Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Guide - R.K. Narayan

This was one book I missed in a whole bunch of RKNs books that I read. It was different because images of Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman kept interfering with my reading. And the tone of RKN's Guide seemed so different from what could have been shown on screen. Railway Raju in the book seems pretty far removed from anything urban, anything that involved duplicity - though he is a mischievous fellow.

Railway Raju grows up tending to his father's shop on the Railway station in Malgudi and acquires some knowledge by reading books, magazines and newspapers that he uses to wrap merchandise in. Blessed with the gift of the gab he soon became a sought-after figure at the station and soon turns into a local guide for tourists. All is well until Rosie arrives on the scene with her historian husband. Raju meddles in that complicated marriage, offers a shoulder and advise and helps the marriage break off. Rosie finds herself though - and pursues her passion Bharatanatyam and grows as an artist. Raju leaves his life behind and becomes her manager. The husband has long since gone off. These two now fight like a married couple. Until the day he is sent to jail for forgery of a document. Rosie, now Nalini, famous and rich, has since moved on to Madras. Raju becomes a wandering man who is mistaken for a holy man by some villagers and he finally tries to do the right thing by their faith in him.

It is the most complex of RKNs stories that I read so far. The characters have all kinds of shades and their relationships are complex. In his other novels the protagonists are simple people, almost Wodehousian, but here Raju brings a fatal flaw with him that pushes him to the brink. The affair between the married woman and the charming guide is not typical RKN - and what starts harmlessly enough with him helping her find her passions finally costs him his life.

Reading S.D. Burman's biography and the references to the nagin dance, Waheeda Rehman's pluck in speaking her mind, I am now enthused to correct another error in my choice of movies t date - watch Guide the movie.

RKN sold the rights of Guide to Dev Anand who made a hit movie but RKN was never happy with the movie nor the financial dealings that came out of it. Whether he wrote a book about film producers after his experience is something I need to investigate (he did write something called 'The Misguided Guide' - a humorous take-off on the Guide movie experience). Dev Anand met him at his house in Mysore - a house I am happy to report I visited - a few years ago. They were converting it into a museum. What my research tells me is this - that Guide was made into a Hindi and an English film and that the writer Pearl S Buck was instrumental in the making of the movie and the English version of it. The English version which is more faithful to the novel sank without a trace while the Hindi version which was significantly different, did very well.

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