Sunday, August 12, 2007
Deewaar (1975) - A Perfect Film
"The audience is fickle. You grab them by the throat and never let go."
~Billy Wilder (nominated for 12 Academy Awards for screenwriting)
'Deewaar' is one of those few movies (Bollywood or otherwise) that I consider to be a perfect film. By perfect I mean that there is not an ounce of fat in the entire movie - each scene is constructed like a mini film, each line of dialogue is written & placed exactly how it should be, each actor is absolutely tailor made for their role and the story itself is so compelling and different, that it served as a watershed moment in Bollywood history. The story & dialogue were written by Salim Khan (a failed actor) and Javed Akhtar (an assistant director) who got together in the early 70's to write movies together and in the process became legends of Indian cinema. 'Written by Salim-Javed' became a mark that moviegoers searched out because it guaranteed them a movie with taut storytelling, terrific dialogue, memorable characters and more than anything - their ability to connect with every class of moviegoer from high society debutantes to the paan-waalas & taxi drivers.
I try not to throw around the word perfect too much but I believe this film truly deserves it. It won Filmfare Awards in 1975 for Best Movie, Best Direction (Yash Chopra), Best Story, Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Shashi Kapoor). Amitabh Bachchan was nominated for Best Actor but lost out to Sanjeev Kumar for his role in 'Aandhi'. While my fellow Guju did an admirable acting job I dare say Amitji was robbed for the single most powerful performance he has ever rendered in a movie. For more on this cinematic masterpiece please check out our friend Carla's review at Filmigeek in yet another joint venture between us. Also see the rarely seen trailer below...
I saw this movie when I was seven in an English dubbed version made for the West Indies market called 'I'll Die For Mama'. It was one of the first Indian movies I had seen and it impacted me for years to come. It made me a lifelong fan of Amitabh Bachchan, who may have made his mark in the Salim-Javed penned 'Zanjeer', but whose true ascent to superstardom lies with this film. Amitabh's performance as the son of a union leader whose fate in life is decided at a very young age and whose rise from a lowly coolie to the most feared gangster in Bombay's seedy underworld was truly dazzling. Add to that Shashi Kapoor's own transformation as Amitabh's younger brother who owes everything to his bhai's sacrifices but whose own duties as a policeman force him to make decisions that challenge everything he believes in.
Each and every scene carries this film forward and is unforgettable in it's own right, it's script is a mainstay at the FTII in Pune as an example of a 'perfect screenplay'. Amitabh still recites the exact lines from the film - especially this scene when he first visits a temple to ask god to save his mother - in his concerts and wipes a (faux?) tear from his eyes after. 'Deewaar' also marked the first time a movie showed a couple (Amitabh & Parveen Babi) smoking a cigarette in bed after spending the night together. Parveen is introduced after the interval and appears in just a handful of scenes but leaves a devastating impact. And the scenes between Amitabh & Shashi when they turn from brothers to sworn enemies are still shown on endless loops on Zee TV today. This movie does not cop out at any point and never gives the audience an easy way out to deal with the fate of it's characters. The ending does not tie up the loose ends nicely nor does everyone live happily ever after. The result is gritty filmmaking that is reminiscent of early Martin Scorsese and is rarely seen in the colorful celluloid world of modern Bollywood.
The song for today is the catchy tune Kehdon Tumhe by Kishore Kumar & Asha Bhonsle. It is in complete contrast to the mood of 'Deewaar' and almost seems like an afterthought for the simple reason that it was just that, an afterthought. Legend has it that Salim-Javed turned in the screenplay to director Yash Chopra ('Kabhie Kabhie', 'Silsila', 'Lamhe', 'DDLJ', 'Mohabattein', 'Veer-Zaara' & the just released 'Chak De India') and had the audacity to make no provision for a single song. Not wanting to deviate from the industry standard to include a musical number, Yashsaab supposedly said "picture bahut sookhi hogi" (without them the movie will be very dry) to which the script writing duo quipped "picture ka naam 'Gili Deewaar' rakh dijiye" (call the movie 'Wet Wall' then). See what the first writers whose names were the first ever to grace a Bollywood movie poster gave us & watch 'Deewaar' - the perfect film.
"Jean Luc Godard said that if a film has four to five good scenes, the audience is usually quite satisfied. George Lucas said, a good film should have 60 terrific two-minute scenes. 'Deewaar' has a total of 95 scenes and it’s quite impossible to list favourites because they are all so damn good. As writers, whilst working on our own scripts, we often feel inadequate and hopelessly untalented. If we want to feel even worse, please note that Salim-Javed wrote 'Deewaar' in just 18 days. If Salim-Javed took one idea and made two movies, they were to also do a total opposite. They took classics of Hindi Cinema – 'Gunga Jamuna' and 'Mother India' and wonder of wonders, through their amalgamation created a third classic, 'Deewaar'."
~GRAFTII (alumni magazine of FTII - Pune)
Click here for more dialogue from the movie.