Deewaar (1975)


I watched a lot of films early on because they were on lists of Hindi film “classics” that one should watch. Some I remember well, some I do not. This is one that I didn’t think I remembered, until I began to watch it again and realized: “Oh this is where I saw that!” Turns out that a lot of my memories from “some movie” are all from this one. I’m hoping that the memories got fragmented because Hindi cinema was all so new to me back then—I was absorbing so many things, many of which I can take for granted now so they don’t distract me. Otherwise, I need to worry about my brain, because this is a great movie. The script and the performances are pure gold. If I had to put it simply I’d say it’s a story about choices, and the things that influence those choices and shape a human being, and it is done with such finesse that I am left speechless (okay, not really; this is a long post, even for me). It is a brilliantly crafted psychological portrait of the damaged Vijay in particular, supported by simply stunning performances from Amitabh Bachchan and Alankar Joshi, who plays Vijay as a boy. There is nothing wasted—not a word, not a look, not a nuance, not a scene.

Our story opens with police Inspector Ravi Verma receiving an award for bravery or honesty or some combination of virtues thereof. He tearfully thanks his mother, and asks her to come up and receive the medal herself. She does so with obvious reluctance, and we are taken into a flashback to Ravi’s boyhood (where he is played by my favorite Master Raju! so CUTE!).


His father Anand (Satyendra Kapoor) is a mining labor union leader leading the miners in a strike. He is well-respected, and the workers are depending on him to better their lives with concessions from the owner. The mine’s owner (Kamal Kapoor) kidnaps Anand’s sons Ravi and Vijay (Master Alankar) and his wife Sumitra (Nirupa Roy), and forces him to sign a contract giving away the workers’ rights in order to save his family’s lives.

When he tells the crowd of striking miners what he’s done, he is beaten up and left bleeding by the very people who had been cheering him as their savior only minutes before.


As he lies in the hospital later recovering from his injuries, he hears the taunts of the people outside calling him a thief and a betrayer. I think to myself how very cruel and stupid people—especially en masse—can be. Nobody comes forward to question why a man of such strong ideals would suddenly reverse himself, absolutely no one asks him: “Why? Why did you do it?”


Older son Vijay, on his way home from school, is accosted by some of these cruel and stupid (and drunk) people. They drag him to the local tattoo artist and have the words “My father is a thief” tattooed on his arm. Meanwhile, in the hospital, Anand is unable to bear the jeers of the people outside and his guilty conscience—he chooses to slip away, abandoning the family for whom he had abandoned his principles.

Sumitra, horrified at Vijay’s ill-treatment and bereft of a husband to lend support, decides to move with her two young sons to Bombay. There, she and Vijay decide that they will earn money so that Ravi can get an education. She gets work ferrying stones at a construction site, while Vijay begins shining shoes. Vijay is deeply sensitive and fiercely proud, traits which he has inherited from both of his parents—we get to know him well through scenes like this one:


The tattoo on his arm is a constant reminder of his father’s betrayal. Ravi is enrolled in school, in the meantime, where he does well and is happy. Days are a hard struggle for Maa and Vijay though, and she teaches him some difficult—and very Indian!—lessons.



These sentiments aside, Maa is not a weeping, helpless woman; this is an Indian mother with a gritty toughness and pride which keeps her going for her two sons.

One day when she takes her two sons to the temple, Vijay refuses to go in. A priest urges her to let him be and she goes in with Ravi as Vijay sits outside. There is no surprise in Vijay’s rejection of his faith; at this point we have seen enough to understand his bewilderment and anger at a world turned upside down by his father’s desertion, and his inner struggle to maintain his sense of self-worth in the face of what he has to endure to help support his loved ones. It’s a perfect time to segue from childhood:


to adulthood, years later. Temple bells jangling, a now grown-up Ravi (Shashi Kapoor) accompanies his Maa back outside, where Vijay waits impatiently. Ravi is clearly used to playing peacemaker between mother and brooding son.


Ravi has graduated from college and is fruitlessly looking for work, while romancing Leena (Neetu Singh), the daughter of the District Commissioner of the Police. They love each other, although Ravi has become very discouraged by his inability to find work—largely because he doesn’t have any influential contacts to put in a good word for him.


