Deewar is an iconic Hindi film made in 1975. It was directed by Yash Chopra, later known as the “King of Romance”, and written by the team of Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar. Deewar starred Shashi Kapoor, Nirupa Roy, and most famously Amitabh Bachchan in the role of Vijay, the anti-hero. Even today, almost 40 years later, the movie still weaves several viewpoints together to form a universally relevant tapestry. Deewar, set the 1970’s, in a time of great social struggle in India between corporations and labor; the rich sometimes taking advantage of the poor. But at its heart, Deewar is a family drama. The drama of Sumitra, abandoned by her husband, who must raise two boys who are destined to see life from diametrically opposed points of view. As young boys, their father Anand was a respected and honest union leader. But when Anand is blackmailed and threatened with the loss of his family, he signs the workers’ rights away. Humiliated and ashamed, he has a nervous breakdown and abandons his family. The family suffers, disgraced and ridiculed by the townspeople. Vijay, the oldest son, is forced to wear a tattoo on his arm “Mere baap chor hai” (My father is a thief). He is deeply shamed by this and by watching the injustice of his mother’s struggle.
Sumitra moves the boys to Mumbai, where they live under a bridge and she finds work doing backbreaking menial labor. Vijay works as a shoeshine boy and helps pay for Ravi’s education. As they grow into adulthood, Vijay, who has nurtured his resentments and anger against God and society, works his way up in a gang of smugglers. Ravi, who has been somewhat sheltered by Sumitra and Vijay, is a good student, is religious, and becomes an honorable policeman. Ravi and Vijay love each other and their mother most of all, but when Ravi and Sumitra find out that Vijay is a criminal, family loyalities start to unravel.
Amitabh Bachchan does a masterful job as Vijay, the outsider. He imbues Vijay with sadness, intelligence and self-respect. He overreacts when he sees injustice with impulsive violence, but he is kind and generous with his family and his mistress. His choices will inevitably lead to tragedy for one brother and honor for the other. Shashi Kapoor, as Ravi, is a perfect contrast to Vijay. Being younger, he has benefited from the work of his mother and brother. Nirupa Roy, as Sumitra, keeps the family together through tragedy and hardship. As a mother, she understands that Ravi will do well in life and she is proud of his accomplishments. But in her heart, Sumitra suffers silently for Vijay, who has not allowed himself to find comfort in God or in living by society’s rules.
I found several of the dialogues in Deewar riveting. It is definitely a Bollywood classic that is worth three hours of your time. Deewar swept the Filmfare Awards in 1976 (Best Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Shashi Kapoor), Best Dialogue, Screenplay, and Sound), and although Amitabh Bachchan and Nirupa Roy were both nominated, they sadly did not win. I found Deewar, with English subtitles, on YouTube.