous characters here.
Raju’s personality also has an element of feminism. He is a ‘modern man’ in the true sense, who fuels Rosie’s desire to become a dancer and inspires her to leave a man who would not love her back. But he is also deeply flawed — someone who gets insecure when Rosie starts taking charge of her life. His role in the film as a ‘holy man’ was not something that people could have imagined him pulling off. The twinkle in his eyes was replaced by a sense of philosophical depth. The versatility and realism with which he played the character of Raju made it his career-defining performance.
The conflict between the two sides of his personality is brilliantly portrayed in a monologue sequence towards the end of the film. Along with the reference to Bhagavad Gita’s “Nainam Chindanti Shastrani” (weapons cannot shred the soul, nor can fire burn it), the fight with his inner demons, and the quest to find his ‘true self’ is the kind of subtlety Raju’s character possesses. Without Vijay Anand’s direction, it would have been difficult to extract such a performance out of Dev Anand.
Since Rosie’s role is based on a dancer, Vijay Anand paid equal attention to the dance and music sequences. Each song fits perfectly in the story and becomes immortal. S.D. Burman’s magic is seen through ‘Din dhal jaye’, ‘Tere mere sapne’, and ‘Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai’, among others. Waheeda’s grace is personified on screen as a dancer, especially in the snake-dance sequence. It is mesmerising.
(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)
Source: The Print