Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Guide: Revisited

I was wandering through the narrow lanes of Bagbazar (and dirty obviously) when a sadhu gesticulating his weird demeanours came towards me. I was afraid to confront his eyes because I was told that they rob you of all your senses but fortunately, the sadhu went passed by me and it was when I sighed a breath of relief. A little far, I was encirlced by a queer feeling of how these sadhus had been in their childhood and adolescent days. Were they sadhus by birth or some hefty circumstances triggered this spiritual transformation? And yes, I remembered the railway guide, Raju.
I found the answer in the review of TIME which read, “The Guide floats as gently as a lily pad on the surface of Indian life and yet suggests the depth beneath. It manages to describe a saint who is neither born nor made but simply happens, almost like the weather.” It was only last weekend while removing some old papers I happened to get sight of the 39th reprint of my long lost reading ‘The Guide’. I don’t pretty remember the number of times I have read this book but I can definitely tell that I have watched it only once and that also many years before during my stay in India when the only channel of the time, Doordarshan-I had aired it in its weekly dose of movies. At that time, I didn’t know that this 1965 blockbuster was based on R.K. Narayan’s award-winning novel. I got the original script only ten years after, when I happened to find a road-side second hand(more correctly, third hand) book vendor put it under a stack of old magazines on the streets of New Road.
                ‘The Guide’ received the Sahitya Academy Award in 1961 and four years later, ‘Guide’ bagged seven filmfare awards. The critically acclaimed novel with its excellence is a magnum opus in the world of literature and Guide, a movie of its kind, is a masterpiece of the Indian film industry. The introduction published in the 1994 reprint explains the greatness of this brilliant work of art. The railway Raju is a disarmingly corrupt tourist guide who lives by his wits and falls in love with a beautiful dancer. More by chance than skill, he seduces her away from her husband, a lonely writer who is obsessed with local rock-carvings, and transforms her into a celebrity courted by wealthy and influential dignitaries wherever she performs. Raju makes and loses a fortune, finds himself in jail, and – through a series of hilarious, ironic circumstances – becomes one of India’s great holy men. The history of his success and unexpected fame has all the excitement of a suspense story, told with Narayan’s customary tolerance and delightful humour. At the same time, it raises many profound and disturbing questions. These contrasting textures of human nature have been brilliantly portrayed in the visual rendition of the novel and the justice given by Dev Anand to R.K. Narayan’s character has been complemented by the soothing melody of S.D. Burman which still leaves us sing along the libretto of Shailendra.
Even after 50 years of its first publication, ‘The Guide’ is still new in its form and The New York Times Book Review then thus had some verses of appreciation in store for this opus- “The latest of R.K. Narayan’s pensive comedies is a brilliant accomplishment… In the first pages of The Guide, we recognize the charity, the unstartled comprehension, and we settle down to a gracious but knowledgeable evening.”


A New Beginning said...

The songs were amazing and so was the story :) writers just carve out certain master pieces that make their place in the hearts of their audience forever..Guide is one such masterpiece.
A very interesting post..Keep blogging!! All the best!

Amritbir Kaur said...

'The Guide' has remainded popular in Indian fiction till date. I too read it as part of my syllabus in my graduation. And then taught it to my students also years later.
A nice post...enjoyed reading that!

Robin said...

I really appreciate your sincere efforts to make us rethink of the great novel and the greatest of movie... thank you so much... i am thinking of seeing the movie again... loved the post...

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