SHIVA (1990)

When Bollywood makes stark and gritty fares, they make it better than most others. Gangster films in Bollywood has had its share of wear and tear and different interpretations. Be it the over the top presentations of the heroes or the larger than life eccentricities of the villains these films have always found takers among the masses. India is also the home to some of the most animated real life criminals and mob bosses ever and over the years these people have had their stories recreated for the screen and has been almost always accepted with glee by the masses.

One of the biggest proponent of this genre in Bollywood was Ram Gopal Varma. A man who came to the limelight with the stupendous Shiva and then cemented his place with such sensational fares like Satya, Company and the Sarkar duology. Honestly speaking, I even liked Satya 2 and off course some of the films he produced but didn’t direct like Ab Tak Chappaan and D. Now with the third instalment of Sarkar right round the corner, it was imperative for me to go back and revisit these classics by RGV as we fondly call him. Let’s start off with a look into Shiva, the film that catapulted him to the big league.

Shiva is a linear look at the life of a youngster who arrives at a college and gets caught in the internal student politics of the college. He is not interested in anything apart from his studies but he gets pulled in again and again into untoward situations involving the college leader JD who has the support of the local mob boss. He is finally forced to stand up for what he believes in. If you look at plot, on the surface, there isn’t much to the story. The film starts off with Shiva entering the college and ends with him becoming a revered don who is not only a messiah for the poor and the oppressed but is also ruthless to his enemies. He falls in love with a beautiful girl whose brother in an inspector but does lesser than Shiva in terms of maintaining law and order. He marries the girl through the film and then she gets murdered which further infuriates him and sets him on the path of revenge. What the film actually is, is an assemblage of brilliantly executed scene that are ripe with violence, brimming with energy and dripping with drama.

It is impossible to speak about Shiva without mentioning some of the iconic scenes that it brought to the platter. Scenes that have been copied in numerous forms and over and over again. Who can forget that scene towards the beginning where we saw the chain of a bicycle being used as a weapon with such gruesome effect? That was probably a scene that made us look at cycle chains from a whole new perspective. There was another scene where Shiva was being chased by a gang of marauders out to kill him and he had his infant niece with him. While the goons are on a car, Shiva has to contend with a cycle again. The physicality that this scene has to it was phenomenal. The film starts with a menacing scene where a group of college students are badly beaten up. This was another scene that was almost unforgettable.

Shiva being an assemblage of terrific scenes was possible not only because of the way the scenes are envisioned but more so because of the way they are acted. You actually believe that a man is about to be killed when a scene of that nature happens. You believe that the protagonist here can actually kill. I just loved the brooding act of Nagarjuna. He has always been a great actor but here he has really outdone himself. His chemistry with his friends and then with Amala who plays his wife Asha is immaculate. Nagarjuna and Amala share a very natural and simple chemistry which was the best thing that could have happened for a film like this. Even Shiva’s tussles with Bhavani played by Raghuvaran is superbly laid out and performed.

Raghuvaran has been a pro in the South Indian Film Industry and he brings a similar kind of gusto to his role in this film. He is reserved and is hardly the over the top villain that we are used to in Bollywood. It was such a fresh departure from the formulaic fare of Bollywood that it found takers among the audiences instantly. Amala was also a very different heroine than what we were used to. Even though she sang and danced, her character was a whole lot more real than what we were used to. Some of the smaller characters also assumed importance. Raj Zutshi who plays Shiva’s friend does a great job. He compliments him scene per scene. Not only is he likeable and an able foil to highlight all that is best in Shiva but also successfully creates a character arc for himself. Paresh Rawal has a smallish role as a corrupt minister and he does well. Brij Gopal, the man who has played God knows how many baddies before plays the marauding Ganesh. He is top notch.

From direction’s point of view, Shiva is flawless. It’s a film that is almost 2 hours and 40 minutes and there isn’t a single dull moment in that duration. I didn’t enjoy the songs that much, but I am told that in its days, the soundtrack of Shiva was a chartbuster. Thus it’s ok to accept the fact that the songs might not have been a drag for the people who watched it on release. It may not still be a drag for many who enjoy such fare.

Final thoughts. Shiva was a groundbreaking achievement in gangster films which paved the way for many other films of similar nature. Even though Ram Gopal Varma himself made two more films that were better than this one, Shiva will still hold a special place in our hearts for being the first of its kind and also the one that put Ram Gopal Varma on the map of Bollywood. I enjoyed this movie thoroughly and I can watch it at any point of time. Such is its power and entertainment quotient. If you haven’t seen it already, do watch it and be enthralled by its raw power.

Rating : 4.5/5 (4.5 out of 5 Stars)

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