Monday, August 27, 2007

'DEEWAAR' (1975)

'Deewaar''Deewaar'… I was really intrigued by a couple of mentions of this film. Sanket mentioned that it was the first and only Bollywood film to show a couple smoking cigarettes in bed after sex. Abhishek Bachchan, on 'Koffee with Karan', was asked to rank five of his father's movies – 'Agneepath', 'Deewaar', 'Sholay', 'Zanjeer', and 'Baghban'. That was exactly how he ranked them – with 'Deewaar' taking a princely second place over 'Sholay' and 'Zanjeer', both of which I have seen and loved. So I knew I had to see 'Deewaar', and now I have.

Every now and then a film comes along that just satisfies you in every way. You aren't left wishing the story had been more ____, or the dialogues had been more ____, or the performances had been more____, or the music had been more____ or whatever…. You are just satisfied in every way, because the movie is just… all that and more. 'Deewaar' is one such movie – and the best thing is that, for all the brilliance of its crafting (Yash Chopra directs brilliantly, Salim-Javed's masterful writing is all things beautiful – sheer perfection in every scene, RD Burman's music is excellent, the action scenes are well-staged, there is some lovely cinematography with some truly iconic images, even the costume design and make-up rocks…), it also has a great deal of heart.

Ravi (played by Shashi Kapoor) and Vijay (played by Amitabh Bachchan) are brothers, but each has a very different outlook on life. Ravi has a wholesome, unassuming, unambitious, and sincere desire to seek fulfilment by walking the straight and narrow. He is non-confrontational, good-natured, almost na├»ve – very sweet, really. Even when, in the course of his search for employment, he is confronted with inequality and injustice, he does not fully engage with it – he deals with it by manufacturing a string of similes about the world being like a chest of drawers, a cupboard, a third class train. When he has the opportunity to deprive another young man of a job opportunity, his conscience will not allow him to – like every other eager young man he wants to succeed, but he is not desperate enough to hurt someone else in order to succeed... so he steps back.

When Ravi eventually finds himself (and not on purpose, as it is a goal he would never have considered himself worthy of) in the police force and under oath to fight injustice, he is crushed to discover that the injustice is not 'out there', to be expressed in poetic metaphors and looked upon philosophically. Nahin, injustice and inequality is nearer and dearer to him than he could have ever imagined. In boldly and painfully confronting and grappling with this injustice, Ravi loses one of the most important relationships in his life. At great cost, he discovers a steeliness and resolve he never knew he had – and becomes a man.


Vijay, on the other hand, is relentless and unscrupulous in his pursuit of a better life. One extremely cruel childhood encounter has scarred him for life – emotionally, as well as physically. And along with this terrible event, abandoned by their father, Vijay and his brother (with their mother having to play the role of father as well as mother) have had to endure deprivation and degradation. So now the adult Vijay is haunted and hurting – and angry…. He is angry at many people – at his father, at the men who made an offensive inscription on his arm, at society and 'the system' for kicking the three of them when they were down, at God for allowing all this to happen despite his mother's devotion to Him… but most of all Vijay is angry at himself.


He's angry at himself for being a victim, for seeing his mother become a victim, for feeling helpless and unable to make up for all the suffering.

So when he sees the opportunity to do so in adulthood, he accepts the risks involved and grabs at it with both hands… unconcerned about the risk to his life, unconcerned about the censure of society. He has only two overwhelming motivations – first, to make his mother happy by endowing upon her all the comforts she has been denied (and to take care of his brother too); and second, to prove that he is not a helpless victim but a powerful man.


Ravi and Vijay are the sons of a former trade union leader, a man who fearlessly stood up for justice until the price of his uprightness became too great for him to bear. In a way, both Ravi and Vijay are very much their father's sons… fearless, courageous, single-minded and determined (although for Vijay, that courage is almost instinctive, while Ravi has to discover it). Both have also inherited their father's substantial leadership qualities – Vijay's abilities in this regard shine through early in the film while he is working as a dockhand – it gives you a glimpse of how effective he could have been had he chosen to harness that boldness and ability to inspire in a more positive way.


