Friday, November 06, 2009


In the typically self-deprecating, understated RKN style, Rasipuram Krishnaswamy Iyer Narayanswamy once described how his renowned novel The Guide written in his room at The Carlton during his 1956 Berkley (California) sojourn on a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship was reduced to a distorted caricature by Bollywood’s preference for the “canned” instead of the genuine and the sanitized instead of the raw. For instance, he wrote how, after condescending to take his guided tour of authentic ready-made locations peopled with authentic ready-made crowds at the time of a fair to replicate Malgudi, the director and the lead star preferred specially erected, exorbitantly expensive sets in Jaipur and a cast of thousands of junior artistes called “extras” in those days before political correctness came to our shores. They also soft-pedaled on the adultery angle. The eponymously titled essay where Narayan wrote about how his The Guide metamorphosed into Vijay Anand’s Guide happens to be in a collection of his non-fiction I own that is right now out of my reach. A friend who borrowed it quite a while back has not returned it so far. Be that as it may, I quite enjoyed Navketan’s Vijay Anand-directed Guide (1965) particularly for Sachin Dev Burman’s music. I read The Guide much, much later. In retrospect, what had transpired, I guess, was that Vijay Anand could not break away from the then prevalent norms and style of film making – contrary to RK Narayan’s expectations. Had the director lived up to the author’s standards, maybe an art movie would have been born instead of the box office bonanza that Guide turned out to be.