DEEWAAR (1975)

  • Release Date: 24/01/1975
  • Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Nirupa Roy, Parveen Babi, Neetu Singh, Iftikhar and Madan Puri
  • Director: Yash Chopra
  • Screenplay: Salim-Javed

Deewaar released in the same year as the juggernaut Sholay but it was still able to carve a niche for itself in the map of Indian Cinema. Not only did it carry forward the angry-young-man persona that Salim-Javed created for Amitabh Bachchan in Zanjeer but effortlessly took it to a whole new. Deewaar is a film that still feels fresh and contemporary. Be it the plight of a family devastated by the corporate machinery or the manner in which a man crawls out of the same tragedy and unleashes his anger and frustration on a society –by aiding its vices– that did nothing to ease his suffering when he needed it to, will easily find a voice among the masses even after 3 decades of its release.

Anand Babu (Satyen Kappu) is forced to sign an agreement on behalf of the workers of a commercial establishment that practically suppresses their upheaval against the administration denying them every bit of what they were fighting for. Anand is blackmailed into signing the document as his wife and 2 children are kidnapped and held at gunpoint by the men running the business. The man loses his reputation and in many ways his way of life in the locality that once respected him. Soon he departs leaving his family behind never to be seen again. His departure further worsens the situation of his family as they are subjected to both mental and physical torture. His elder son Vijay has the immortal lines “Mera Baap Chor Hai” (my father is a thief) forcibly tattooed on his arm by some drunks. His mother decides to retreat to Mumbai (Bombay at that time) after this brutal violation of his son.

Once in Mumbai, she finds it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. Vijay aids his mother in earning and in sending his brother Ravi to school. They both grow up to be as different as chalk and cheese. Vijay is a coolie at the dockyard while Ravi is an educated unemployed who is toiling hard to find a job. Vijay gets into a tangle with some local hoods who are extorting money from the dockyard workers and this brings him to the notice of Mulk Raj Davar (Iftikhar), a suave smuggler who is himself being tormented by his arch rival Samant (Madan Puri). Vijay soon rises in the ranks of his organization becoming a torchbearer for Davar as well as one of the biggest smugglers of the city. Ravi, on the other hand gets recruited in the Police, comes back to Bombay and realizes that his brother will be his biggest challenge and his toughest target.

Deewaar isn’t a story that we haven’t heard or seen before. However, what makes this film special are the terrific performances and the treatment of the subject. This is the kind of story that wouldn’t mean anything if we were not able to feel the pain of the characters, their angst, their love and their conflicts. That is what makes this film special and so very relatable. Each of the actors make you feel their side of the story and in doing so they ensure that you are hooked to their respective tales, love them or hate them and above all are interested to see what happens to them in the end.

Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) isn’t a law abiding honorable gentleman. He is on the contrary a criminal. He is a smuggler and all that he cares about is making enough money to be at the tallest tower of Bombay looking down at the same road on which he, not so long ago, crawled with his mother and brother side by side with the millions of other commoners. He wants to gift his mother the building that she labored to build. It’s not that he wants to do so to complete some noble quest but it is more so to quench his thirsty ego that just craves for more and more.

Ravi (Shashi Kapoor) on the other hand is an educated and cheerful man. He is selfless as it is proved in a sequence when he gives up a job that he desperately needs so that a man who is probably needier than him may get it.  He studied hard and then toiled even harder to get in the police force. Once in, he takes the noble path and always does what is right. He is brave enough to face and standoff against his brother who he loves dearly. At one juncture he decides to let his brother be but then something happens that makes him realize the importance of what he is en-tasked with. Even after that, he lets his brother surrender and get back in the fold but he doesn’t.

The mother played by Nirupa Roy is righteous too. She suffered but never dropped her cover. She never thought her children to be anything other than noble. She is simple enough not to understand, Vijay’s meteoric rise to riches and the moment she does, she doesn’t bat an eyelid before denouncing a life of comfort and luxury and walks out with Ravi proving that she values virtue more than materialistic gains and lush lifestyle.

Still!…still! Knowing it all, the audience is for the majority of the film coaxed into backing Vijay. I can speak for myself and that’s what I will try to do here and also try to be as objective as possible. The director and the writers masterfully create twists and turns that invariably make us love Vijay even though he is a grey character. Vijay is the one who has to face the brunt of his father’s sudden disappearance. He is physically desecrated and that too when he a kid. This plays in our mind for the rest of the film. It not only fills Vijay with the kind of pain and angst that lets him self-justifies every questionable action and decision of his but also make us back him in whatever he does. Vijay derives his thirst for power and money from this suffering. He waits for the true opportunity to arise and when it does, he laps it up.

When Ravi stands up against his brother, all I could think of was how can Ravi do this to him when it was his brother who propelled his education thereby letting him be who he is now. That’s all I cared to remember. Similarly when the mother stands up against Vijay, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated remembering that it was Vijay who shared her load and responsibility in not only running their household but also in educating Ravi. He was her pillar of strength and she should know very well what propelled him to be who he becomes.  Still she chooses to turn a blind eye to all that and abandons him. Not fair (Chuckle! Chuckle!)

The manner in which, the director and writers trick us into loving Vijay is masterful. The amount of maturity that they show in driving the narrative through some subtle dramatic twists and turns is noteworthy. For example the scene that changes Ravi’s mind about not standing up against his brother is one such wonderful scene. He shoots down a boy who is being chased for stealing and then realizes that all he had stolen was a loaf of bread for his hungry family. The manner in which the father of the boy deals with the tragedy is exceptionally warm and the manner in which Shashi Kapoor enacts this situation gives us an idea of what he was going to do next.

Similarly the scene in the temple where Vijay pleads with the God to save his mother’s life, gives us an insight into his softer side. The moments he shares with Anita (Parveen Babi), an escort who doesn’t have a sob story, is exceptionally real and subtle. Her character works as a catalyst for what he does right at the end. Nothing else would have pushed him to do what he did.

Deewaar is able to successfully play and manipulate our emotions. We watch it being a part of the narrative. The characters feel real. We can be any of those characters. There are no superhero feats. Infact there are just 2 action sequences out of which one is rather brief. These are factors in the film that were a big gamble in that period but that played extremely well for the film. Deewaar isn’t an action film. It is essentially a human drama and a very good one at that. The understanding of this basic quality and property of the film helped its director to make a film that was as self conscious as it was self aware and appealing.

To me Deewaar is a better film than Sholay (comparison was inevitable) and that is simply because it’s a film that drives closer to home than the blockbuster. It leaves a mark on you and offcourse, it never fails to entertain. This is one of the enduring classics.

Rating : 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)   

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