They sing a lovely duet, and their happiness in each other is a sweet bit of relief from all the tension of the story. It also illuminates the difference between a momentarily disappointed but essentially optimistic Ravi and his much more serious older brother. Ravi wants to find work and contribute to his family’s situation, but he is not anywhere near as desperate as his brother and mother were as he was going to school and growing up.

The shared memories of that desperation bond Vijay and his mother at the same time as it creates tension between them. Vijay cannot understand his mother’s tenacious grasp on her ideals and her faith, and she doesn’t understand as her emotionally scarred son drifts further away from her.


Vijay works as a coolie on the docks, where a few rupees is extorted from each coolie on paydays by a local gangster. When a new worker refuses to pay up, he is killed and Vijay’s seething resentment and anger bubbles to the surface. He refuses to pay as well, and when the gang leader Peter (Kuljeet) orders his men to teach Vijay a lesson, Vijay comes to Peter’s warehouse base and teaches them the lesson.


This is a sublime scene—for one thing, Shetty’s fight choreography is excellent, and beautifully executed. Vijay of course is unrealistically indestructible—but what a fantasy fulfillment for people feeling downtrodden who are sitting in the theater. I’m not even downtrodden (well, not much) and I have to cheer when Vijay vanquishes his last opponent and opens the warehouse door.

He has become like his father, and in more ways than one: he too, will give up his ideals for his family, although maybe with greater ease, since his idealism has already been tempered by hardship.


As he staggers out bloodied but a winner, a crowd of coolies greets him cheering his name, much as similar crowds greeted Anand years before. And in another echo of his father, Vijay is essentially standing alone—the coolies are willing to cheer him on, but none of them even help him get water—he’s on his own.


Maa thinks so, too, and she’s angry when she sees his injuries. She asks him why he has to stand up and fight when nobody else would lift a finger on his behalf. His answer conveys all of his residual anger at his father’s desertion, and it stings her—as it is meant to.



Ravi intervenes to play peacemaker once more. He is a thoughtful and sincere man; his father’s ideals have remained alive in him, nurtured by his mother.


At this point we meet Anand again, briefly, traveling on a train. A fellow passenger asks him:


and he replies: “Nowhere.” Little does he know that the rest of the family he abandoned are about to split up themselves in opposite directions.

On his way to the docks, Vijay is hailed by a man named Davar (Iftekhar)—the same man whom young Vijay had confronted proudly at his shoe-shine stand years before. He’s clearly heard about Vijay’s run-in with Peter and his gang, who are minions of a more powerful gangster named Samant (Madan Puri).


Davar takes Vijay to his luxurious high-rise accommodations, and offers him a job. He’s a gold smuggler, and he’s tired of Samant hijacking his gold shipments. He wants Vijay to protect his gold and his interests.


Iftekhar is great in this role: Davar is a criminal, but he has great respect for Vijay’s abilities and character. He has strength and sympathy, and it’s easy to see that Vijay can find in him the father figure he has been craving. So how can he resist Davar’s plea, and his offer?


He can’t. When Davar tosses a stack of money on the table as a pay advance, Vijay reminds him that they’ve met before.


And Ravi meets Leena’s father, the DCP (Manmohan Krishna) at Leena’s house. The DCP suggests that he apply to the police force, which needs educated young men like him. Hope renewed, Ravi agrees to do so and Leena jokes with him.


And so the two brothers are set upon a karmic collision course.

Warning: the rest of this contains spoilers, so if you are the one person in the world who hasn’t seen this yet (and has made it this far through this post), you might not want to read further. (Don’t read the comments either!)

At this point I was worried that the curse of the second half would set in. And I do think it’s a little weaker than the first half of the film, but the first half set up the family dynamics and the personalities of each character so well that it carries the story through. Amitabh continues to dominate, as Vijay commits himself a hundred percent to the path he has chosen, even when it alienates his mother and brother. He only allows himself to soften with Anita (Parveen Babi), a woman as scarred in her own way as he is. But Shashi comes into his own too, in the second half, with more time devoted to Ravi’s character.

Ravi is as rigid in his idealism (ie duty) as his father wasn’t. He will accept nothing less from Vijay than Vijay’s betrayal of his new colleagues and friends. Many people (including my sister) find Ravi’s character incomprehensible in this half, but I think it’s sheer genius. Idealism without compassion is inflexible. Ravi is as much a product of his parents and his environment as Vijay is—but he is more the product of a different parent (his mother), and of different childhood experiences. He is both more carefree and more self-centered, and he completely lacks empathy for his brother’s point of view, even when Vijay attempts to remind him.



