Thursday, March 22, 2012

In which the blogger offends fans of Guide

I am not the biggest fan of Guide. I thought it might have been more interesting if they'd made Marco a more sympathetic character, instead of an ogre (an impotent one, to boot). I also feel the film loses the plot a little when Raju becomes jealous of Rosie's success; it doesn't seem very consistent with his essentially good-natured character of the first half. I'll admit there are some noteworthy moments in the movie, most of them connected to Waheeda Rehman dancing or Dev Anand's dialogue delivery. But for me (and it must be just me, because everyone else seems to think the world of this film), the only scenes in Guide I'd want to see again and again are the first nine minutes.

The film starts in flashback, with Raju being released from jail. After a brief flashback, and a interior monologue in which he concludes he can never go back to where he came from, we see him set out on the road. As the credits unfold and the sonorous voice of SD Burman sings "Wahaan Kaun hai Tera", we see rapidly cut scenes of him sleeping by the wayside, sweating, get soaked in the rain, freezing, working on a farm for money. There's a fantastic shot in which he's looking at coins strewn around his feet, which people have obviously thrown at him assuming he's a beggar. He won't pick them up though; he grabs his jhola and takes off running. It's no more than a few seconds, but it cues us in to the kind of character Raju is.

The Average Shot Length for this credits sequence can't be much more than 3 seconds. This is unusual if you consider that Vijay Anand, Guide's director, is known for his long, intricate takes. There's nothing that resembles the percussive style of these early scenes in the rest of the film's three hour running time. When I saw Guide recently, I did something many fans of Indian cinema will probably consider sacrilege. Instead of letting the movie sink in, I immediately went back and replayed the first nine minutes. Then I did it again. And again

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