Off they go in opposite directions! Call it what one may. Masala with a purpose (it is definitely more than average masala). The same old story around brothers on different sides of the law. Yet another portrayal of the angry young man by the most prolific actor Bollywood will have ever seen in our lifetimes. It's all of the above, sure. But nothing prepares one for the sheer quality delivered by the Bachchan who reigns supreme in this magnificently written film by Salim-Javed. This might be a good time to open this link in a new window/tab and have the audio playing as you read on!
Deewaar (The Wall) tells the story of the Vermas, who fall victim to societal evils. Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) and Ravi (Shashi Kapoor) suffer through their childhood as their widowed mother (Nirupa Roy) works tirelessly to provide for them (with help from the former). The brothers achieve success in their respective professions -- Ravi is a policeman, and Vijay a smuggler with swagger and a calm about him that screams, at every point, of tremendous composure and leadership. (In fact, his abilities are so clearly overwhelming, the climax is unfair, to an extent.).
In their leadership, they certainly take after their late father Anand (Satyendra Kapoor), a workers' union leader. Both have their ladies, of course. Ravi has Leena (Neetu Singh in a minor role), and Vijay, Anita (Parveen Babi). Ravi's assignment asks to capture Vijay. Will he pursue the mission? Will he face resistance? At what cost? What will Maa think? Watch Deewaar to discover. It might just blow you away!
At the surface, it might sound like an ordinary script, but if there were ever an example of when extraordinary dialogue and their delivery elevated a film to unparalleled heights, this is it. The very obvious strength of Deewaar is its fantastic screenplay. Scene after scene with memorable dialogue after another ensure an exciting and engaging viewing experience. So when it's not the disrespectful subject of the Almighty...
...or the kid out in the street who demands respect,...
...it's the visionary worker at the port,...
...or matter-of-fact demeanor in a perilous moment (this is probably not true any longer; federal regulation in the U.S. pronounces illegal, in most cases, audio recording using surveillance equipment, but who knows if the video cameras in elevators (or 'lifts') are equipped with microphones?)...
...or perhaps the most often-quoted line from the film (the delivery of which makes me wish it were Amitabh saying it),...
...or the mother who knows her priorities and has a choice to make,...
...or a 'pure' item number in the form of a qawwali. The soundtrack (R. D. Burman) generally takes a welcome back seat through the film, with only three full conventional songs. The background score, though, is the real highlight. Now, item numbers with the lyrical quotient of Koi Mar Jaaye (click for video) I am all for!
...or the single woman in a profession looked down upon by society. Parveen Babi is fantastic here. I've said before that I often find myself at the crossroads between Zeenat Aman and her. (Thankfully, there's no deewaar between them!)
The pehli mulaqat (first meeting) scene with her and Amitabh oozes class and style. For one, there's this woman who is good with words. Then there's the fantastic I'm Falling in Love with a Stranger (hope you clicked on it above; this is apparently a rare sound clip, which I know is not included in the soundtrack) playing in the background. You can watch the scene at this YouTube link (apologies for not finding one with subtitles). It's no wonder the true hero of the film confides in her. And speaking of falling in love with strangers, if this is true, I've lost count on a daily basis, no matter the direction! At least here's potential validation of all the poetry with teer-e-nazar (weapons that are glances) ;)
Make no mistake, Amitabh owns the role of Vijay, and in so doing, owns the film. Forget that there are many relationships he tackles that his character is emotionally invested in. There's major controversy with each of God, society, his parents and sibling, his lady love, and his professional acquaintances. His portrayal of each is perfect. But through his fine, controlled performance to depict a surprisingly controlled character (for the most part), he almost ensures this is the closest we'll get to rooting for a character we know is on the wrong side of the law.
And let's chalk this up as one of the greatest scenes in the history of Indian cinema. Mr. Bachchan, at The Unforgettable Tour concert last year, had reperformed this, and I must say he did better than in the film, which must be easy for him after all these years. Watch the complete scene at this YouTube link.
Reference number 786 (the number isn't random at all in this case) of the most-often-mentioned roadway on this blog (Bombay's Marine Drive by day, the Queen's Necklace by night, of course :)
From among the rest of the cast, Nirupa Roy is most effective. She was one of the most influential filmy moms back in the day, and here's just another piece of evidence. Shashi Kapoor is, to me, the clear weak link here. Part of it might be that the rest are just so very good, but part of it sure seems to stem from him. The reasons behind at least two instances when he starts saying his dialogue before another actor finishes his (when there was interdependence in the dialogue) are left to the audience to figure out. He has the easier task to convince of his side of the story, but that he manages to not hold up his end of the court had me wishing Vinod Khanna was playing his role. That doesn't mean he was bad. It does mean that he could have been better when opposite that performance by Amitabh, which is not necessarily a fair ask for most actors. Do you agree/disagree?
I have little else to say about this remarkable film. Chances are you've seen it already. If you haven't, you must. It's a keeper in all respects. Hats off to Salim-Javed. And hats off to Amitabh, whose performance is legendary in every sense of the word. A well-deserved four and a half stars and then some for a classic!
Movie rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent!)
Music rating: 4/5 (Excellent!)
But only because of the fantastic background score!
My Classification: PG-13 (for violence, theme)
Official website: At this link at Yash Raj Films.
I had to move The Last Lear (2007) up in my to-watch queue after Bollyviewer wrote about it. And I'm really glad I did. It's a fine film too (and mostly in English), one I'd definitely recommend. Again, it's Amitabh who takes command, in what is easily among his best performances of the decade (the best being in this film, of course :P). The delightful screenplay is a treat, as are excellent performances by Shefali Shah, Divya Dutta, Arjun Rampal, and Preity Zinta, that make it all very engaging. A definite highlight is the background score, which is brilliantly incorporated. It includes several classics from Hindi film, and my favorites from the lot included Jaane Woh Kaise from Pyaasa (1957)!
Amitabh defends Shakespeare's works like I would Ghalib's (or Aamir's :P), discussions on theatre v. film are beautiful, and there is fun, witty humor integrated within. Besides, I really, really missed my theatre instructor from middle school throughout, and I smiled through most of the film (probably even when I shouldn't have). What's more, her living room looked very much like this!
And to make this Deewaar-related, be on the lookout for dialogue carrying a similar essence as the following from the 1975 film, in a rather brilliant sequence involving Amitabh and Preity.
Some day, let's have a remake with Tabu playing a female version of Amitabh's character, and three guys talking of how their women demonize them ;)
Movie Rating: 4/5 (Excellent!)
Official website: theLastLearMovie.com
Please be sure to check out Bollyviewer's detailed review, with which I agree almost completely!