Like Vijay, he commits himself a hundred percent to the path he has chosen, and for me the tragedy of the end could not have played out any differently. It would have made it a much more cheerful film! for sure, but also a far less powerful one. I also think a great deal of Ravi’s inflexibility is due to lifelong envy of his brother’s bond with their mother. With the moral high ground on his side, he takes primary place in his Maa’s life (“Mere paas mai hai” indeed!)—but still finds himself the outsider, the less favored.


She even acknowledges that she always loved Vijay more—a statement she makes out of her own guilt on Ravi’s behalf, but all he can hear are the words. For me the hardest personality to define is that of Maa, possibly because she never takes center stage as such but is sidelined. Her preference for Vijay is evident, even as their relationship is more fraught with tension than hers with Ravi. I don’t have trouble understanding that—Vijay is the son who sacrifices his childhood, who supports her side by side through their tough times. Possibly he reminds her of her beloved husband as well, who knows?

In any case, it makes the opening and closing scenes in the film (of the award ceremony) even more poignant. Poor Ravi! Maa will never stop grieving for her lost son, even though she has been complicit in his end. And Shashi’s Filmfare award for Best Supporting Actor was well-deserved. He imbues Ravi with the balance of ideals and emotion necessary to make him sympathetic and his actions believable (at least for me he does—my sister called him an “ass”). His scenes with Leena add some needed levity and allow Ravi’s charm to shine through, as well.

I will never understand how Amitabh didn’t win Best Actor, though (Sanjeev Kumar did, for Aandhi!). And if anyone is still here, reading…I’m amazed!

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104 Comments to “Deewaar (1975)”

  1. Worthy review of a great movie. Shashi Kapoor had an absolutely thankless role. It is to his enormous credit that he had no ego and played rotten 2nd banana to Amitabh. “It is all about the choices” – beautifully put.

  2. Plus this, Trishul, Kala Pathar and Darr entitles Yashji in my books to make all the SRK NRI romances he wants. :)

  3. And what do awards mean? I just finished watching Anil Kapoor’s “Gandhi My Father” on national TV. No awards for that movie too. When you see something greater than yourself it does not need external validation. Awards are a crutch for those unable to stand on their own merit. :)

  4. LOL@ “…entitles Yashji in my books to make all the SRK NRI romances he wants.”

    Agree with you about Shashi and his ability to play second fiddle. Good for him! And I know awards don’t mean anything, but still…Aandhi?

    I would give Gandhi My Father credit as a good attempt, but it failed overall for me. Such is art!

  5. Superb review as always. Though I have watched this movie (just once and about 3-4 years after it was first released), and I liked it, I must say that I , like most movie watchers, just watched the movie and liked it, without being able to explain why I liked them. Most people liked the movie for its story and drama and for its dialogues and its fight. Not for them this close psychitric analysis.

    Now that you have gave us this beautiful and sensitive analysis of the story and the characters, I have begun to look at the characters with renewed respect, especially of those characters that received less attention (that means all characters except Vijay). Most people took Maa for granted, and no one even gave a thought to Satyen Kapppoo’s character ( He is Kappoo by the way, not Kapoor), but you have beautifully described how the important characters in the movie behave the way they do. And armed with your explanation, the behaviour of the characters start making sense.

    In this movie, one has to give this “poetic” license to the movie makers to show Vijay as indestructible, and as you have described it “what a fantasy fulfillment for people feeling downtrodden who are sitting in the theater”- and in fact that is what endeared Amitabh Bachchan to the masses. This single fight scene was what that must have transformed Amitabh from a star ( he had become one with “Zanjeer”) to superstar.

    You are very correct about the curse of the second half, but fortunately this movie had enough going for it even there, and the most memorable dialogue of this movie (and arguably of all Bollywood movies ) comes in this half, and that is -“mere paas maa hai” (I have maa with me). And the climax of this movie is as dramatic as it could be. In fact, there is no shortage of dramatic scenes in this movie ( one such scene is where Ravi conveys to her the fact that now she is a widow)

    One has to say that the story writers of this movie ( Salim Javed ) deserve lots and lots of credit for the way they wrote this movie with such great care, with such attention to finer details. This movie could not have shaped up this well but for their script.