The difference between father and sons, however, is that, unlike their father (and in Vijay's case at least, in a conscious effort not to tread their father's path) both brothers stubbornly refuse to back down from their fight for justice… and each brother's concept of 'justice' is very different. For Ravi, justice is firmly on the side of the good – it's about putting the bad guys behind bars, and without fear or favour. For Vijay, it's about taking what he can as quickly as he can, by any means necessary, from an intrinsically and endemically unjust system; and all in a futile attempt to numb the pain, to destroy the power of the past. It's about taking complete advantage of his luck until it runs out. So Ravi and Vijay, hitherto loving and very close brothers (with Vijay doting on Ravi, and Ravi adoring his bhaiyya), end up firmly on different and opposite sides of the same wall – hence the film's title.


In a way, the wall also represents Maa (played to perfection by Nirupa Roy), who is caught between these brothers. Deeply loved and respected, Maa has sacrificed everything for her sons and loves them both with all her heart… but like all mothers (although they will usually deny this); she has a soft spot in her heart for one of them. In a scenario that reminded me of Radha and Birju in 'Mother India', Maa shares a very deep and special bond with her restless, defiant firstborn son Vijay. Part of the reason for this could be that, as the older son, Vijay has consciously witnessed and shared in more of Maa's suffering, while they have both sought (and fought) to protect Ravi from becoming too keenly aware of the full extent of their lack. (In fact, Vijay took up child labour so that Ravi could get an education). More importantly though, I think part of the reason for this bond is that Maa sees beyond Vijay's tough and abrasive exterior to the wounded, tender, sensitive heart within. In a way, she's the only one who fully 'gets' him.

The only one, that is, until the sassy Anita (played very capably and memorably by Parveen Babi) shows up.
Vijay and Anita discover that they are kindred spirits, and open up to each other like they have to no-one else. I really liked the depiction of this relationship, because, as Carla notes, there was a realness, a lack of bravado… an almost painful honesty to the equation between Anita and Vijay.

As the story progresses, the wall between the brothers becomes an increasing source of frustration, conflict, even alienation. Maa is in a heartbreaking position. Like Radha in 'Mother India', she ultimately must deny Vijay and hurt him, in order to be true to herself (and to Ravi). It hurts to see Vijay become the cornered, wounded animal, and to see his own brother have to play the role of hunter…


…but the wonderful thing about it is that it all makes perfect sense. In the end, Ravi once again receives a boost from his bhaiyya as he moves up in the world, but not in a way anyone could have expected or hoped for.

The inexorable denouement is perfectly symmetrical with the rest of the story, flowing directly from it – and the filmmakers, as Sanket notes, never allow you to look away from it, there are no cop-outs. Commendably, they commit to showing us what the characters really go through, their dilemma, their pain, warts and all. (Not really what I would associate with Yash Chopra – this is not a pretty, shiny, sentimental film; although it definitely is elegant, stylish and beautifully shot, which I would associate with Yash Chopra). I certainly did not expect to see realistic, frank scenes like these in a Yash-ji film:


The overall effect of the film is raw, gritty and hard-hitting, slamming the viewer with an almost brutal impact, and providing lots of food for thought. Even the sunny, light-hearted parts all lead somewhere – towards the inescapable conclusion of this very human, very real tale. For example, I love these adorable, light-hearted and carefree scenes between Ravi and his girlfriend Vira (played by the ultra-cute Neetu Singh, I love how Ravi told Maa she was his 'class fellow' – simply adorable - and just look at each of their expressions and how they tell a complete story)…
Random thought: I love how Ravi and Vira's names mirror each other…



But these sweet moments aren't diversions, they are the last calm and innocent moments just before Ravi's peaceful world is turned upside down…

I love how 'Deewaar' made me think about so many fascinating issues – the complexities of mother/son relationships, the relational dynamic between siblings, the way that choices made in each echelon of society eventually trickle down (or surge up) to affect other strata… 'Deewaar' is just a really good film, everything about it just works.


