Vijay Anand’s classic Guide and its immortal songs are unanimously loved and celebrated as one of the most acclaimed films and soundtracks in the history of Hindi cinema. Though much has been written about them in the last five decades, yet an important feature mostly remains missing, particularly in the write-ups focusing on the music and songs of the film.
The lesser-discussed feature happens to be ‘The Snake Dance’ in Guide, spiritedly performed by Waheeda Rehman on a piece of exceptional instrumental music composed by S. D. Burman. Perhaps the reference of this brilliant creation mostly remains left-out, because the specific track is strangely not there in the film’s official soundtrack released on the LP records (and cassettes in the later years). Maybe, including such instrumental tracks in the officially released LPs was not the trend in those days, or the time limitation on the medium was the reason behind the omission.
‘The Snake Dance’ was an integral part of the script of both the versions of Guide in English and Hindi directed by Tad Danielewski and Vijay Anand, respectively. However, because of obvious reasons, the foreign director couldn’t conceive the sequence in any worth-applauding manner compared to what Anand and his team did in the Hindi adaptation.
Giving a brief description, the over three minutes dance sequence is both a creative and technical marvel created by a blessed team. It is a remarkable amalgamation of performance (Waheeda Rehman and her co-dancer Sheela), music (S.D. Burman), choreography (Hiralal), camerawork (Fali Mistry), art (Ram Yedekar), editing (Vijay Anand/ Babu Sheikh), and direction (Vijay Anand), together creating an unparalleled gem of Hindi cinema.
The music keeps changing its feel and tempo at intervals, using various Indian instruments to keep you engaged. And then we have Waheeda, setting the screen on fire, becoming the snake charmer and the snake together, giving a mesmerising performance. As the dancers cover the entire set, swiftly moving from one corner to the other, the camera skilfully cans it all with many innovative angles, leaving the viewers watching their movements with their jaws open.
Moving over to its link with another new-age classic Lamhe released in 1991 — the Yash Chopra-directed film also had an unconventional theme, that didn’t result in any similar outcome at the box office surprising the trade pundits. Interestingly, where a bold Guide was readily accepted by the viewers in the 1960s, a brave Lamhe got rejected in the much developed and progressive 1990s.
As an intriguing case, both the films had a similar situation in their story progression, where the female lead expresses her anger or frustration in an energetic dance sequence shot on an instrumental track.
Incidentally, ‘The Snake Dance’ was the inspiration in the mind of Yash Chopra too, before shooting his dance track for Lamhe titled, Moments of Rage. That was the exact reference given by the veteran director to Sridevi and he asked her to repeatedly watch and study the act before the specific shoot. Amazed by the unmatched execution in Guide, Sridevi delivered a spellbinding dance performance enacting the ‘moments of rage’ emoting on the upbeat track composed by Shiv-Hari.
Post the shoot, as Sridevi mentioned the point of reference given by the director to Waheeda Rehman (her co-actor in Lamhe), Waheeda fondly recalled the times when the dance director (Hiralal) gave her a really tough time in the vigorous rehearsals continuing for days before shooting the cult ‘snake dance’ sequence. Years later, in an interview she revealed, how those early morning and late-night dance rehearsals were so killing that she even had difficulty in walking for days, as the muscles kept aching and took a long time to recover.
Summing up, Lamhe has another amusing link with Guide, as it also features Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai in its entertaining parody — in which Waheeda Rehman once again dances on the track, giving an adorable, loving tribute to her popular classic.
(The writer is a critic-columnist, an explorer of cinema and author of ‘Did You Know’ series on Hindi films also active at bobbytalkscinema.com)