    And I thank you for coming up with a review of this movie that is far far superior to any of the reviews of this movie I have read in the past. The way you have enabled me to to have a deeper insight into the behaviour of the characters is just wonderful. Now I have begun to empathise with Ravi and Maa (and Baap) too. Ihad taken the characters of the two parents for granted till then.

    This movie inspired an entire generation of Indians in various walks of life. But most people were only inspired superficially. For instance Bollywood movie makers began to make movies that were high on action (but they did not get inspired to have good stories). Movie watching public began to have Amitabh hair style, and later Amitabh style clothes too.

    I must say that I too was inspired, but at a more subtle level. Having self respect, standing for one’s rights, being a non conformist if need be- these are the traits I developed ( subconsciously) after I watched Amitabh Bachchan movies in general and this movie in particular. That way, this movie had must more long lasting effect on me than on others who just superficially aped Amitabh’s external appearance.

  6. And I must say that the sub titles are good. Humorously inaccurate sub titles are the last thing one would want while watching a movie like this. And what great screen caps. Watching these screen caps , I am reminded of those days of movie watching, where they had pictures from the current movie as well as fortcoming movies displayed, which movie watchers looked at during the interval.

    And many of the screen caps are so very well known because they have become part of Bollywood folklore.

    Incidentally, my earlier long post has some grammatical errors, when I looked at that after posting. I was just typing out and not paying attention. So please do not hold that against me. ;)

    • The subtitles were good (as far as I know, anyway!)…I am sure that I missed a great many nuances in the dialogues nonetheless. But this film’s strength is that it doesn’t rely on any one thing for its power—it comes from the combination of every element of filmmaking (script, direction, performances, everything).

      I’m glad you enjoyed the review, too Atul—that means a lot to me. Just an amazing film.

  7. Amazing flick. I was never a huge Amitabh fan like most of my fellow humans. But this movie, Trishul and Kala Pathhar are my top faves.. Zanzeer too.

    There was only one filmfare award alas ! Amitabh vs Sanjeev is a tough choice. These days they have a critics award for precisely such dilemmas.

    • At least they should have been co-winners! But maybe that would have just made nobody happy…Amitabh is not always as great as he is in this, possibly because a great performance requires a great script and those are much more difficult to come by :) (And also, he wasn’t always as choosy as he might have been.) But that he could pull this off shows what great skill as an actor he does have. Not an easy role, and he did it perfectly.

  8. Must echo Atul here. With an average movie like “Imaan Dharam”, etc it is easy to take the reviews you write as a given. But when I read this review and how skillfully you have untangled the simultaneous conflicting emotions it evokes and analysed them – I know for a fact that it is very difficult and an extremely skilled writing to pull of.

    • It makes me happy to hear you say that…I didn’t feel very satisfied with it, mostly because I don’t think it’s a film one can possibly sum up in words…there is so much there, you really need to see it (at least a couple of times!).

  9. Awesome review. It’s been a long time since I saw Deewaar, but you brought it alive again for me – and more than that, analysed it brilliantly. Great reading.

    P.S. The song Maine tujhe maanga tujhe paaya hai holds a very special if unusual place in my heart. The first time I saw it was on a late night TV programme; my sister and I (at the time just 10 years old) were sitting up at around 11 PM watching TV all by ourselves. In the middle of this song a minor earthquake struck and since we’d never experienced an earthquake before, we were both pretty puzzled and scared. Clutched each other like mad, watched the TV and the curtains and everything around swaying gently, and Neetu Singh in that checked shirt…. I always associate that song with an earthquake now!

  10. It was believed that the film was based on the life of smuggler, Haji Mastan. And that became part of the legend of this film.

    (P.S. Davar should read ‘Dhabar’.)

    • He was subtitled as Davar so that’s what I went with…Of course sometimes the same character’s name will change throughout the film depending on who subtitles the scene! That’s the trouble with transcribing a language like Hindi into English :-)

  11. Great going Greta – kudos on writing this wonderful and well thought out review of one of my favourite movies ;) Love your take on all the characters – Vijay, Ravi and of course “Maa”. Unlike her other weepies, Nirupa Roy really pulled it off in this one – IMO.

