Born on October 10, 1906, Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami, better known as RK Narayan, was one of the most prolific writers of Indian literature in English along with Raja Rao and Mulk Raj Anand. The son of a headmaster, Narayan was well known for the sophistication and humour he exuded in his adopted language. Best known for his novels that are set in the imaginary small town of Malgudi in southern India, Narayan received many awards and honours including the AC Benson Medal from the Royal Society of Literature, the Padma Vibhushan and the Padma Bhushan. RK Narayan was honoured with the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship in 1994.
He was also a close friend of the prolific writer Graham Greene, who was instrumental in getting Narayan’s first four books published. These included the semi-autobiographical trilogy of Swami and Friends, The Bachelor of Arts and The English Teacher. On his 114th birth anniversary, here’s looking at a few memorable onscreen adaptations of his works:
Guide (1965): Vijay Anand’s Guide, starring Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman was based on the 1958 novel, The Guide, by RK Narayan. A box office success on release, it follows the life of Raju (essayed by Dev Anand) who turns from being a freelance guide to a hermit and Rosie (Waheeda Rehman) who is helped by Raju in her quest for self-identity. The film, which has a bittersweet ending, was selected as the Indian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 38th Academy Awards. However, it was not accepted as a nominee.
Mr Sampat (1952): The film by SS Vasan was based on Narayan’s 1949 novel Mr. Sampath – The Printer of Malgudi. The film is about a con artist (played by Motilal), who manipulates a theatre actress (Padmini) and a ghee merchant for his own benefits. Even though Motilal’s work as the conniving antagonist was much appreciated, the film failed to perform well in the box office.
Banker Margayya (1983): Based on Narayan’s novel The Financial Expert, the TS Nagabharana directorial starred Lokesh in the lead role. The film received the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Kannada in 1984. Lokesh was awarded the Best Actor at the 1983-84 Karnataka State Film Awards for his portrayal. The film is based in Malgudi, a fictive town created by Naryana. Lokesh plays the role of Margayya, a moneylender whose life takes a turn for the worse when his account books are thrown away by his son.
Malgudi Days: The television series that started in 1986 was based on the short story collection of the same name by RK Narayan that was published in 1943. Directed by Shankar Nag, the sketch artist for the series was RK Narayan’s younger brother RK Laxman. Two of Narayan’s novels which featured in the series were Swami and Friends as well as The Vendor of Sweets.