'Western' is a really popular genre in Hollywood. But if we have to look for a Hindi movie that can be put in a similar bracket, we won’t go further than Sholay. However there are many other lesser known Bollywood movies that embody the western spirit- shot in virgin countryside, with horseback chases, gunshots, dacoits, loot, and romance. Yateem, written and directed by JP Dutta (the man who made ‘Border’), is one such movie. I had not heard about this one at all until I chanced upon a page on it recently. And upon watching the movie subsequently I got more than one reason to be surprised of.
First- the cinematography- the locales- the shots- are all spellbinding. As a kid when I used to travel on the Bhopal Shatabdi express to Gwalior, I used to be fascinated by the view of the Chambal valley in a stretch between Agra and Gwalior. It always made me curious and I yearned to explore the unknown terrains it kept hidden. And this movie helped me satisfy my curiosity. It has been shot in Chambal and its heartlands, and also in UP and parts of MP and Gujarat/Rajasthan. The way the shots have been mounted, the frames have been captured- is really fascinating. Upon watching it one can easily appreciate that India offers each and every kind of natural beauty a tourist may seek elsewhere in different parts of the world.
Second- the storyline- has many really unconventional elements that can be considered bold for the Indian audiences. In fact this may have been a plausible reason for its critical and commercial failure at the time it released. The movie explores forbidden relationships and the central conflict arises because of a woman seeking pleasures outside her home.
Third- Sunny Deol’s performance- over the years Sunny has been synonymous with high adrenaline action with him beating the pulp out of many hooligans at once. This movie too has its share of action packed scenes; however the difference is that Sunny’s portrayal of anguished young policeman has a certain raw charm about it which is missing from his current day performances. He manages to convey vulnerability, pain, and fervor at the same time- a feat few modern day actors can accomplish.
Fourth- the gripping drama and dialogues- many elements of the story are formulaic, however the narrative is fast paced and engrossing for most parts.
And finally- there are no memorable songs in the movie despite having Laxmikant-Pyarelal at the helm. Now this is a surprise because the movies in a 80s depended heavily on music to engage the viewers. The run-time is a bit long and fast-forwarding the songs helped.
Parting Note- This movie will draw totally diverse reactions. Some may trash it vehemently, but there would be others who would give it the highest praise. For me the movie worked as a more than decent time-pass ‘masala’ entertainer elevated by its performances and stunning cinematography.