It is very rare on Indian cinema that a novel is interpreted on screen and remains truthful to the original. Some of those movies which remained true to the source like “Devadas” had attained a cult status but there are some other movies which twisted the source material and yet remained a classic in the folklores of Indian Cinema. One such film is “GUIDE.” But strangely, the writer of the novel, RK Narayan had disowned the screen version of the novel, directed by Vijayanand, saying that the end product had distorted his intentions of writing the novel.
RK Narayan’s novel was based on the selfish journey of Railway Raju, a man who cheats himself and all those who surround him for reasons best known to him and in the end turns into a demi-God who ironically sacrifices himself for an illusory cause of others. Through the journey of Railway Raju, the lives of Rosie, Gaffur, Marco and Raju’s mother are unveiled and also the fictitious town of Malgudi, which is ever present in all RK novels, is depicted in full splendor.
But, “GUIDE”, on-screen adaptation of the “The Guide” differs a lot on the outlook of Railway Raju. The self effacing man becomes a sacrificing do-gooder who takes charge of Rosie’s life and changes it forever. The south-Indian town of Malgudi changed into the Rajasthani city of Udaipur. The morally upright and studious Marco is treated as a villainous and grumpy Marco who also is a womanizer. Perhaps, these changes were not fathomable to RK Narayan and hence he disowned the cinematic version of his brainchild.
But why did Vijayanand and Dev Anand, the protagonist of GUIDE, have decided to alter the storyline? May be they wanted the message of the story to be understood even by the layman and in their quest they might have trampled on the character of Railway Raju and making him as Raju Guide who turned into a selfless hero from a selfish man. Also the film makers had to change the core of the story by making a Raju a divine being in the climax by making him interact with GOD. This fantastical view of “The Guide” may not have cut ice with RK. But the audience did not care and made “GUIDE” a classic. Even now, when the film is played on television, the channels score a high TRPs as GUIDE is seen to have an ending which is heart rending as well as answers many questions of the spiritually bound.
The novel by RK Narayan remains elitist at its core, though it is rooted to the core reality of the world. It connects with its reader and makes him ponder over the irony of the life of Raju. The various twists and turns of Raju’s life offers a psychological study of a person, even though fictitious. Such is the power of RK’s creation that it enamors its readers.
The two interpretations of Railway Raju and Raju Guide have enthralled their patrons and remain in the folklores of literature and cinema.