Magazine 2013
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
RH, VOL. 3 JULY 2013  
Railway Raju To Guide Raju-  
R.K.Narayan’s “Guide”  
Sujatha Rao  
Cinema brings words to life through visuals, sound, and music, dialogue, acting and splicing or  
mixing of shots generally known as editing. Whereas, literature describes visuals in words.This, is the  
basic difference between literature and cinema. Cinema, an eclectic art form, has borrowed generously  
from earlier art forms like music, poetry, painting and architecture. Films like Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s  
“Devdas,” Vishal Bharadwaj’s “Omkara,” Bimal Roy’s “Sujata,” GuruDutt’s “Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam,”  
Vijay Anand’s “Guide” and Shyam Benegal’s “Sooraj Ka Satvan Ghoda” are all adapted from literary  
fiction—classic, contemporary and international. 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 “Devdas” 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.” R.K.  
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. On-  
screen adaptation of the “The Guide” differs a lot on the outlook of Railway Raju Guide, Narayan adopts,  
just as he does in almost all his works, the individual as his reference and looks inward, affecting a  
microcosmic view of society and its problems. He showcases the idiosyncrasies of the characters and  
superimposes them on one another to come up with a layered structure of societal inconsistency and  
Keywords - Cinema, Literature, Material, Malgudi, Society.  
R.K.Narayan’s The Guide is one of the author‘s most critically acclaimed stories. He won the SahityaAkademi  
Awards for this novel. The Guide begins as a comic look at the life of a rogue, but develops into something  
different in its progression. In a fairly compact and concise manner the book conveys the numerous aspects of  
the day-to-day lives of Indian. The different culture systems, the superstitions and values of the people of a  
small town named Malgudi which serves as a reflection on Indian society altogether.  
The Guide is set at the background of Malgudi, R. K. Narayan‘s make-believe place in southern India.  
The novel is told through a series of flashbacks. Raju is the hero of the story who grows up near a railway station  
and eventually becomes a shopkeeper. Later he becomes a resourceful tourist guide. He meets Rosie and her  
husband. Rosie is a beautiful dancer. Her husband Marco is a scholar and anthropologist and is more interested  
in his research than in his young wife Rosie. As the novel progresses the guide falls in love with Rosie and starts  
to live with her. He losses all his money and inspires Rosie to start dancing. He becomes his manager. But he  
cannot forget his habit and one day caught red handedly while forging Rosie‘s signature to sell one of her  
necklaces. He stays in jail for two years. After returning from imprisonment he decides not to go to Malgudi. He  
goes to a village named Vellan where the people take him wrongly as a spiritual guide. They start offering him  
food and some comforts. Raju enjoys the whole process. The irony of the story is the drought that occurs in the  
village. Raju takes 12-day fast on people request. After many days of his fasting in one fine morning when he  
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goes to the riverside for his daily rituals his legs sag down and he feels it is raining in the hillside. The ending of  
the novel is a bit confusing as it leaves an unfinished end of Raju‘s death or end of drought. Guide can be seen  
in light of the social and political activism of the 60s. It essentially was the time when the average Indian  
household started witnessing the advent of technology and hob gobbling the changes that came in the wake of  
industrial development all around. Similarly, the wave of feminism, emanating from the West, started sweeping  
through the world and India too did not remain unaffected by it. The question of equality in terms of caste,  
colour, gender and religion came to occupy centre stage in intellectual deliberations.  
Vijay Anand adopts synecdoche as his modus operandi, and showcases the concerns of national pride,  
women empowerment and an endangered culture through the lives of Raju (Dev Anand), Marco (Kishore Sahu)  
and Rosie (Waheeda Rehman). He uses rhetoric both in plot and dialogue to convey messages and gives his  
characters a free reign to grow into the persona they require to carry the burden of mobilizing reform. Unlike  
Narayan, whose caressing touch not only enlivens the characters but also induces in the reader a sense of  
wonder at the stroke of irony that pervades the protagonists’ lives in the novel, Despite this obvious deviation  
from the text, the change in approach does not seem to undermine the celluloid projection of the work and if  
one were to view the socio-political backdrop of the times when movie was created, one can understand why  
this movie could find firm favours both from the masses and the intelligentsia alike.  
Dismayed at such alternations, R.K. Narayan was critical of the fact that Vijay Anand had changed the  
setting from the idyllic and fictitious south Indian town of Malgudi to the real and concrete Jaipur. Narayan  
seems to lament the loss in saying “…By abolishing Malgudi, they had discarded my own values in the milieu  
and human characteristics. My characters were simple enough to lend themselves for observation; they had  
definite outlines-not blurred by urban speed, size, and tempo” (Mehrotra 2011).  
Vijay Anand as director and Dev Anand as producer and actor, embellish R.K. Narayan’s simple tale not  
only by turning the film into a visual treat with the befitting use of camera, lights and sound but also by making  
the central consciousness of a tourist guide the intersection of the economic and social cross-currents sweeping  
postcolonial India mobility of the urban In contemporary India, it underscores the role of the city of Udaipur in  
Rajasthan instead of the fictitious ‘Malgudi’ in the original novel. Udaipur is thrown up as a tourist site in the  
national and local economy. The beauty of Udaipur’s palaces and lakes, hills and mountains is presented for  
visual consumption through tracking shots  
In the novel, R.K. Narayan used the tool of flashback and flash-forward,. This technique is retained in the  
movie. Using the strength of the medium, Vijay Anand evokes telling images that depict the large scale devastation  
that calamities such as droughts cause in the country time and again. By relating to both the pathos and  
religious sentiments of the masses, the movie touches a chord with the populace that see religion as a panacea  
for all the tortures and sufferings that one confronts in the wake of being a human.  
