Millennials Review Classics: Dev Anand Is Scintillating in ‘Guide’
(Suhasini is 23-years-old. She saw Guide (1965) for the first time and reviewed it here.)
First off, let me get this out of the way – Dev Anand is drop dead gorgeous!
This is not something I haven’t heard before. Auntyjis have often lamented, “aaj kal ke ladko mein woh Dev Anand waali baat kahan?”. Then there’s that famous legend that he was prohibited from wearing black suits in public... because women would just swoon!
I never paid heed. Always imagining Dev Anand ‘duplicates’ doing silly mimicry at film award shows, and laughing at the absurd idea that he could possibly be attractive.
Guide was the first time I experienced the phenomenon that is Dev Anand – and turns out, there’s truth to everything the auntyjis have said.
Dev Anand, the Feminist Hero
In Guide, Dev Anand essays the role of ‘Raju guide’ with a charm that’s unmatched by any hero of my time. The closest any actor comes is perhaps the Shah Rukh Khan of the ‘90s – but that was two decades ago, and frankly we haven’t seen him in a while.
The defining factor, to my mind, is that amidst all that ‘heroic’ presence, there’s also room for a female lead to blossom. In Guide, Dev Anand’s brand of masculinity is one that isn't insecure of sharing space with his co-star, Waheeda Rehman.
Rosie (Waheeda Rehman) is miserable in her marriage when she meets Raju (Dev Anand), who acts as her ‘guide’ in a new town, literally and figuratively.
A daughter of a devadasi, Rosie is married off to Marco to escape the stigma of being ‘bazaaru’. She loves to dance, but her mother thinks it best she pursue her passion as the wife of a respectable man, than the daughter of a ‘tainted’ woman.
In an emotionally charged scene, after Rosie discovers Marco has been sleeping around, Raju practically screams at a weeping Rosie:
Agar mard sukh na de, toh kya aurat sukh nahi pa sakti? Marco bhi tumhaare saath khush nahi hai magar woh iss tarha deewaron se sir nahi peeth raha… kyunki woh mard hai! (If a man doesn’t provide joy, can a woman never be happy? Even Marco is unhappy with you, but he isn’t going around moping... because he’s a man!)
I watched this scene several times, wondering to myself which popular hero could say this today without sounding patronising. Varun Dhawan? Salman Khan?
With Guide, I discovered in Dev Anand a feminist hero that I’ve missed in all the Hindi films I’ve grown up watching.
Rosie – Raw, Real and Complex
Waheeda Rehman as Rosie is an absolute dream! The doe-eyed beauty is so stunning, it was hard to take my eyes off her. Each sequence and dialogue is delivered with such sincerity and genuine emotion. Add to the mix her effortless dancing – I was floored!
What’s remarkable is that Rosie’s trajectory has motivation. She’s not simply a damsel in distress. She’s feisty, raw and terrified at the same time.
Granted, Raju showed her who she could be, but her emotional complexities are independent of him.
After leaving Marco, Rosie becomes a famous dancer, with Raju as her manager. But her character is not infantilised, and cannot be placated simply with sweet nothings. Raju and Rosie become wealthy, but also increasingly estranged.
“Agar khushi mile toh inn chhote phoolon mein mil jaye, aur agar naa mile toh saare jahaan mein naa mile (sometimes you can find joy even in these small flowers, but if you can’t, then you can’t find it in the whole universe)”, says Rosie pensively, leaving my stomach in twists. She has everything, but wants more.
Raju’s kindness doesn’t entitle him to be neglectful of her. As they become more successful, he takes up drinking and gambling. Gradually, they begin to sleep in different bedrooms.
She’s indebted to Raju, yes. But she doesn’t owe it to him to keep loving him, and be so deeply unhappy in doing so.
Can the Music Be the Soundtrack to My Life?
Anything I say about SD Burman’s music in the film will fail to do justice. The soundtrack triggered a range of emotions in me. I found myself tearing up during Piya Tose Naina Laage, even though it’s a happy song – I was simply moved by how beautiful it was.
Most songs I was familiar with, but watching them in the context of the whole film was surreal.
In Din Dhal Jaaye, a drunken Raju is lamenting the distance between him and the love of his life. His face looks crushed with sorrow, and Mohd Rafi’s melancholic voice only made it worse for my silly, saccharine heart.
In a beautifully shot sequence, a close-up of Raju in his stupor pans out to show Rosie sitting close to him, looking pained. Except Raju isn’t even aware she’s in the room – a metaphor for how lonely they are even in their togetherness.
Thankfully, to break the melancholy (any more and I may have had a stroke), when Kya Se Kya Ho Gaya came on, I erupted into laughter.
I didn’t know the song was originally from Guide. The only reference I had for this song was from a tragicomic scene in Andaz Apna Apna (1994).
Aamir Khan goes into trauma after realising the ‘multi-millionaire’ woman he had just professed his love to, was in fact dirt poor. All his dreams of inheriting her father’s property are dashed and he’s left washing dishes at the restaurant (after neither he nor she could afford to pay for their dinner), while the song comes on in the background.
The scene lends a whole new meaning to the lyrics “chaha kya, kya mila, bewafaa tere pyaar mein (what did I wish for, and what have I got in your love?)”. It always left the slapstick in me in splits. Never again...
On a related note though, what is so great about being a ‘millennial’ when all we get is some god awful EDM, plus misogynistic Honey Singh rap masala concoction? I petition to bring this music back!
Must This Really Be the End?
Spoiler alert – Raju dies in the end... Don’t curse me, I went into the film burdened with this knowledge too. But I never imagined it would be because he undergoes a spiritual transformation and fasts for 12 days to invoke the rain gods!
When he’s released, he chooses not to return home. Instead, he takes off on a journey that ends in a drought-struck village. The villagers mistake him to be a holy man, given his candour and allegorical way of speaking.
After spending several months with them, Raju doesn’t want to let them down when they seem convinced his fasting will end the drought.
Finally, in a tussle between the body and the aatma, the aatma (of course) wins. In the epilogue, Raju (the sadhu this time and not the guide) drawls in a hypnotic voice:
Did Raju really have to die pandering to a superstition? I’m not so convinced.
Since most of the film was in flashback, perhaps I didn’t gauge the kind of impact the end of his relationship with Rosie, and his time spent in prison had on him. Or maybe, the intellectual symbolism of his death was lost on ME?
In the end, I was only relieved it rained. At least Raju didn’t die in vain.
If it’s not evident yet, let me spell it out – I truly enjoyed the film, other than the ending (though I can think of no other way for it to end).
Before watching the film I was under the impression that it was a light, ‘dramedy’. But after crying copiously through the film, curling up in the foetal position once it ended and humming the melancholic songs for several days after, I think it’s safe to say that it’s not!
Spellbinding music, heart-wrenching performances and picturisation that makes Udaipur and Chittorgarh come alive. My biggest takeaway, however, is simply this – they just don’t make ‘em like Dev Anand anymore.
(This article is from The Quint’s archives and was first published on 11 November 2017. It is now being republished to mark Dev Anand’s death anniversary.)