Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Deewar (1975)

As I promise in the blog description, every now and then I will revisit popular classics for, as I mention, it is hard to stay away from fast food for long. And what better mouth-watering and sumptuous meal than Deewar.

Yash Chopra’s Deewar is the quintessential Hindi movie for me. It would be futile trying to put in under a genre, for it’s a genre in itself. Many films hence have tried to repeat the formula (or what is perceived to be a formula), but hardly any other movie can claim coming close to level of intensity that was evident in each and every scene of this iconic movie written by Salim-Javed (Bas naam hee kaafi hai). I write this piece as a humble ode to this memorable offering from the 1970s, and this in no ways is a review.

One thing that is striking about most potboilers from the 1970s and early 80s is that they nearly always started by showing the childhood of the protagonists. For it was the childhood that shaped the way the protagonists would turn out to become after the time leap. It is the same in Deewar, but the initial sequences here have arguably more significance than in any other movie. It starts off with dilemma faced by the union leader when he has to decide between the good of his union and the lives of his children and wife. Compelled by circumstances, he makes a terrible choice and bows down to the demands of his bosses- thus in the process letting down the hopes of hundreds of co-workers. He is humiliated and unable to face the wrath of his community, he runs away leaving his children and wife (played by Nirupa Roy) to take care of themselves.
For me there are a few things that define the phenomena Deewar is, and the first follows soon after-

MERA BAAP CHOR HAI- Few street hooligans forcibly tattoo the words ‘Mera Baap Chor Hai’ on young Vijay’s arm (elder of the two brothers). This is one of the many master-strokes by the Salim-Javed. These words on his arm have a tremendous impact on young Vijay’s mind and these words play a crucial role in shaping his psyche and behavior as he grows up and even later on when he goes on to become what he becomes.
THE BRIDGE- after Nirupa Roy and her two children move to the city to escape the hostility of their community, she takes up menial jobs to earn bread of her two children. She toils hard and sacrifices her own health to enable her children to live as comfortably as they possibly could. They spend their nights under 
bridge which becomes a sort of home for them.

MAIN PHENKE HUE PAISE NAHIN UTHATA- Young Vijay takes up to boot polish to earn some money so that he can help his mother educate Ravi. His refusal to accept the coin unceremoniously thrown towards him by a customer defines the angry young man persona that he would later go on to adopt (played by Amitabh Bachchan).

As the two kids grow up, they choose radically different paths in life. While younger Ravi (played by Shashi Kapoor) studies hard and becomes a graduate, Vijay keeps at doing menial jobs and lands up as a worker in a factory. What follows next is one of the most powerful scenes in Hindi cinema when Vijay refuses to pay the weekly tax to the local goons after witnessing the death of a young co-worker doing the same.

Things take a dramatic turn when Vijay takes to crime and starts doing illegal activities. On the other hand, Ravi takes up the job of a Police officer after been unable to find a job anywhere else (with the help of his girlfriend played by Neetu Singh).
Meanwhile Shashi Kapoor and Neetu Singh find time to sing one of my favorite duets from that era- Keh Doon Tumhein-

Once the conflict is established the screenplay remains taut and engrossing throughout. The clash of ideologies between the two brothers creates a wall (‘Deewar’) between the two brothers and leads to drama that has awed and enthralled hindi movie lovers since these past many years.

BHAI TUM SIGN KARTE HO YA NAHIN- The drama reaches a high point when Ravi confronts Vijay and demands that he accept his mistakes and give up the life of crime. The mother is shown to be a witness of this confrontation and this elevates the tension of the scene- a memorable exchange between two characters having diametrically contrasting viewpoints in life.

MERE PAAS MAA HAIN- I think if we have to make a list of Hindi movie dialogues that have been repeated the most in some form or the other- then this one would be the undisputed winner. Again a confrontation sequence between the two brothers that takes place under the very bridge where they started their lives in the city- this is one something else altogether. 

AAJ KHUSH TOH BAHUT HOGE TUM- Now this is one relationship that is as powerful and critical to the whole movie as any other (if not more). The relationship Vijay, the naysayer, the disbeliever- shares with God. In a memorable sequence Vijay enters a temple for the first time in his life (since they moves to the city at least)- his objective- to save his mother’s life.

THE END- Now this one was expected and there was no other way to culminate the film. Vijay had to die. He died, but the character still lives- Arguably the best performance of Amitabh Bachchan, arguably the best script by Salim-Javed- and most certainly the best movie by Yash Chopra. Legendary stuff.

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