The only known surviving print of the rarely-seen English version of the Bollywood movie Guide is in the possession of Dev Anand - and he may just agree to release it one day for public viewing, the evergreen superstar disclosed.
Guide, based on a novel by RK Narayan was made in two versions in 1965 - the Hindi one was directed by Dev Anand's brother Vijay Anand and the Hollywood one by Tad Danielewski. American novelist Pearl S. Buck, a Nobel laureate, co-produced the English movie with Dev Anand and wrote its script.
The English version had an alternative title, Survival. The idea was to introduce Dev Anand to English-speaking audiences.
Although the Hindi version, co-starring Waheeda Rehman, is considered a Bollywood landmark, the English one has rarely been publicly seen in India, having been withdrawn hastily after its US release spawned indifferent reviews.
However, Dev Anand, in London for the launch of his autobiography Romancing with Life told IANS Sunday that he had what is possibly the only surviving print of the film.
"Pearl S Buck is dead, and the American laboratory which had a print closed down long ago. But I have one print with me," Dev Anand told IANS after launching his book in the presence of a number of dignitaries at the Nehru Centre in London Sunday evening.
Will he consider releasing the English version for public viewing? "Let me see, let me see," Dev Anand, 84, said with his trademark mischievous smile, his eyes twinkling.
The English version was actually the first one that was shot, and it is faithful to the adult theme of the book, which deals with adultery.
After it flopped at the US box-office, Dev Anand decided to remake it in Hindi but watered down the adult content of the original novel. Vijay Anand was so shocked to read the original script, he is said to have twice turned down the offer to direct it before finally relenting.
Dev Anand, who has acted in 125 films and directed 36, has spoken elsewhere of the challenge of making a movie on adultery in 1960s India.
"We wrote a new screenplay retaining the basic theme, but deviating somewhat from R.K. Narayan's novel. The then Information and Broadcasting minister Satyanarayan Sinha panicked, saying people are complaining to the ministry about the adultery angle. 'Didn't your government give the novel a Sahitya Akademi award from the hands of Pandit Nehru?' I asked him. That settled it," Anand has said.
Narayan himself was reported to be more enthusiastic about the English version than the Hindi one, which he dubbed the "misguided Guide".
In a previous interview, Dev Anand had said: "After a pre-release screening of the English Guide, Narayan wrote me an effusive letter from America saying it's simply beautiful. But after the movie was panned by American critics and failed at the box-office, he began denouncing it publicly. I didn't bother to get his response to the Hindi Guide because it wasn't really his story anyway."
Whatever the facts of the case, the English Guide has remained for decades an object of intense curiosity among Indian cinema lovers, being the first major attempt by Bollywood to reach out to Western audiences.