    And Sunil’s first comment about Shashi was spot on. He did it here and he has done it so many times in other movies. It is to his credit that he took on such roles and managed to stand up against AB.

    Looking forward to reading many more from your side. Cheers.

    • I would love to read an interview with either or both about what it was like for them working together. I have a feeling they always really enjoyed themselves, even when their characters were in opposition. And thanks :)

  12. Aandhi is a pretty good movie on its own..perhaps your next review should be for that one ;) Cheers

  13. A really great review.
    Was great insight in the relationships between Ravi-Maa-Vijay!
    a screen cap of Parveen babi, pleaaaaaaaase!
    I’ve not seen the film entirely, always in bits an pieces. Yeah, really!
    But you made it come alive!

    I also don’t understand that Sanjeev Kumar’s acting in Aandhi was preferred above Amitabh’s in Deewar. Sanjeev Kumar acted well in Aandhi and Aandhi was also a good movie. The ending was realistic and all but fromt he partrs what I’ve seen of Deewar, Amitabh’s really deserved it.

    • I will need to watch Aandhi again, but I can’t imagine that the script and the character were as demanding as this one to act out…I just don’t remember liking Aandhi that much.

  14. Fantastic review of a superb movie.

    I saw this movie for the first time only over 20 years after it was released (I used to have this hang-up about not seeing “hit” movies for at least 10 years after their release, I loved seeing flops).

    But when I saw it, I was very impressed. For the realistic and hard-hitting way in which human nature is portrayed, for the intensity of the acting of almost the entire cast, for the very high quality of the dialogues by Salim-Javed.

    I think the combination of all these elements made Deewar a sublime, ultimate Hindi movie experience.

    Like you say, nothing is wasted in this movie, no CSPs. Even the light scenes of Shashi-Neetu are meant to provide that other dimension to Shashi’s life, portraying him as a fairly regular guy. In contrast, and entirely in keeping with Amitabh’s character, his relationship with Parveen is far from flippant, they have common ground in their struggle against oppression.

    Talking of how human nature has been realistically presented in this movie, without any pretensions, for example, when the workers turn upon the one man who had supported them all along, that is classic selfish human behaviour, but quite believable. Similarly, when a young Vijay refuses to enter the temple, you can easily identify with this mindset. There are many such very real scenes.

    Every character is true to his role. Like you say, Shashi could have changed his stance but that would have betrayed the entire movie. He HAD to be that upright police officer, just as Amitabh just HAD to be that cynical, angry young man.

    The few songs that the movie had did not become very popular (at that time at least). They were OK, but they were not superhits at that time. Come to think of it, somehow maybe that is just how it should have been too. If this movie had been remembered for its songs, it may just have taken a bit away from the rest of the movie. Anybody who wants to see Deewar for its songs is looking for entirely the wrong thing.

    Finally, my compliments on they way you have analysed the movie. This is easily the best review of this movie that I have ever read. You have looked into each character’s mind and circumstances and tried to examine the role keeping these in mind. Quite amazing.

    • I’m not a fan of tragedies in general—and this is an epic tragedy—but it is so good that it demands respect. I probably won’t pull it out and watch it over and over again, but (like Omkara, another film I think is awesome but which isn’t necessarily easy to watch) I have to say it’s one of the best examples of filmmaking I’ve ever seen.

      I remember reading that Salim-Javed didn’t want any songs in this, but Yash Chopra insisted. And they work okay, they don’t feel like interruptions but more like a little relief from all the drama :)

  15. Strange might it sound but I haven’t seen this movie yet. But thanks for the spoilers because I would have never found enough time myself to arrange a watch.

    “Amitabh didn’t win Best Actor” because he was not acting, he was rather becoming a Star! Amitabh, I suppose, even today in this old age keeps repeating the same Vijay character in his films with no effort at all to vary a slight. On the other hand, Sanjeev Kumar was simply far more versatile and Aandhi controversial enough to bait the awards.

    This film though appears like a remake of Ganga Jamuna (1961), isn’t it?

    • You should see this britishraj—Amitabh is acting, believe me. His performance is incredibly sensitive; he IS Vijay, and Vijay is a complicated man. I don’t believe this film could have been made without him. Period. He may have enacted characters based on Vijay over and over again with varying degrees of effort, shall I say :-) But this is an amazing performance.