But now to erm... other matters… how hot is Mr. Bachchan in this film? He totally sizzles. This is definitely one of the best Amitabh Bachchan performances I've seen so far, it's intense, raw, compelling, and has tremendous depth; so I'll get that said right now and get back to how hot he was in this film. That thick, long-ish hair, those tortured eyes, those full lips, those lanky limbs… all variously accessorised with cigarettes/bidis, fab sunglasses, nice suits… even a rope. All hella hot.



Erm... no comment on this one

The only accessory that didn't quite work (for angry-and-hot-young-man purposes) was the badge… that was kinda corny…


One big discovery for me with 'Deewaar' is that I have been watching the wrong Shashi Kapoor films. Honestly, I have never 'gotten' the whole Shashi thing… I've never really understood why people think he's so handsome/beautiful, so cool, such a great actor… I mean, until 'Deewaar' I was ready to admit that there's a pretty-ish face there (and some lovely, long-lashed brown eyes – always gotta love that); but looks-wise or acting-wise (aside from his beautiful face and performance as a child in 'Awaara'), I had not seen anything to make me really love Shashi…

I had seen him opposite the Big B in 'Do Aur Do Paanch', but I thought Amit-Ji totally outdid him in that film. I thought Shashi's character came across as a bit of a loser and a wuss, and I really didn’t like his miserable 'do not sleep, little children' song in the film. My sister who watched 'Do Aur Do Paanch' felt the same – since then she's refused to watch anything else with Shashi in it. I also caught Shashi in Raj Kapoor's 'Satyam Shivam Sundaram', in which he plays an engineer who is obsessed with beauty and mistreats his wife as a result… in this film Shashi was playing a silly jerk, so it was really no wonder that I didn’t think he was all that. I actually really liked Shashi's performance (again, opposite Big B) in 'Trishul', but he didn’t really 'stay with me' after the film.

But 'Deewaar'… now this is a little something to make me like Shashi a little (ok, so I didn't just like him a little in 'Deewaar', I absolutely loved him, but it's slightly galling to have to admit it now...), and it definitely makes me want some more Shashi. His performance is simply wonderful, his character is nuanced and beautifully drawn, you can really trace his arc and journey in the movie… and he ain't looking half bad doing it either…

12 comments:

Uzo said...

I saw Deewar ages ago so this post brings back so many memories....

Some newer stuff you have to see (you know u r the queen of the older stuff and i am the chick of the new school)- Baghban with Amit Ji and the ever beautiful Hema Malini. And there is another flashy but sweet movie with Saif Ali and Rani (with Nascar and stuff - pyar something)

LOL

carla said...

Oh hooray, I've been looking forward to your Deewaar comments. It really is a special film. You've covered everything so I have nothing to add!

I am one of those people who love Shashi. He was a fine, fine actor who made a lot of middling films. He was notoriously unselective about his roles, and so there's a wide wide range of films to see him in. My favorite Shashi performances - acting-wise - apart from *Deewaar* include Shyam Benegal's *Junoon* (he is simply outstanding in this film) and *Jab jab phool khile*. In masala films he tends to just play the dandy, and doesn't really use his exceptional skill. Then, also, he may just not work for you, no matter what.

Daddy's Girl said...

Hey Uzo, I've seen both 'Baghban' and 'Tara Rum Pum' - 'Tara Rum Pum' was the one I talked about in the music post... Rani was so fab in that film!
I really enjoyed 'Baghban', for Amit Ji and Hema Malini's lovely performances... I watch a lot of the new stuff as well as the old (just saw 'Awarapan' and 'The Train' - I have a little mini-crush on Emraan Hashmi), it's just that I tend to blog about the old stuff more - I guess it's because of the 'tried and tested' factor (and the Dharmendra-love of course).
Ok, since I've seen those two, I need more recommendations! Need to know what to buy when we get to India and what not to bother with...

Daddy's Girl said...

Carla: Dang, I just missed you - I'm leaving this comment just a few minutes after yours. I think I just need to see Shashi in more films... I loved him in 'Deewaar'...

Aparna said...

I never got the Amitabh-magic impact, being brought up by parents who stopped me from watching non-kiddie movies ever since they understood that I was trying to understand waht exactly were the hindi movies all about (read: love affairs, family problems, etc). Once I reached college, I realized what I had missed, but even then, till I saw Deewar, I never understood the injustice done by the filmfare guys to Amitabh, by denying him the fimfare award for the best actor for this role. The award incidentally, went to Shashi, for the same movie.

