Deewaar (1975) and The Last Lear (2007): The Bachchan reigns supreme

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.

And finally...

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!


30 comments:

BB said...

Deewaar is probably my favorite Big B movie EVER. I loooooove it!

bollyviewer said...

Hey thanks for the plug, tBF!

I am not a fan of Big B, especially his older self, but I enjoyed his performance in The Last Lear. For Deewar though, I guess I am too far removed from the original audience in time and cinematic experiences to enjoy it at all. Or perhaps its something to do with the "classic" tag - I can never understand the appeal of any classic (except Sholay which I like perhaps because its never touted as a "good" movie but as a "great masala classic"). In the case of Deewar, what was perhaps novel and fresh in 1975 seems to my 2007 eyes like a big collection of cliches and "memorable" dialogues (the kind that has turned into the butt of several jokes). I missed the masala fun of other Salim-Javed outings, and there was just not enough realism to make up for it.

theBollywoodFan said...

Nae: It's got to be in his best of all time. He's acted in over 300 films, and given his exuberance in most films, that's saying a lot!

Bollyviewer: Thank *you* again for recommending The Last Lear! That's interesting about your experience with Deewaar, I almost want to say that's me and Sholay (but that's another story)!

I saw Deewaar for the first time in my adult life two weeks ago (I know, shame on me for the delay, but better late, right?), and was completely blown away. And what better way to disagree than with the most 'memorable' line of them all? To each his/her own. :)

Crazy on Bollywood said...

Today's audience often wonders to see Amitabh Bachchan’s esteem.He had neither a great physic nor a charming look and even one more important thing that he couldn’t dance well like modern day’s actor.In spite of those lacking, how can it be possible to hold the super stardom after 35 years.To know all these answer just go and rent Deewar.

Sujoy said...

Deewar is the Big B movie, the movie which defines the Angry Young Man image of Big B, and in a way, the movie which made B Big. It was iconic because of RD Burman's music, because of Salim Javed's dialogues and because of Nirupa Roy's immortal motherhood (onscreen of course). So looking forward to watch it all over again, and writing on it. Thanks for this lovely trip down memory lane.

Cheers,
Sujoy

Darshit said...

Well, to be true-I also haven't watched this !! [seen in bits, cause my bro is diehard fan of BigB] I am with bollyviewer on this. Of course, This is great example of filmmaking, and a pioneer of many 'the' of film industry. 'The Vijay' 'The Yashraj' 'The Salim Javed' 'The Dialogues' 'The Angry Young Man' and 'The AB-Shashi Pair'.

But still, i can't find something that's I am comfortable with, in a movie. I have avoided all Big B's older movies in which he potrays roles similar to this. Many movies followed nearly same storyline, after this. Also, I am not a fan of Bachchan, but still I am a huge fan of his two newer movies 'Hum' and 'Khuda Gawah'. Both by Mukul Anand, and that might be the reason. [and my childhood crush in later one, Sri :P] But Big B as I liked, was in those two movies. 'Larger than Life'. Also, later in some recent movies [to be specific, with his beard avatar] he is good. The Last Lear, looks so much promising. And hey, fun ref. to Lagaan overthere :D.

Nida said...

Bollywood Fan, Great post-really enjoyed reading about these two incredible films.

I think "Deewar" is one of those instances where something is truly lost in translation. Though I'm sure many love this film that don't speak Hindi, I feel like I missed some of the greatness of the dialouges and scripts I've heard so many good things about by reading the subtitles alone. Also, I saw this a couple of months ago, and it was one of the first Amitabh/Shashi/masala films I'd seen, so perhaps a rewatch is in order. I was, however, blown away by Amitabh's famous scene in the temple, and his stylish first encounter with Parveen Babi's character. Loved her red lipstick and glam hair! Usually not a fan of English songs in Hindi films (they just seem so weak, for example in "Dostana" and "Billu Barber"), but this one really really worked here! I have to agree with you about Shashi, and also add that his romance with Neetu Singh was one I couldn't really warm to. Seemed like "filler" for me.
Getting back to Parveen Babi, I'm right where you are when it comes to her and Zeenat! When I see Parveen onscreen in a scene like this one, I lean towards her...But then I see Zeenat in, for example, "Roti Kapada Aur Makaaun" and I'm torn in the other direction!:)

As for "the Last Lear", it was a great film, but I was left a little unsatisfied when all was said and done. I don't know, I guess I need to rewatch that one, too. Thanks for reminding me!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Totally have to see the Last Lear- so many movies, so little time I always say.