      Also, I am not trying to bash Sanjeev as an actor—he can be very good too, although I’ve seen him chew up the scenery at times! :-)

  16. I agree and appreciate your understanding of this movie, except that I did not find Ravi Sympathetic and thoughtful. I’m reading a book right now that deals with memory and acknowledging the past, and I just could not find Ravi sympathetic for being optimistic and full of ideals (and jealousy) towards the brother that gave up his chance to go to school and worked his but off as a child in order to give his younger brother a chance to have a better life. What happened to his childhood memories? Was he so wrapped up in himself that he forgot who payed for his education? I found the ideals of Ravi pretty empty, in some ways the scene when he gives his brother the ultimatum to turn in his colleagues or else, reminded me of the mine owner at the beginning giving their father an ultimatum. Ravi the police officer is on no better moral grounds than the businessmen, and films about the hypocrisy of peoples morals tend to leave me seething. I hate hypocrisy, even more when it’s done as the ‘good guy’. And that the mother supported this hypocrisy also made me angry. Of course she cried at the awards ceremony, she helped kill her son too. The idea that high ideals is more important than love makes me sick. Therefore the movie pissed me off more than bowling me over with its great psychological portrayal.

    • This is great that you bring up the Ravi ultimatum contrasting with the mine owner’s at the beginning—it was completely meant to do that, and Vijay was compelled to do the opposite from what his father had done. It was just as wrong for Ravi to give that ultimatum as it was for the mine owner to do it, even though Ravi was ostensibly on the side of “good”…The movie wasn’t meant to be a “feel-good” film where “good” wins over “evil”—it’s a tragedy, and it works perfectly as one. There are so many shades of gray, just like life. Vijay is essentially the hero of the film, the one everyone relates to—and his death makes everyone in the audience feel bad, and destroys his mother as well. So Ravi hasn’t “won”. He’s not the “sympathetic” character, Vijay is. Ravi’s rigid adherence to his ideals—so opposite to his father’s as well—ruins his life as well, and I think he knows it; his calling his mother up to receive the medal for him is born of desperation: “Now will you love me more, Maa? I’ve won a medal and everything!” But deep down he knows she won’t, still. She gives the gun to Ravi out of her own feelings of guilt for loving Vijay more, and because of her own rigid adherence to her “ideals”—again, in complete contrast to her husband. I think it’s very interesting how at the beginning of the film I tended to feel that Anandbabu had done the wrong thing by compromising his ideals (although that in itself is debatable, since corruption etc. would have probably made it impossible for him to save his family by going to the police), but then at the end of the film the inability of his family members to compromise destroys the family. Ideals do NOT win over love, not in the least.

    • I dont think the movie painted Ravi in all that flattering a light. His jealousy towards Vijay who he perceives to be his mother’s favourite is more than a cause of his pursuit of Vijay.
      And when the mother spells this out in despair, he is all the more driven. Greta has mentioned that point quite well in her review and even you have mentioned the “jealousy” aspect.
      I dont think anyone gets painted in b/w strokes here – everybody is grey – good or bad and that is the beauty of the story and script. Of course, in IMO ;)

    • This discussion is great. One of the ways Vijay is heart-breakingly noble is by never ever bringing up with Ravi that he slogged so that you would become a police officer, you so and so. :) But Ravi is aware of this. At the hospital he brings up that more than his father’s blood, it is his brother’s sweat that runs in his veins. The REASON he pursues Vijay is straight out of the Gita. Ravi’s senior assigns Vijay’s file to him. It is made clear that Vijay is DOOMED even if Ravi is not the one who pursues him – the reason Ravi has to do his duty is Lord Krishna’s injunction to Arjuna on fighting his beloved Guru, Bhismapitama and others- “do your duty, don’t worry about the fruits. No one dies and no one kills. I (namely God) do not involve myself directly in my creation. It is thru human agency that the Karmic cycle takes place. Hence do not shrink from your duty. :)”

      • Ah, that is interesting. Again, I know I miss so much of the Indian context in these. Ravi being assigned to Vijay’s case was the one sticking point for me, although in the scheme of the bigger picture it was a minor one.

