Based on R.K. Narayan's famous novel, The Guide, Vijay Anand's Guide is a doubtless classic of Hindi movies. In a way, the movie broke tradition by presenting a relationship between a simple man who works as a guide and an unhappily-married woman he assists. The film's most remarkable feat is the lack of over-perfection. The characters are devoid of any heroic qualities. They are, like everybody else, flawed and imperfect people who have their ups and downs, and not typical self-sacrificing figures. The first scene when Dev Anand's Raju is released from prison made me predict that in typical Hindi-film style, he was actually there for no reason and was probably accused for no fault of his own. After all we are so used to seeing movies in which the lead characters are imprisoned either because they sacrificed themselves for somebody else or because they were deceived. Here Raju really did commit a crime. It's interesting how the story moves through several ironic turns. In the first half we see that Waheeda Rehman's Rosie is emotionally dependant on Raju as in him she finds a friend and confidant, and he is the one who inspires her to fight for her dignity and is her only support system. Later in the film, the story turns over when, with the help of Raju, Rosie achieves fame as a dancer. She is stronger, and feels more confident. There we see that it is actually Raju who is dependant on her, both emotionally and financially. He loses himself to drinking and gambling and is an altogether different person. Well, so is she, and that's what gives us a fascinating look at the complexity of their relationship.
The second half is, by my estimation, much stronger than the first, but that's a good thing (the trouble is when it's the other way around). In many ways, the second half, namely the parts showing the conflict in Raju and Rosie's new life as a couple, is reminiscent of many classic Hollywood pictures involving relationships. The narrative structure is done well, never daring to torture the audience and instead making everything easy to follow despite many complex proceedings. Yes, there are moments which I felt were unnecessary and the film may be quite overlong, but otherwise it is well-edited although, of course, it is more a case of good storytelling, and due credit for the consistency goes to Vijay Anand for writing such a good script and directing it so well. The dialogue is for the most part excellent - it is rich and meaningful, and it's easy to see why many of the film's lines are famous to this today. They bring depth to the story and never sound cheesy or corny, just very appropriate and convincing. The film is also one of the most remarkable cinematographic achievements of the times, and the colour cinematography makes for an easy watch. The music, by S.D. Burman, is sublime, and rightfully each song is considered a classic. The songs are executed with impressive energy and colour, they never feel out of place, and are all situationally relevant as they enhance the meaning of the story. My favourite number is of course the highly popular "Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai", just because I saw it as an uninhibited celebration of the human spirit, and it is just an exhilarating and joyful number.
Raju and Rosie have been known as iconic characters, and due credit for this must go to the actors, though they are well written. Dev Anand, as already mentioned, plays an imperfect man who is still rather classy as a character and it is a demanding part for any actor. This is the role of a lifetime for this popular actor, he sinks his teeth into it, and delivers. He is convincing even in the most crucial moments, where a lesser actor could have failed, and brings character to Raju. Waheeda Rehman shines as the conflicted Rosie, in a performance that, in spite of being so restrained, conveys so much of her inner pain and dissatisfaction from life. Her transformation is very convincing, as later in the film we see an altogether different woman, who is indifferent to her surroundings and to Raju as well. It never looks peculiar, where it could have because we saw a much more warm side of her character early in the movie. It goes without saying that her dance numbers are simply superb - they are some of the best portions of the film and they contribute significantly to the building of her character. Each one of them constitutes an expression of her state of mind, whether happy or tormented, and there is a certain fervour in her expressions and moves that explosively brings out her otherwise repressed energy and emotion. Anand and Rehman are supported by several actors who provide strong support even if not all of them are great actors. Kishore Sahu is good as Marco, Rosie's ignorant husband, although he has several weak moments. The glorious Leela Chitnis is wonderful as Raju's loving mother.
Guide is a great film, though I would never call it flawless. In all fairness I found myself disappointed a bit with the conclusion of the story although I did see the redemptive tone of the ending. It is of course handled very well, but the chapter where Raju is mistaken as a holy man just didn't work for me as much despite the spiritual side of it. I still appreciate Guide and believe that fans of Hindi movies, and even foreigners who have not seen Indian movies, will enjoy this movie. It is a fine dramatic musical, and all I think is left to say is well-done.