Guide With Waheeda Ji

‘Enlighten film society’, who regularly show films on Sundays at 10am, arranged a screening of landmark Hindi film ‘Guide’ on Aug 5, 2008 at 12.30pm. But today’s program was to not a regular one. Guide was being shown in Waheedaji’s presence and she was to be honored with an award from Taj (remember Wah Taj?), after the show. So other than the film itself, seeing grand old lady in person was a tremendous attraction for me. I have seen this film quite recently on DVD. But this is a film that should not be missed, if you have time. I was a little late. As I got inside the theatre the scene between Kishore Sahu and Waheeda Rehman in the ruins was on.

There is always something new to learn or discover whenever you see such a movie again. I was so thoroughly bowled over by the dialogues of that scene and then every scene. I found the lines are so realistic, sharp, pat on, entertaining and yet within the boundary of the scenes and the characters. I noticed that even comedy scenes were written very well, sometimes romantic ones move you; but this film is no ordinary celluloid. It is perfect in all areas, be it different views between Rosie and her husband, Raju and his uncle (mamaji), crowd jeering at Rosie walking with Ghungharoos, Raju pleading with Nalini in the bedroom or a long soliloquy by Raju guide to Rosie. All are T perfect; not a word more or not one less.

In my life Guide enjoys the status of my maximum viewings, five. No other film has been given that kind of respect by me. And yet it was difficult holding tears back on many occasions. To put it on record my eyes don’t well up always because of emotional scenes; but many times a great shot or perfect strike of a chord on a visual or even a perfect cut can do it.

After ‘The End’ in red color filled the screen, Waheedaji was made to sit facing Bhavna (Somaiyya, I think). She was barely 6 ft away from me. Bhavna asked her a question which was three times the length of the answer. I have seen it with journalists that they start showing off their own knowledge through their questions. Poor things! I have experienced many such people. Quality of questions was something like this, ‘what did you feel when you signed this film?’, ‘tell us an anecdote while shooting with Vijay Anand’, ‘how was working those days?’… in fact some commoners poked much better questions than those professionals.

In a few minutes the setting was moved in the lobby of Cinemax, as next film show was to start. I stood on the side as all the chairs had been taken by the youth brigade reporters. At the back were some 15 DV Cams aimed at the stage. As Waheedaji entered, I heard 15-20 dogs growling and fighting loudly at as if for a single piece of bone. There was chaos. I couldn’t hear anything. Then another young guy took the mike. Young man was representing Cinemax and kept addressing Waheedaji as Waheeda Rehman, without any respectful Indian suffixes, like ‘Ji’. He called the lady Waheeda Rehman more than once in his own American culture or Indian uncultured ways. I asked girl sitting next to me if she knew his name. I just wanted to give ‘a- hole’ a little respect here in my space. Suddenly some people stood up in front and entire gang of dogs took their cameras and moved towards the bone. There was no order left. There was more growling, pushing and shoving. At one point I stood up to ask something, but dogs growled at me too. I gave up. Actually I wanted to ask Waheedaji, ‘if English and Hindi versions were shot together, some of it together or entirely separately.’ Never mind I will find out from some where else, may be internet. But it would have been nice if she heard me when I addressed her and she addressed me in return, in the bargain I would have got my answer straight from the person involved. At a point she also told the dogs that in India we have to show respect for elders and what she saw was not right.

Later the ‘Taj’ tea seller or ‘chai wala’ came up and said that they wanted to give away their first award to a person who would match up to the stature of ‘Taj tea’. That filled up my cup of patience. It was my cue to get up and try to find my way through dangerous pack of hungry dogs. It was dangerous. I looked around and found a safe passage. Chai wala was saying, ‘now I request Waheedaji to come here and accept this award. He couldn’t go to her? The ‘Chai wala’ was handing over a silver kettle to Waheedaji. I felt suffocated. I wouldn’t be surprised if last scene of Pyasa was playing in Waheedaji’s mind. It was in mine.

Last thing I remember was, a reporter extending his microphone towards Waheedaji and begging, ‘ek byte ka sawal hai’.