        Ravi’s character reminded me sometimes of Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus and then killed himself. He loved Jesus, but was compelled to betray him. So interesting.

        I could keep thinking about the film for days on end and find new things to marvel at.

        • Yes. Once you really “see” this movie it stays with
          you forever. :)
          So many iconic scenes in the movie. My favorite is the
          “even today I don’t pick up thrown money” At the
          beginning of the scene, when the money is thrown so
          casually on the table, you start wondering, “has life
          been so rough on Vijay that he will just pick up the
          money”. Nothing happens for some time. You start
          wondering, have the moviemakers forgotten? And then
          the look on Amitabh’s face :)

          But there IS something funny in Ravi’s actions. Vijay meets him at their old haunt not to drop the case but just to ask him to get himself transferred to
          another place. He is not asking Ravi to compromise on
          his principles but Ravi insists on being the one who
          “gets” Vijay. :)

  17. Ravi should have thanked Vijay, not Ma in his acceptance speech.

    • Ha! Maybe so. But he would never see it that way. He could not see it that way and live with himself.

      • What was the award that Ravi was receiving at the beginning of the movie? Something for a lifetime of work, or was it for killing Vijay? Either way, don’t we (the audience) “see” Vijay from Ravi’s point of view? Wasn’t his acceptance speech essentially the whole movie played out — and don’t we walk away feeling Vijay WAS a sympathetic character? So I thought Ravi did much better than thanking Vijay — he payed a huge tribute to him, portrayed to his audience (the ones at the ceremony) who Vijay really was, what made him who he was.

        I think that’s why I felt Ravi had always had this immense love for Vijay, and I couldn’t think of Ravi as unsympathetic at all.

        • Funnily enough I can’t remember what the award was for—I think it was for being an “up-and-coming” credit to the police force, though. And my sense of the whole story was that it was mostly Maa’s flashback—it started when she went up to accept the medal, and you could see the sorrow written on her face.

          I don’t think it was Ravi’s POV at all, but Maa’s. At least to kick the film off with. After that…I didn’t sense any specific POV except my own! :-)

  18. When Marta (younger sister of Greta ?) dissects Shashi Kapoor’s character in this movie, I tend to find myself agreeing with Marta that Shashi Kapoor’s character does look like denying Vijay’s contribution in shaping his future.

    But then that is life. There are people ( including one’s close relatives) who may turn ungrateful later on. And may be that is what makes for a more gripping drama, than if Ravi is shows as forever grateful to Vijay.

  19. Oops, three posts when I wanted to post just once. Please delete the first two (they have some spelling mistakes).

    • Done :-) and yes Marta is my younger sister. The one who called Ravi an ass :-) Which he was! but I had more sympathy for him than she did. It was fun to watch this with someone who didn’t love it as much, and for perfectly valid reasons.

  20. I didn’t at all mean to imply that Ravi was portrayed in a flattering light—he isn’t. BUT. By calling him sympathetic, I mean that one can understand Ravi’s motivations. For me, his inability to give Vijay a break stemmed from many things—jealousy over Maa’s loving him more, an innate lack of empathy and compassion from being somewhat spoiled growing up, probably also disappointment in his childhood “hero” falling off his pedestal, and so forth. Also, the strength of Shashi’s portrayal helped a lot here—Ravi has a lot of charm, and he is essentially a good person. He wants to do the right thing, but he fails Vijay (and, I think, himself) BIG TIME—that’s his humanity as well. Shades of gray! So many shades of gray!

  21. Sigh. I _do_ understand the lines of thinking in your analysis, but this just isn’t how Deewaar played out for me. In retrospect, I think I wasn’t prepared for how many shades of gray there are – not a typical mid-70s film, really, is it? brothers growing further apart and remaining divided? WHAT? – nor was I prepared for Shashi’s very lauded performance being for such a desperate, whiny…well, loser, I guess. I know I speak from a position of Shashi-love bias, but I find it so hard to sympathize with Vijay because he knew what he was doing was wrong and his choices eventually took down everyone he ever loved and THEY have to live with the consequences of what he did but he doesn’t. Maybe I interpret things differently than they were meant, but I feel the film really deifies Vijay, and that makes me angry, because he’s so irresponsible. I feel Vijay is treated as a hero and Ravi is this jealous little twerp who can’t figure out how to get out from under his brother’s impact.

