January 24, 1975 marks the release of DEEWAAR acknowledged as one of the classics in Indian cinema. The movies potential can be scaled by the parameter that it toppled SHOLAY, the biggest Bollywood blockbuster of all-time and Gulzar’s much acclaimed master piece AANDHI in the Best Film category at 23rd Filmfare Awards (1976) and went on to win the Best Picture Award. In addition the movie swept as many as six Filmfare awards including best director and best story, screenplay and dialogue for its writer pair, Salim – Javed!
The film, directed by Yash Chopra, is considered to be one of the most iconic movies in Hindi filmdom. The film is known for its memorable dialogues like (1) Mere pass maa hai and (2) Uff tumhare usool, tumhare adarsh among others. The most significant evidence of Deewaar’s superiority is the fact that unlike other hit movies like Sholay (1975) and more recent ones like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), no one has ever dared to copy it.
The story of the movie is about thrilling relationship of two brothers (Amitabh Bachchan as Vijay Verma and Shashi Kapoor as Ravi Verma) who are on the opposite side of law. The idea is coolly borrowed from Dilip Kumar’s all time classic GANGA JUMUNA (1961) while the central character of the duo’s mother (Nirupa Roy as Sumitra Devi) has been inspired from Nargis’ character in MOTHER INDIA. Further the confrontation drama between the two brothers is plagiarized from the 1954 Elia Kazan’s Hollywood blockbuster ON THE WATERFRONT starring Marlon Brando. Thus it’s really amazing that though the movie doesn’t boast of any original plot yet it has a hypnotizing effect on viewers that they are left spell bound to their seats!
Even today when the move is screened on TV, audiences of all ages get attracted to it magnetism. The movie is unrelentingly tense, tight and serious from start to end. The seriousness of the film works for two obvious reasons. First is explosive performance by actor Amitabh Bachchan who played the scorching character a smuggler and second being the screenplay and dialogues by Salim-Javed.
So what makes the movie so intense? Well, unlike the typical Bollywood masala movie, film-maker Yash Chopra treats the movie in the traditional style of legendary film giants like Bimal Roy (MADHUMATI – 1958), Guru Dutt (PYAASA – 1957), Raj Kapoor (AWARA – 1951) etc. who made hard hitting cinema in the guise of commercial elements. Thus DEEWAAR has commercial viable star cast yet the movie is hard hitting and gritty and at the same time deeply symbolic and exemplary. The strongest point of the movie is that the film is taut with no distraction from the core narrative. No subplots or comic diversions. In fact the movie was originally intended to be song less, but songs were accommodated keeping the distributors demand and the commercial viability of the movie. The songs (there are only three of them) are the only points where the intensity lightens momentarily.
Speaking about the plot (criticized for being plagiarized) writers Salim-Javed deserves kudos because despite being an off repeated script they given novelty to the subject. To make the protagonist Vijay Verma look authentic, the duo designed his character from the real life coolie turned smuggler Haji Mastaan’s life. It was their shrewd vision that worked in the favor of the script because Haji Mastaan (1926 – 1994) was then in news (he was imprisoned during the Indian Emergency, 1975 – 1977) and this gave addition publicity to the film.
Further, the backbone of the script was gripping screenplay and marvelous dialogues that were simple yet heart penetrating. Who can forget the dialogues Bhai, tum sign karoge ya nahi… or Mere paas maa hai… that tower large over the umpteen superlative dialogues delivered by Bollywood’s many dialogue delivery kings like the Raaj Kumar’s or the Shatrughan Sinha’s! And last but not the least, DEEWAAR could probably not have attained such a pinnacle had it not been for the superlative performance of its lead actors viz. Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor and Nirupa Roy.
Readers would be surprised to know that the original casting of DEEWAAR was Rajesh Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha and Vyjayanthimala but the casting could not be finalized. Readers would be further stunned to know that Amitabh Bachchan, who is the keystone of the movie was not awarded Best Actor award. Instead Filmfare found Shashi Kapoor more deserving for the Best Supporting Actor award. Sanjeev Kumar won Best Actor award for his effortless performance in AANDHI. However, Shashi Kapoor declined to receive the award as he was also feeling that Amitabh Bachchan was the right choice.
Nirupa Roy gave her career’s most commendable performance in DEEWAAR. In fact, she became immortal in the role of Vijay,s mother so much so that she became a permanent fixture as Amitabh Bachchan’s mother in all his future movies. She was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress award but the Filmfare Award went to Nadira for her performance in JULIE.