TRISHUL (1978)

Very recently I picked up a book titled “Written by Salim-Javed: The Story of Hindi Cinema’s Greatest Screenwriters” by Diptakirti Chaudhuri. As the title would suggest, the book is a retelling of the journey of Hindi Cinema’s greatest and most influential (if I may add) screenwriters. And it’s no wonder, that a book about screenwriters is bound to have one thing for sure. Films. Good ones. Mediocre ones and really bad ones. As I sift through this book, I feel obliged to share with my readers some reviews of Hindi cinema’s greatest achievements. Films like Deewar, Zanjeer, Majboor, Shaan, and many more. I will start off by reviewing Trishul, a film that was in so many ways eponymous of Salim-Javed’s style and came at a time when they were at the peak of their creative genius.

Raj (Sanjeev Kumar) is in love with Shanti (Waheeda Rehman). He is a standard middle-class Indian guy who dreams of making it big in life. He works at a construction company whose owner holds him in high spirits and one day takes the opportunity to pitch a marriage proposal to his mother for his daughter. He offers an equal partnership with his company for Raj if he agreed to the marriage. At almost the same time, Raj brings Shanti home to his mother and tells her about his plan to marry Shanti. The mother willfully convinces her son to dump Shanti and marry the trophy wife instead that would put him miles ahead in the race to achieve his dreams. Raj agrees.

Shanti is distraught at this betrayal and leaves town but not before she lets Raj know that she has his child in her womb. Shanti gives birth to a boy and brings him up tough. 25 years later, Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan), grows up angry and with a burning desire to get even with a father who pushed his mother and him into a world of despair, agony, and insult. Soon Shanti dies and Vijay is set free to take his revenge on the man.

Raj now known as RK Gupta, is a huge figure in the construction business. He has a son Shekhar (Shashi Kapoor) whom he forced to study business management abroad but who is ultra cool about it. He is actually cool about everything in life. RK also has a daughter, Babli (Poonam Dhillon), who is in love with a guy who is dirt poor and is actually working in RK Gupta’s firm. Geeta (Rakhee) is a star employee in RK Gupta’s firm and RK depends on her for almost everything. She is also friends with Babli. Shekhar, upon his return, is quickly romantically attracted to Sheetal (Hema Malini) and soon love blossoms between the two. It is at this juncture that Vijay enters their lives and everything turns topsy-turvy.

Trishul is brimming with characters and subplots and yet the film remains fairly simple and easy to understand. Vijay takes an interesting path to get even with RK Gupta. With RK’s initial aid, he sets up a rival construction company and then goes all guns blazing against RK’s company. He doesn’t stop at that. He goes after RK’s personal life too in varied ways leading to some interesting situations and scenes. The writer duo of Salim-Javed really made the most of every formula that they had at hands. They even went to the extent of adding three marauding hand to hand fight sequences that though threw caution to the winds as well as the believability but was thrilling to watch nevertheless.

The music is used exceptionally well here. If you ignore the later romantic numbers that are there just to please the crowds, the first 2 songs of the film are not only beautiful to hear but carry a lot of weight and meaning. The film starts with the song “Aapki Mehki Hui Zulfon Ko” picturized on Sanjeev Kumar and Waheeda Rehman which I could listen to keeping on a loop. I just loved the close-ups and the expressions that they were able to bring out. There is an instant sense of chemistry between the two in the song which carries forward to the actual narrative and weighs down on us adding to the shock value when Sanjeev Kumar dumps Waheed Rehman. I was like! Why? Why you had to do that? You two looked perfect together. The next song that depicts Shanti’s struggle to bring up Vijay and ends when she is at her end left many moist-eyed. I was not teary but it really tugged at my heartstrings.

The film is essentially about the performances of Sanjeev Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan and the two nearly play out the film among themselves. Amitabh maintains a somber mood all through the narrative and he carries that with such aplomb and gusto that is hard not to fall for. The only time when I didn’t like him was when he was trying to woo Sheetal so that he could hurt Shekhar. This just felt odd and out of place. Writers of Salim-Javed’s repute and director of Yash Chopra’s prowess should have known better. However, that doesn’t take much away from his act which is otherwise brilliant.

Sanjeev Kumar is menacing and chews up the scenery at many junctures. The speed at which he transforms from a mild-mannered and soft spoken middle-class youth to an authoritative business tycoon is interesting to watch. His dialogues with Amitabh Bachchan’s Vijay are some of the high points of the film. When they are speaking there is always an undercurrent of words meaning something more than what their actual meanings convey. A great example of this is the scene were Vijay rescues and brings Babli home after an accident and he is injured in the process himself. There are references to “blood on the hand” that clearly mean more than what meets the eye.

Shashi Kapoor, Poonam Dhillon, and Hema Malini are side-dishes who are not strictly speaking essential. I guess they were added to the plot to increase the drama towards the end and that’s what their respective characters do. Prem Chopra is the generic baddie but he is a very good one at that. He is truly able to extract fear for his character and he does deliver a killer blow in the end. Waheeda Rehman has a friendly appearance but her little role is one of the prettiest sights in the film. That I say in the most respectable sense of the term.

Speaking of the technicalities, Kay Gee’s cinematography is top notch. I loved the manner in which he used the close-ups. The fact that he had highly expressive actors at his disposal only made his choice of using that many close-ups justifiable and also a great element to extract responses from his audience. I, however, had some issues with the editing. I am not particularly sure whether the jilts and the uneven jumps were a result of the actual edit or was it a case of bad transfer to DVD but there are numerous places were the cuts feel very jerky. If it was on part of the editor, he should have known better.

Trishul was an instant classic and it had every reason to be one. If one has seen Gangs of Wasseypur, which happens to be one of my favorite films of recent times, one cannot ignore the indelible marks of this film. Even some of the dialogs are a direct reference to the characters and situations of this film. If a film that was made decades before Wasseypur was able to instill such reverence in the mind of someone like Anurag Kashyap (who directed Gangs of Wasseypur), it is needless to mention that this is indeed a great piece of Indian cinema. What I loved even more about the film was the sheer amount of entertainment that it was able to provide. It is an enduring classic simply because it holds up pretty good even today.

Rating : 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)

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