If you are under the impression that DEEWAAR is about Prisoners of War languishing in the jails of Pakistan, you are bang on target!
If you are under the notion that DEEWAAR is yet another film that is anti-Pakistan, you are partially right. The film is set in Pakistan, portrays the Indian soldiers in a positive light, a few Pakistanis in a negative light, but there's no Pak-bashing here, let's get that right!
Gaurang Doshi's DEEWAAR, directed by Milan Luthria, walks on a tight rope? More than anything else, it is perhaps the first Hindi film that talks about the great escape of Indian POWs from Pakistani soil. The makers have ventured into a lane where not many producers, directors and writers of Hindi films have had the guts to risk into.
DEEWAAR is a stirring example of courage and the indomitable human spirit. It thrillingly celebrates the heroism of men who never gave up the fight.
DEEWAAR tells the story of a few prisoners of 1971 war, still in custody of the Pakistanis, leading a pathetic life in their jails.
In India, the wives of these soldiers continue to wait patiently for their homecoming. But the relationship between the two countries being such, the Indian officials fear that if they raise the issue, their counterparts in Pakistan will eliminate the Indians for fear of being exposed.
Gaurav [Akshaye Khanna] decides to get his father, Major Ranvir Kaul [Amitabh Bachchan], back to his homeland. But the path is thorny. Gaurav is aided by Khan [Sanjay Dutt] in his mission, also of Indian origin but held captive in Pakistan.
The prisoners attempt yet another escape. And this happens to be the final escape?
DEEWAAR borrows from two Hollywood masterpieces - David Lean's THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI  and John Sturges' THE GREAT ESCAPE . With such illustrious textbooks to refer to, DEEWAAR just cannot go wrong? and it does offer plenty of thrills in those 3 hours. DEEWAAR may not be historically accurate, but it does not keep you away from enjoying the film, especially its second half.
DEEWAAR is divided into two parts; the first being the son's quests to trace his father and get him back home and then the last hour focuses on the mass escape by prisoners. There is plenty of excitement throughout even while the prisoners are still trapped behind the barbed wire fences.
DEEWAAR starts off well. The initial reels, depicting the plight of the POWs, seem straight out of life. The barbaric attitude of the Pakistani officer [Aditya Shrivastav], the torturous and brutal moments [Sanjay Narvekar being 'punished' by Kay Kay], the never-say-die attitude of the Indians? everything seems to be well explained.
Akshaye's journey to Pakistan makes the goings-on more fascinating. His interaction with Akhilendra Mishra first [a Hindu residing in Pakistan] and with Sanjay Dutt subsequently makes the proceedings more interesting.
But there's a problem here: The goings-on move at a slothful pace, often taxing the patience of the viewer. Besides, the violent proceedings in the first half do catch you unaware. Yes, violence has to be an integral part in a genre like this, but the impact is so strong and a few sequences are so brutal that the weak-hearted would squirm in their seats.
With mixed feelings you watch the second half unfold before you. Thankfully, the post-interval portions save the film from being a mediocre product. The escape strategy, the eventual escape, the chase, the massacre? the final hour keeps you on the edge.
But the post-interval portions [despite the fact that it is riveting] are not without their share of blemishes. The romantic track between Akshaye and Amrita stands out like a sore thumb. There was just no need to depict the song-and-dance routine ['Piya Bawri'] since it acts as a speed breaker in the narrative. Even the culmination of the romantic track looks like a compromise from the writing point of view. Frankly, it would've only helped had it been a flick without the heroine angle.
Also, the film would've done without the songs in the second half. At least two songs come in rapid succession and dilute the impact of the hi-voltage dramatic scenes.
DEEWAAR is director Milan Luthria's third outing [after the interesting KACHCHE DHAAGE and the utterly forgettable CHORI CHORI] and you can't help but notice the giant strides he has taken as a technician. The film is stylishly shot, has a grand look despite it being a prison film and care has been taken to make the goings-on seem as pragmatic as possible.
Writers Sridhar Raghavan, Gaurang Doshi and Milan Luthria deserve a pat for attempting a novel theme and packaging it well, but how one wishes the narrative had a concise format. The film could've easily done without a few songs and as mentioned above, without the romantic track as well. In fact, it would only help if the film were trimmed by at least 15-20 minutes to perk up the goings-on.
Cinematography [Nirmal Jani] is outstanding. Action scenes [Tinu Verma], though well executed, will meet with extreme reactions - some might sit through it, some might find it difficult to absorb. Music [Aadesh Shrivastava] is a mixed bag. 'Leke Aayee Hain Hawayein Ye Ishara' is the pick of the lot. 'Marhaba' is a mass-appealing number that is well placed in the narrative. Adesh's background music is superb; it often enhances the impact of the scenes.
DEEWAAR has an impressive cast, but it is Amitabh Bachchan who towers above all with a splendid and power-packed performance. The actor seems to be accomplishing the unattainable with every film. This is his third memorable performance this year, after KHAKEE and DEV.
Sanjay Dutt is in form yet again. Although his role isn't as well defined as that of Big B or Akshaye Khanna, Dutt comes up with an extremely likeable performance that is sure to win him plaudits from the viewers. His dialogues are well worded and are sure to appeal to the masses.
Akshaye Khanna is a treat to watch. The youngster proves yet again that he is amongst the most gifted actors of the present generation. Amrita Rao is wasted.
Kay Kay conveys a lot through his eyes, but the role isn't of the memorable type. Yet, his silent confrontation with the Big B [the first time they come together] is simply extra-ordinary. Amongst character actors, Raghuvir Yadav, Aditya Shrivastav and Akhilendra Mishra stand out with praiseworthy portrayals.
On the whole, the plusses in DEEWAAR outnumber the minuses in the film. The lethal combination of a fantastic star cast, hi-voltage dramatic sequences, a riveting second half and vibrant action will ensure a successful run for the film. Yet, the action - specifically the brutal ones - is not the type that would catch the fancy of ladies/families. However, lack of a major release for the next two weeks will only help its distributors smile all the way to the bank!