JJC said...

I quite liked the last lear though sometimes I thought it was a bit slow. Amitabh is always awesome but I prefer him from back in the day.. I'm a bit critical of him nowadays.

JJC said...

also, the men-bashing parts? loved it ;p

theBollywoodFan said...

Crazy on Bollywood: Agreed! There's quite clearly no doubt in my mind at least, of why he's sustained for so long his status among the very best. It's because he's simply a fantastic actor. Deewaar showcases his skills quite well.

Sujoy: Thank you. Agreed on all counts. I really liked the background score much more than the songs. Hope you enjoy it all over again!

Darshit: You need to see this from start to finish! One does not have to be a fan of the actor to appreciate his acting, right? It's funny you mention 'Hum', because the initial scenes at the port in Deewaar reminded me of Amitabh in that film! I can't ever forget Sridevi in Khuda Gawah, that one song is just stuck in my head since ages, LOL. Hope you enjoy The Last Lear!

theBollywoodFan said...

Nida: Thank you, and those are all interesting observations. As far as Amitabh-Shashi films go, this wouldn't be my favorite for the duo, but Amitabh is awesome here, and we agree on the filler bits.

Amitabh and Parveen Babi were great in Amar Akbar Anthony, as they are here. We also agree on English songs in general, and how cool it is to have one that works as it does here! I haven't seen Roti Kapda Aur Makaan, and shall hope to soon!

I didn't mind the way The Last Lear ended. Then again, the abstract doesn't bother me much at all, so that might be why :)

Shweta: Just knowing your taste...The Last Lear should be particularly interesting. I'd love to hear what you think!

JJC: It's not always easy to let Amitabh's off-screen persona not interfere with whether or not we like him overall (including in film) any longer. Having said that, I do agree about the speed of The Last Lear, which I didn't mind because the dialogue seemed to somewhat make up for it. LOL at 'the men-bashing parts', we need a male-centric remake!!! ;)

Bhargav Saikia said...

Nice write-up!

Deewar is such an iconic film, even looking at the poster that you've posted, gives me goose-pimples! I believe it'll forever stand out for Big B's acting and Salim-Javed's dialogues. These two writers were terrific during their times.

Have you seen the new Deewar?

I haven't watched The Last Lear..will get the DVD this weekend. Cheers!

theBollywoodFan said...

It's one for the ages, most certainly. I keep skipping through the scenes without Amitabh or Parveen, and it's always as powerful as it was the previous time. Big B in the 70s was something else. I think the closest any actor has come since to defining and dominating a decade, is Aamir in the 2000s.

I have seen the new Deewaar, but I remember very little of it, among other things that it wasn't that good :)

Anonymous said...

Main aaj bhi faike huey paise nahin uthatha. :)

It is one of the greatest setups in Hindi cinema. When Ittifaq(sic?) throws that bundle of money in front of Amitabh, we as audience remember the childhood scene and wonder whether he has changed so much that he will just pick it up. :)

If a male doesn't get goosebumps when that scene unfolds, woh purush nahin, mahapurush hain. :)

theBollywoodFan said...

All good observations, and that scene was great. Lambi race ka ghoda! And no, mahapurushes are human enough to enjoy good acting! ROTFL.

sunil said...

:)
And this scene also shows why all those idiots (Anurag Kashyap, (sometimes) Ramu who decry the Yash Chopra school of film making are just jealous and insecure.

A lesser director would have put background music, zoom close-ups to Amitabh's face and all kind of crap to tell us, OMG! He has thrown money in front of Vijay!
Yash underplayed it beautifully, making you wonder, do THEY remember. :) :)

sunil said...

i think the closest any actor has come since to defining and dominating a decade, is Aamir in the 2000s.That is a wonderful point. The true great heroes define the kind of films a period is remembered for, rather than "adapting" to the existing trend.

Be it the troika in the 50s, Shammi with his "animal" antics, Amitabh or Aamir. :) Rajesh Khanna and now SRK in all honesty seems to be a continuation of the Shammi Kapoor antics - only younger and hand-somer and (for Rajesh) with more social drama.

Maybe that is the reason, Khanna's shelf life was so short. :)

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Sunil. I agree on the approach to that scene you mention, it was beautifully executed. I rather like the films Yash Chopra has directed (versus produced), although in Veer Zaara, that song toward the end (in the courtroom) was painful!

