Thursday, 1 January 2015

The Guide

The Guide is the most famous novel written by R K Narayan. I had seen this book long ago, started to read it but could not complete it. Not until I read Natwar Singh’s autobiography where an incident regarding the author RK Narayan and Dev Anand had the book into the movie. Now that I have read these two books and watched the 1965 movie on YouTube, I venture onto writing about this book.

The book is set in the times of the 1960s in south India though the setting is even more relevant to the present times. It is about Raju, a clever boy, who, from a shopkeeper at a small stall at the Malgudi railway station becomes a tourist guide. On one occasion, he meets a married couple Marco and Rosie at the railway station. Marco is a scholar and is on the quest to study the history of south India. Though Rosie was born into a caste of a temple dancer and loved dancing (into classical Indian dances), Marco prefers his wife to remain a housewife forbidding Rosie from dancing. This leads to quarrels where Raju steps in to take care of the needs of the couple so that Marco can do is research peacefully.

During their stay in Malgudi, the couple breaks down and Marco leaves for Madras leaving Rosie behind. Rosie takes shelter with Raju and his mother. Raju helps Rosie become a famous dancer not only in Malgudi but in towns of Madras, Bombay and Ceylon and earns grand enough to live a celebrity life. Raju and Rosie now lead a life like a married couple, though not formally, when Marco sends her a legal paper demanding her signature to formally divorce and divide the jewelry between them. This letter however is signed by Raju without the knowledge of Rosie. For this, Raju gets convicted of forgery and is sentenced to three years in jail.

When the jail term is over, he chooses not to go to his old town where his dreams with Rosie is shattered and his reputation dismal, he travels on and finds an old temple where he takes shelter. There people come to consider him as a swami and he lives on the patronage of the people of the area.

The book makes a mockery of social fallacy of those times in the context of strong classical culture.

That was the book.

To make this into a movie, the author RK Narayan denied copyright claiming that the movie will not do justice to the story. However after the death of the author, Dev Anand makes it into a movie in 1965.

It is a movie, with strong classical taste. Raju is played by Dev Anand and the movie has many songs by Lata Mangeshkar. The movie deviates from the book on many occasions and movie portrays Marco as the antagonist while in the book he is rather a passive character. For this and many other changes introduced into the movie, many people from those times criticized that it did not do justice to the story. However, the movie was an instant hit in the theatres, had won many awards and accolades and is considered one of the masterpieces of the Indian film industry.

Thinley Dorji, New Year Day 2015, Colombo, Sri Lanka

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