Daddy's Girl said...

Hi Aparna! How have you been? He was definitely robbed - this was an awesome performance.

Maja said...

Hey DG! Fantastic post + great caps :) I haven't seen Deewaar yet, so I can't comment much, but I will definitely watch it as soon as I can find it. But for now I just have to say that Neetu Singh is lovely, and I love that screencap of AB with the sunglasses so much that I'm gonna try to turn it into a wallpaper so I can admire it every time I'm at my computer! (You wouldn't happen to have a larger version still saved somewhere?)
Here's another picture for you - it's from Do aur do paanch, not Deewaar, but I don't think you'll mind ;)

Daddy's Girl said...

Thank you so much Maja, I love that picture... a minute ago I was frowning at my screen, now I am smiling... I know, the sunglasses picture rocks.. I do have a larger version saved somewhere, I'd love to send it to you, but don't know your email address - you can email me at daddysgirlali@gmail.com so I know where to send it to.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post: Daddy's Girl. Bravo

To clarify on one point: about the badge. Try to get the significance behind it. It is given to Vijay by an elderly Muslim co-worker (pseudo father-figure??) and the badge has the number 786 which is a number considered lucky by many Muslims. So even though Vijay is an athiest and of a Hindu background, he shows respect for a fatherly figure (who is a Muslim) and maybe his belief in the number 786 is a concession to God from his side. A pseudo-approach to making-up with God.

Now generally all Bollywood films have something to cater to everybodys tastes: so a little humour, tragedy, music, dance i.e. lots of different masalas.

Similarly most Bollywood films also reflect Indian society and try to include characters belonging to all communities. You can call it a token presence of a Muslim, Christian etc.etc. The other way to look at it is that Bollywood aims for inclusivity and tries to cater to all. So maybe this is where the Muslim character figures and the use of 786 in the movie.

Look closely and you will see this in many Bollywood movies. The kindly Christian father who takes in the orphan in Amar Akbar Anthony, or the kindly muslim priest in Sholay whose son is killed by the dacoits,

Then again in Lagaan the presence of a Sikh, Untouchable, Muslim, old, young characters in the team. Note that the Muslim is the person to stay with Bhuvan right till the end and he gets out during the match not due to his own fault but due to a small kid who is running for him because he is injured and cant run.

Hope i have managed to give u a slight insight into the usage of these symbols in Bollywood movies. Needless to say, Bollywood doesnt aim for reality but for idealism (in this case with the inclusivity of all strata of society) and that is what makes it unique.

Once again, this post of yours has been the best analysed and most readable till date.

If u get time do visit my blog http://www.nirvana73.blogspot.com/

Love

Nirvana

Daddy's Girl said...

Thanks so much Nirvana, for this insightful comment. I didn't give too much thought to the significance of the badge, I have to admit, and your comment has definitely given me lots of food for thought. I've just visited your blog - lots more insightful analysis on the kind of topics I find very interesting - will definitely call again! Thanks for stopping by.

Sanket Vyas said...

DG - An absolutely amazing review, it flat out gave me goosebumps to read it. So happy to see that I am not the only one who found this movie so special and 'perfect' ;) Amitji did get robbed for the Filmfare Award but Shashi won that year for Best Supporting Actor while AB was nominated for Best Actor.

Shashi is just underrated and as Carla pointed out - he was very non-picky about his roles. For 2 examples of the bookends of his career check out 'Sharmilee' (his first hit) and 'In Custody' aka 'Hifazzat' (his last great movie). I think they will provide you with a side of Shashi's acting that you will be quite impressed by.

Daddy's Girl said...

Those are very kind words, Sanket - and very much appreciated, coming from you! Thanks for your clarification on the Filmfare Award. I also appreciate your Shashi recommendations - so far I have loved all the movies you've recommended (Guddi, Deewaar, etc), so I'm looking forward to watching them. Been trying to find 'Sharmilee' for ages, hopefully someday I'll be lucky...