Universally acknowledged as Navketan’s best film, Guide remains arguably the greatest work by a composer for a Hindi feature film. S.D. Burman’s score is not only intense, deep, thought-provoking, but also colourful, blithe-spirited, multi-layered and fluid, almost like an Impressionist painting. SD’s music gave the ‘body’ to Navketan, playing a lead role parallel to its star Dev Anand’s. Any of the three Rafi solos in the film (‘Tere mere sapne’, ‘Din dhal jaye’, ‘Kya se kya’), the three Lata solos (‘Kaanton se kheench key eh anchal’, ‘Piya tose naina lage re’, ‘Mose chhal kiye jaye’) or the Kishore–Lata duet (‘Gaata rahe mera dil’) can be contenders for a spot in the Top 50 songs of all time.

The two back-to-back songs, a novel experiment in the cinema of the era, ‘Mose chhal’ and ‘Kya se kya’, outline the pain of a broken relationship. Shailendra’s lyrics are both teasing and profound, Vijay Anand choreographs the sequence in contrasting tones, and S.D. Burman uses one basic tune to create two very different songs that beautifully convey the essence of Rosie and Raju’s break-up.

Play
‘Mose Chhal Kiye Jaaye’.

Rosie (Waheeda Rehman) is a dancer. Her lover, Raju (Dev Anand), comes into some money and eventually starts drinking and gambling. Uncomfortable with this change, she starts avoiding him. Raju’s insecurity and fear of losing Rosie force him to commit forgery. When Raju is arrested, he expresses his desire to meet her. The scene is dramatic and segues into a dance drama with the back-to-back scores of ‘Saiyaan beimaan’ (Lata) and ‘Kya se kya ho gaya’ (Rafi).

‘Saiyaan beimaan’ was inspired by S.D. Burman’s ‘Saiyaan, kaise dharun dheer’ in Sitaron Se Aage (1958), which, according to scribe Raju Bharatan, started the Lata–SD war that lasted till Bandini (1963). It is probably the only film song for which Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma played the tabla. With sitar, tabla, running violins, flute, the occasional taar sehnai and pronounced resonance of the ghungroo in side percussion, ‘Saiyaan beimaan’ almost dances to the instruments. Rosie’s (Waheeda Rehman) dance steps in ‘Saiyaan beimaan’ are hard and raw as the angry danseuse castigates Raju (Dev Anand) for not having heeded her advice. The metre of the song, based on Addha taal in the mukhra, is structured in a way that the breaks at the point ‘Haaye re haaye, haaye’ sound like a vexed woman beating her forehead in frustration. The drawn-out ‘Dekho’ tells the ‘court’ of the pain her lover has caused her. S.D. Burman’s choice of a fast pace was a welcome departure from the unwritten rule that a ‘sad’ song has to be slow.

Play
‘Kya Se Kya Ho Gaya’.

Fali Mistry’s award-winning cinematography lays out a gradation of soft purple, pink and heather in the backdrop. The pair of handcuffs hanging from the scaffolding of the stage spells ‘time-up’ for Raju. He accuses Rosie of betraying him. The song ‘Kya se kya’ follows. In the high point of the mukhra, Mohd Rafi’s wail ‘Bewafaa’, extending over twenty matras, embellishes the pain. Raju cannot believe how Rosie misunderstood him, that she could think he commited the crime for money. Suitably chastised, he relates his new hard-learnt lesson, ‘Chalo suhana bharam to toota, jana ke husn kya hai.’

SD Burman.
SD Burman.

S.D. Burman composed these two songs on major scales differing by half a note, using almost the same tune, but the arrangement is so different that only close scrutiny can discern the likeness. Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, who played the flute in Guide, says, ‘Yes, it was the same tune, but it was very cleverly constructed. The half-note difference had a purpose; it had to create a demarcation between the two emotional states.’

The merits of Guide as a musical have been documented well enough by chroniclers, including the inside stories of Dev Anand’s patience with S.D. Burman’s lengthy sick leave after composing one of the numbers. To Burman-dada’s suggestion that Dev opt for another composer, Dev responded that he would release Guide with that solitary composition alone if need be. Guide is also the only film in which SD sang two songs, as opposed to the customary single. These were ‘Wahan kaun hai tera’ and the relatively lesser cited ‘Megh de pani de’, the climactic song.

However, climactically, the film could have stopped at ‘Kya se kya’. The energy in ‘Saiyaan beimaan’/‘Kya se kya ho gaya’ and the visual magnificence of the sequence, make for not only the end of the Raju–Rosie relationship but also, possibly, the perfect high at which to end the film. It sums up the romantic tragic story beautifully, thus carving a spot for itself as one of the landmark fifty songs over other priceless gems in Guide.

Excerpted with permission from Gaata Rahe Mera Dil, Balaji Vittal and Anirudha Bhattacharjee, HarperCollins India.