Anurag and Ramu seem to present a very different approach, and while I'm not their biggest fan, I certainly appreciate that they've added some value, if only through one film in 15 years! :)

And I really like your point about the shelf life of an actor. Just like in any business...innovation will ensure longevity, and sticking to the same business model without adapting to the customer base will not be the answer to long-term success, right?

Cheers!

Sanket Vyas said...

A movie that I consider one of the few 'perfect films' meaning not a single piece of dialogue or scene goes wasted or doesn't move the story forward. Swept the Filmfare Awards the year of release winning every major award and was the first time I saw a couple smoking after sex in an Indian movie. Shashi got stuck with the less complicated role and therefore it's easy to overlook his contribution but what he did was strong. But Amitabh absolutely OWNED this movie in every sense of the word.

We got together this weekend and watched the madness that is 'The Great Gambler' and had the Zeenat/Parveen debate - pretty equally split but my vote is with Parveen any day ;)

theBollywoodFan said...

Thanks for your visit, Sanket! It's most certainly difficult to dispute your view of the dialogue, which I agree is just outstanding. Haven't seen The Great Gambler, but I now know I must. (I have your other recommendation -- Shakti -- and am looking forward to seeing it!) And I couldn't pick a side in the Zeenat-Parveen debate, they're so...amazing! :)

Ramneek said...

Deewaar is such a brilliant film. My girlfriend tells me that I talk about it at least once every week. Great review and great caps. When my dad started introducing me to the cinema of his youth, it was Sholay and Deewaar that got me hooked. Great films. Have you seen Aandhi? That was another big one from 75.

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Ramneek, and thank you for stopping by. We have similar experiences with parents introducing us to the cinema of the era. A couple of weekends ago, I saw Sholay with my dad, and I have a feeling it means to him what Lagaan means to me (I don't have a better analogy, LOL). Haven't seen Aandhi, but will definitely make note, thank you!

Ramneek said...

Hey man, you don't have to thank me for visiting the site. I should be thanking you for discussing these films. I actually don't hold Lagaan so close to my heart. The summer of 2001 (when I was 16) belongs to Dil Chahta Hai. Aandhi is actually based on Indira Gandhi's life and was made by Gulzar.

theBollywoodFan said...

Long live the Bollyblogosphere!

I really, really enjoyed Dil Chahta Hai. The summer of 2001 was quite remarkable! (I was in my sophomore year in college.) I like Lagaan a whole lot more overall because I think it's just more complete and perfect in almost all respects. And Aandhi sounds like a movie I would really like!

Ramneek said...

Hey man, sorry for the late reply. I understand where you’re coming from when it concerns Lagaan. It might be the better film, but I think Dil Chahta Hai was somewhat of a zeitgeist. In Canada, the youth were sick of Hindi films and Farhan Akhtar changed that with his contemporary view in Dil Chahta Hai. In my opinion, that film revolutionized Hindi cinema. Javed Akhtar’s “Hum Hain Naye Andaaz Kyon Ho Puraana” defines that moment. It made Hindi films progress. The Akhtars are so bloody talented. I just saw Luck By Chance 2 days ago. It’s well worth your time if you haven’t seen it already.

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi there, and thank you for stopping by Ramneek. I know exactly what you mean, and I sense that among members of my family who were born and brought up in the U.S. as well. Dil Chahta Hai made films 'hip', and yes, it did signal an advancement for Hindi films, especially those that are serialized. I liked Rock On and Luck By Chance as well. Heck, I kinda liked Don with SRK too! :)

Lagaan set an equally important trend of incorporating sound production values all round, to the point that they became the norm after it. They're both great in their own right! :)

Pankaj said...

When all barriers were broken between the movie goer and the movie; It was a tru connection; Deewar is Bachchan all the way. The walk, the talk, the look, the dialogue delivery. It is a classic!

You are right about the temple shot, his dialogue in the unforgettable tour was a much better version of the original.

You got to do a review of Agneepath ! Agneepath! Agneepath!

theBollywoodFan said...

Certainly agree on Deewaar, and I'm glad to not be the only one who thought so of that great scene at the temple -- excellent to begin with, but taken to another level after the countless takes he must've done at concerts, for example. I'll hope to discuss Agneepath some day, yes. Anything starring Neelam works! ;)

Anupam said...

This is probably the best film of Big B..It was a watershed event...very high on emotions and everyone has played their parts really well..the simmering eyes with anger---Amitabh just rocks when he bash up the goons in godown..and one of the best ever scene is..when he turns towards Marine drive and remembers his childhood when they were poor in front of Iftakhar saheb..my eyes turn moist when I repeatedly watch that scene..this is must watch film for every new generation.