One of the noteworthy deviations from the text seen in the movie is the omission of Raju’s childhood.  
Narayan employs the use of a back story to sketch out the characters, atmosphere and events in the plots. The  
medium of the novel gives him the space needed to flesh out details which is often denied to the director in the  
The film however, passes over Raju’s childhood, starting off at the point when he is at the peak of his  
career as a guide. The motivation of Raju, the disenchanted boy who dislikes school and resists the determination  
of his future without his say, his escape from the future earmarked for him and instead his using native skills as  
a glib talker and smooth manipulator, is overlooked. Perhaps Vijay Anand wants to smoothen the morally  
ambiguous beginnings of his hero and instead warps him into a prototype promising youth who instantly  
commands attention and evokes association in the audience. Raju’s secret to worldly success is his mastery of  
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The most striking, yet opportunistic change made in the movie is the polarization of the characters of  
Marco and Raju. The preoccupied, scholarly Marco in the novel, meriting amused sympathy is far removed  
from the brutish and oppressive Marco in the movie. In the novel, Marco is like the typical South Indian Hindu  
gentleman, caught between the renouncing Bhramacharya ideals and the worldly responsibilities of the  
Grihaprastha phase. He is mildly irritable and largely bovine in his dealings with the world.  
The greatest triumph as well as flaw of the movie is the character of Rosie. The movie seems to celebrate  
the individuality of the central woman character, Rosie, who has the resilience to push aside the men who  
obsess themselves narcissistically ignoring thereby her carnal or emotional needs. Further example of this is  
when Rosie, in her childlike enthusiasm, wears her newly acquired anklets (ghungroos) and skips through the  
market place, defiantly ignoring the lecherous and disapproving stares of men and women alike. Raju’s love  
and support gives the unfulfilled Rosie the courage to take a bold step and defy the tabooed societal norms by  
leaving the oppressive atmosphere of her husband’s house and moving into Raju’s abode. In the novel Rosie’s  
edgy quest for a meanigful survival coupled with a torn penancing self, renders her incapable of pursuing her  
emancipation with authority and conviction, something that she unmistakably enjoys in the movie.  
She opened the door, passed in, and hesitated, leaving the door half open.  
She stood looking at me for a moment, as on the first day.  
Shall Igo away?’ I asked in a whisper.  
Yes. Good night,’ she said feebly.  
May I not come in?’ I asked, trying to look my saddest.  
No, no. Go away,’ she said. But on an impulse I gently pushed her out of the  
way, and stepped in and locked the door on the world. (pp. 88-89)  
Her transformation from ‘Rosie’, a name carrying the ‘tawdry overtones of the demi-mondaine world of  
the traditional tawayaf, devadasi, or (in colonial lingo) “nautch girl” - a courtesan learned in dance, music, and  
poetry, often “married” (if Hindu) to a temple deity, and permitted to perform in public (as respectable women  
were not), and to form casual liaisons with mundane men to a delicate lotus (‘Nalini’) is exclusive. The fine  
balance between artistic success and fame married to emotional duplicity and insecurity is carefully transmitted  
in the novel. On the silver screen, Waheeda Rehman the actress, effectively conveys her character’s repressed  
energy and desires through her many breathtaking dances. She’s subtle as ever, and her expressive eyes flash  
fire as well as frighteningly cold rage.  
One of the major structural changes that the film incorporates over the novel is the ending. The novel  
adopts the technique of an open-ended finale. Whether the rains come or not, is left to the imagination of the  
reader in the novel. R.K. Narayan’s tendency to report but not comment is rooted in a detached spirit, providing  
for a more realistic narration. Narayan lifts the story to a domain of faith, trust and devotion and lets it float back  
to the earth. In the concluding part of the novel, Narayan brings Raju to the precipice of a miracle through a  
pure series of coincidences, a testimony to the brilliance of the novelist that he acknowledges the limitations of  
humans and forgives them for it.  
The film “acquires overtones of the much-maligned mythological/ devotional genre (at one point, the  
voice of God speaks from a penumbra of light, and the climactic moments and the simple faith of the villagers.”  
The movie-version Raju has a more definite fate- he passes away as the rains start pouring. The melodramatic  
conversation between his id and ego truly reflects the conflict which seems so real and rich that ends with the  
saffron clad saint vanquishing the khadi wearing guide and immersing with the one in a fever pitch of song,  
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dance, sound and light. Rosie, Gaffur (his estranged friend) and his mother are all present at his arm not only to  
complete his reconciliation with the material world but also to witness his resurrection from the ordinary and  
ephemeral to the eternal and blissful. The literal ‘tying-up of loose ends’ is Vijay Anand’s interpretation of an  
ideal ending- one which elevates the protagonist well above all the physical world of confusion and chaos to  
spiritually glorious and enlightening levels and resolves the malaise of society in a shower of divine blessing.  
Unlike the accidental rise of the protagonist, as R.K. Narayan envisioned, the rise of the individual in the film is  
well aligned with the importance of larger-than-life personas that inspire public by achieving glory, immortality  
and bliss through suffering, austerity and atonement.  
Vijay Anand from the very beginning maintained that he was not merely interested in copying any work  
of art from one medium to another unless there was some scope of value. The film received several Filmfares  
and was widely considered as one of the greatest movies the industry has produced,  
R K Narayan was, however, appalled by both versions, particularly the English one. The script had been  
written by Nobel Laureate Pearl S. Buck Narayan vented his wrath in an article he wrote for Life magazine. The  
publication ran the story under the headline, How a Famous Novel Became an Infamous Film. R K Narayan’s  
protests did not stop the audiences from embracing the film in its Hindi version and making it run for many  
months. As for the English version, show biz observers believe it was doomed even without the blistering attack  
in Life.  
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