It's considered a cult classic; a movie that reinforced the 'angry young man' image of Amitabh Bachchan and soared him to the position of a 'superstar'. Reportedly, 'Deewar' is based on the story of the famous smuggler Haji Mastan. The film's story is about two brothers, Vijay (Bachchan) and Ravi (Shashi Kapoor), who struggle to survive on the mean streets of Mumbai with their mother, Sumitra Devi (Nirupa Roy). The reason for their plight is the betrayal of their father, a honest trade union leader, Anand Verma (Satyen Kappu), by an industrialist, who blackmails him by threatening to kill his family. If that's not all, the labourers now turn against him and brand the words 'My father is a thief' on the arm of the eldest son, Vijay.
Anand disappears and the family is now left to fend for themselves. Vijay, for whom the words seem to be branded on his soul, grows up to be very conscious and aware of his father's victimisation and is determined to make the world pay for it. He starts out as a boot polish guy, educates his younger brother, grows up to become a dockyard worker and finally, ends up as a smuggler.
His reason: to become a rich man and provide for his mother. On the other hand, his younger brother Ravi, after spending a lot of time looking for a job and romancing, finally goes into training and becomes a cop, thus setting the stage for the archetypal clash between the smuggler and the cop. Ravi and the mother move out on their own when they discover that Vijay has turned a criminal.
Meanwhile, Vijay meets and falls in love with Anita (Babi), a bold, modern women, who has no qualms about drinking, smoking or sleeping with a man she is in love with. 'Deewar' also saw the emergence of the new liberated heroine, in the form of Parveen Babi, who broke every rule in the Hindi film heroine book.It is her pregnancy which finally triggers a desire in Vijay to leave the underworld, reform himself, get back with his brother and mother.
However, fate plays a cruel trick as Anita is murdered by his rivals. Her death sends Vijay on a downward spiral of crime and reformation seems to be out of the question, much to the chagrin of Ravi, who has been handed his brother's case! Ravi's wants his brother to surrender and confess to his crimes, and hence escape major punishment. But since that is not to be, the brothers clash once more and Vijay loses his life, and dies in the arms of his mother, seeking forgiveness, while Ravi is awarded for doing his duty.
No discussion on the film is possible without mentioning the famous scene where the two brothers clash and the mother takes the side of younger son, even though it is Vijay who is her favourite. The film and its famous 'mere paas maa hai' dialogue, is now a part of Hindi filmlore. Today, the 'Maa' dialogue has become a part of our consciousness and probably lost the impact it had back then, when Ravi hits back at Vijay.
In fact, that confrontation scene, with the mother and Ravi on one side and Vijay on the other, is explosive stuff, with the director managing to keep it from becoming melodramatic.
All three actors have power packed dialogues thus making it a scene par excellence. The other scene in this movie which is remarkable is the first meeting between Anita and Vijay in a bar. Vijay's death scene too is extremely moving and dramatic.
Screenwriters Salim Javed are the real heroes of 'Deewar'. This duo gave Hindi cinema a new type of hero, the likes of which had not been seen in a while. The manner in which the writers managed to script in the role of the mother is a coup. Of course, their skill lies in the manner in which they were able to adapt the 'Mother India' story to their times.
'Mother India''s story was written by Wajahat Ali and S Ali Raza. The 1957 classic is about the honest and hardworking Radha (Nargis's character in Mother India), who goes as far as to gun down her own son for the sake of truth and justice. That is precisely what Sumitra Devi does in Deewar, when she rejects Vijay and leaves him. The similarities, however, do not take away the power and impact of the script, the screenplay and the dialogues. It's the skill of writers who have adapted the story so successfully into modern times, giving it a grammar and vocabulary which is so contemporary.
It may come as a surprise to many when they discover that Yash Chopra, who is more famous today for his romantic sagas, is the director of this gritty drama. They would do well to remember that Chopra started his career with a 'Dharmaputra', which was not a nice romantic tale, but one which dealt with the realities of Hindu Muslim relations, post partition.
The quartet who dominated this film, Bachchan, Kapoor and Roy, all three, turned in sterling performances. Bachchan just became the dark, brooding, angry, young man and lived with this persona in quite a few of his successive films. He was a phenomenon which Hindi films hadn't seen before. Backed by strong author backed characters, penned mostly by Salim Javed, Bachchan rose rapidly like a shooting star after 'Deewar'.
He was supported superbly by Kapoor, who was a perfect foil to his brooding looks, with his charming and easy ways with the camera. If Vijay was the long, dark night, Ravi was a happy summer day. Bachchan and Shashi fell into the slot perfectly and played out their characters to perfection.
The mother of all mothers, Nirupa Roy, had been playing mother in films for quite a while, when 'Deewar' happened to her. It was a defining moment in her career as the mother was a crucial character in the movie. In fact, it is believed that Chopra was trying to rope in Viyjayantimala for the role, but she was not keen to play mother. Roy played the long suffering mother to perfection, not just in this movie but in others, as well. Following her portrayal in 'Deewar', the mother suddenly again became a prominent figure in mainstream Hindi cinema. Parveen Babi and Neetu Singh are competent.
This is not the kind of movie that takes much recourse to music. In fact, music has very little scope in the general scheme of things, but R.D Burman still manages to come up with a couple of hummable numbers in 'kehdun tumhe' and 'maine tujhe maanga'.
But all said and then, at the end of the day, 'Deewar' belongs to one man only. And that is Amitabh Bachchan. His performance in the movie can easily be rated as his best ever, managing to be both poetic and powerful.