Sunday, 4 December 2011


Directed by: Vijay Anand
Starring: Dev Anand, Waheeda Rehman
Released: 1965
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

It is always sad when a sudden demise of an actor is a reason for re-watching a film, but if that film happens to be something as touching, epic and perfect as Guide, then you realize the actor is actually immortal. That is exactly the case of Dev Anand, who passed away just today – and made me re-watch Guide.

The story, told partly in present time and partly in restrospective, slowly unfolds, showing us the life and fate of Raju, a simple man living an ordinary middle-class life, but „owning a whole city“ in a way - he works as a tourist guide, knows every corner and every rock in the streets and beyond. And the whole city knows him and loves him for his good nature and mischievousness. Then Marco, an elderly archeologist, comes into town and demands to see the nearby caves and Raju naturally takes the job. Marco´s wife comes with him to the city. Thus Raju meets Rosie. Being much younger then Marco, she couldn´t be more different from him. Passionate, free-spirited, longing for affection, she is deeply suffering bound to a man who has no interest in her and the only thing that exists for him is archeology. A daughter of a prostitute, she did acquire a social status with her marriage, but paid a great prize for it, when her husband forbade her from dancing – the only real passion she had, and at the same time he refused to give her anything in return.

Raju is honestly puzzled by the couple and becomes a witness to both Marco´s coldness towards his wife (that outrages him) and Rosie´s nearly hysterical attempts to get his attention, that go to the extreme. Once Marco reacts more to his new discovery in the caves than to the information his wife has tried to commit suicide, Raju is utterly disgusted and leaving the archeologist to himself he tries to bring some happiness to Rosie instead. Taking her to the city, to see the gypsies dance and buying her dancing bells, he gets to see a whole another Rosie – who loves life, breathes joy and most importantly wants to dance. Soon both Raju and Rosie develop tender feelings towards each other and Raju supports Rosie vehemently in her desire to be free, and at last, after being ultimately disappointed by Marco, Rosie makes a daring step of leaving her husband and comes to live with Raju.

While such a step followed by lovers uniting would be a predictable climax of many other films, Guide takes us beyond it. And shows us that as difficult as the first step might be, the ones that need to be made afterwards are no less thorny. Especially if you are far from being perfect – like Raju, who from lovelorn supporter of Rosie´s art becomes a smart businessman lusting for more wealth and power, or like Rosie, who still dances with the same zest, but is beginning to feel alone and somehow bitter all over again....

Guide is a story about things that change and about things that stay the same. It is also very human. The hero and heroine are not innocent angels, but very flawed people who find a happiness for a while, only to loose it (and more) because of misunderstandings and jealousy. Essentially it is not a film about love, but about two people who once loved each other, if you can see the difference. It is about hurt pride and shattered illusions. About life.

Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman are a delightful couple, and both portraited their characters perfectly. For Dev Anand, I feel, was the film the role of a lifetime. Sure, there were other, famous and great performances, in other famous and great films, but I don´t believe anything can overpower the impact this particular performance and film had on me as a viewer. He was absolutely convincing as both a stranger unsure how to handle the depressed Rosie, as a subdued lover trying to give her happiness, and finally as a man attempting to fulfill the hopes of others. A concept of the dark and light side of a person is shown admirably simply, with the dark side inevitably perishing, as Raju is overcoming his weaknesses due to a suffering he takes upon himself to help others. Waheeda Rehman as Rosie is one of the most remarkable female roles of Bollywood, mainly because of the grey shades of her character, which usually are not to be found in pure and nice Indian heroines. Her every feeling is mirrored on her face and in her eyes.
When darkness needs to die...
There are so many beautiful scenes in the film, from the already mentioned „dying of the dark side“ or for example Rosie´s last attempt to attract her husband´s attention. The tinkling of her anklets in the dark cavern filled with statues of dancers was haunting. My personal favourite remains Rosie´s utter joy and „I couldn´t care less what people think“ attitude when Raju buys her dancing bells and she walk the street with them on her feet, her head high, exumberant joy on her face – and puzzled or outraged people watching her go. Music is plain gorgeous and dancing as well, again thanks to Waheeda. Her „cobra dance“ is, after all, legendary.

Bitter and sweet. Just two of the words that can define Guide. And also life, which is so sensitively captured in the frames of this film. Very much like Dev Anand. Rest in peace.

1 comment:

  1. Great review of a classic film!

    This is definitely one film I have to watch, seeing as I've been brought to Dev Anand's attention this week. I also want to see Guide.

    Gaja, check out my tribute to Dev Anand!