Review: Paying Guest—A Masterpiece of Dev Anand

By Naeem Asgher Tarar



Chhod do aanchal zamaana kya kahega

O o o chhod do aanchal zamaana kya kahega

Ha ha ha inn adaaon kaa zamaana bhee hai divaana

Divaana kya kahega……


What a marvellous song to hum with pleasure, from great music to animated lyrics, it offers everything. This song was sung by the master musicians of their time, Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle for a 1957 Bollywood movie ‘Paying Guest.’ The star cast of this movie includes Dev Anand, Nutan and Shubha Khote.

The movie opens with a scene, where Ramesh Kumar (Dev Anand) with a worried countenance comes to pay a visit to his friend, who is a sculptor. Ramesh complains to his friend that the landowner has evicted him from the rented property as he had been unable to pay the rent for the last six months. His friend after offering consolation suggests looking for some other place in the vicinity. Ramesh resolutely stands up and off he goes to look for another place.

Ramesh is an advocate, who has just entered into legal arena to flex his muscles. The thing worth noticing is the penury state of a newly graduated advocate, which is germane, even today. The reason for Ramesh’s lesser moderate economical life is his condition of abject destitution and the inability to establish himself as a practicing lawyer. Finally, Ramesh manages to find an adequate lodging with a landowner who at times could be annoying, but brushing this inconsequential issue aside he readily agrees to all of the conditions put forth by the landowner. In this house, on the upper floor, resides the heroine of this movie with her old and sick father. Ramesh’s first encounter with Shanti (Natan) is not impressive. A mild verbal commotion takes place between Ramesh and Shanti who, with her father, vacates this house to find another, so that Ramesh can’t meddle into their affairs.

We may call it the mundane concept of ‘Love at first sight’ in Bollywood , but that’s how Ramesh falls in love with Shanti. As soon as father and daughter leave the place to find a new one, Ramesh starts searching them. He finds them after some time, without any considerable hassle. The house which now accommodates Shanti and her father is too big for two people, so to let in some extra money and fill in the house, they start looking for a tenant. They make it mandatory that no bachelor can avail this offer, only someone of an older age. Definitely, Ramesh does not fit this condition. In the fierce urge to live near his beloved, he actuates a plan and cons both of them by adopting the guise of an old poet. He finally gets the room.

When in the house or when Shanti and her father are around, he always has to maintain that guise with a gilded robe and a fake set of beard, but when he is outside the house, he is back into his legal and professional look. Later this trick gets revealed to the impassive Shanti, but by then, the feelings of love were mutual. No harm done.

In the second half of movie they both get married and start a marital life. Events which unfold in the second and last part of the movie are not pleasant and in fact gave the new couple some tough time. Brother-in-law of Shanti appears. He is a good-for-nothing heavy drunkard. From the outset, his persona was suave but mendacity was sewn underneath the skin. Along with him, another important character makes the entry in this part of the movie: Chanchal, a college friend of Shanti. The role of Chanchal was performed by the beautiful Shubha Khote.

Chanchal married a successful and wealthy lawyer who lives in the neighbor of Ramesh and Shanti. When Shanti and Chanchal were in college, once, during a debate, they outlined the attributes which they seek in their future husbands. According to Shanti’s choice, someone who is pure of heart and can love her like an idolater would be fine, while Chanchal said she is okay with anyone of any age who is rich and can afford her.

Chanchal lives in luxury and affluence with every comfort stacked to be availed anytime, but soon this all ceases to appease her anymore and she starts to panic on her dull life. The drunkard brother-in-law of Shanti somehow forms a close friendly bonding with Chanchal, which engenders the murder of Chanchal’s rich husband, by drowning him in a canal. Chanchal now longs for love and someone who can share with her a relationship which does not constitute materialism in the least. This brings jealousy and Chanchal starts devising plans to pull Ramesh to her side.

Since the brother-in-law of Shanti had subsided the husband of Chanchal by drowning him, he starts blackmailing Chanchal and demanded a huge amount of money to satisfy his scotch addiction. This irks Chanchal who, with the help of her loyal servant, kills the brother-in-law and very cleverly creates a scene, which traps Shanti in this murder. In the end, Ramesh works on this case covertly, and upon finding the relevant evidence, which was sufficient to get his wife out of the case, he presents it in court. Happy ending!



  • mohanrr

    One of the best tribute paid to Dev Anand.

    Dev Anand – The Story Maker

  • Harun

    For my generation the “fugga” hair style hardly ever mattered. We were rather comfortable and sought solace in Kishor Kumars and Md. Rafis being played as we sought a evening retreat in bars – even while during the daytime it was Govindas, Anil Kapurs and Chunky Pandeys for us. And yet Dev Anand steyed with us – as Raju Guide for some, as Jewel Thief for others.
    We were – and still are – quite a curious generation.
    For me Dev Anand was Guide and Guide was Dev Anand . That and the bit in “hum dono” when he sings “har fiqr ko dhuwwey me udaata chala gaya”. Outside those – IMHO , he just “performed” – perhaps exceptionally well.
    Guide was the film that brought out “elements” within him.
    The complete transformation from a petty Guide who has managed to hit gold mine in Waheeda Rahman to a person just out of jail and unsure of life ahead (excellently portrayed by S D Burman’s song “Waha Kaun Hai Teraa”) to a fasting saint when he says – bas mai hi mai hu , indeed portrays a wonderful journey.
    Not trying to be preachy here but somehow it all appeared as a wonderfully spiritual statement – further peppered by SDB’s “Alla megh de shyama megh de” . Nobody, not even Raj Kapur, could’ve made justice to this excellent role. It had to Dev Anand .

    To put it metaphorically – from Guide’s own lyrics :
    “kahate hai gyaani, duniya hai faani
    paani pe likhi likhaayi
    hai sabki dekhi, hai sabki jaani
    haath kisike naa aayi
    haath kisike naa aayi
    kuchh teraa naa meraa, kuchh teraa naa meraa,
    musaafir jaayegaa kahaan”