    Ravi is a totally thankless role to play – how ironic that it’s Shashi’s only acting Filmfare award. The other people I know who don’t really respond well to Deewaar either are all big-time Shashi fans as well. I sense an issue :)

    Basically all my issues with the script, including things like severe under-use of Neetu and her character, killing off the woman who has sex before marriage, and the ludicrous set-up in an otherwise serious film that puts officer Ravi in his professional capacity in opposition to his criminal brother. Leaving that thread at the emotional and familial level would have been more interesting to me – and what kind of police force makes someone pursue their own family member? I’ve also wondered why the father character is just left such a cipher – is there a statement here about what happens if the keystone of the familial unit is removed – chaos and tragedy must then follow?

    I do not have anything less than positive to say about the performances, and I even really like some of the scenes. My favorite is Vijay yelling at the gods in the temple. Finally an agnostic-ish character (or is he, actually? I can’t remember if he says he doesn’t believe in god or if instead he DOES believe but is pissed off and sees no reason to venerate or build his relationship with the divine) – and a sympathetic one with a very understandable and sympathetic belief system. Though of course he dies. Hmmm.

    • I did wonder about the Shashi-love thing; I mean I love Shashi too, but I thought this character—as unlikable as the things he did were—was much more nuanced and much less of a whiny loser than you or my sister did. The irony for me in you not liking this is that it truly WAS a great performance from him :-)

      I also didn’t find Vijay to be deified (at least, not more than any other Hindi film “hero”) as much as damaged. I could completely understand why he made the choices he did, they didn’t seem irresponsible to me at all. He chose to work for Davar because he was tired of the deprivation and humiliation that came with being poor—for his mother and brother as well as himself; he made a mistake, no doubt, but I think it was completely in keeping with his experiences in life. And remember that at the end, he does repent his choice, and plans to change his life. He just doesn’t get the chance.

      I think the film is all about the shades of gray which contribute to choices people make and which make up a life, and that’s what makes it great for me. The only real issue of note for me is, as you say, that Ravi is allowed to take charge of the investigation of his brother—that does seem completely irresponsible and unlikely in real life (although I don’t know what the actual rules were for Indian police). But in the context of the rest of it, it’s a minor issue for me.

      I think that the father’s choices (“betrayal”, desertion) at the beginning of the film haunt his family—I loved that he was then just shown as a cipher, as a wanderer with no purpose: he became a ghost. And I didn’t feel that Neetu or Parveen needed to be bigger characters than they were, they were there to add a little depth to the lives of Vijay and Ravi, and they did. Maa is the female character that matters here, and she looms large.

      But—that’s what makes art great, is that we bring our own “stuff” to it, and view it differently! There’s no right or wrong…

    • Great Analysis Beth, i’ve enjoyed both yours and memsaab’s thoughts on this film. I enjoyed this but i prefer Shakti a film that’s also quite similar to this one, have you seen it, if not i guess you might find it interesting. Here are my thoughts on the film

  22. So many of the movie’s lines and scenes are part of classic Hindi film lore. I’m glad you hit rather each of them in the screencaps : the kid growing up segue, the “I don’t lift money thrown at me” line, the fight in the godown, the “Bhai tum sign karo” line … argh, this will be longer than the post.

    I can understand Beth and other reviewer’s issues with Shashi’s treatment, but you have to realize that’s not the way the 70’s audience saw it. They saw a Shashi who made the hard choice to stick to the straight and narrow, despite enough hardship, who fell for the right girl, who was not embittered by his trials, was backed up by his mom etc(righteous== prig is today’s viewpoint:) ). So he came off as precisely the nice guy he made a career of portraying… not the slighty whiney version this audience sees : )

    Actually, one of the defining scenes probably got lost in translation … part of the title scene actually, where Amitabh asks him (a bit unfair emo blackmail, surely) if it is the Inspector or the brother who speaks. And Shashi smartly unleashes a classic line : if a bro speaks, a bro listens. And if a thief speaks, an inspectors replies : ). From what I can judge, people who saw it originally seemed to accept Shashi as the clean-cut hero vs the angry young man quite on equal terms.

    • I think that’s how my sister saw Ravi in the movie: as being lauded as the clean-cut hero, when she saw him as being such an ungrateful and unloving jerk. That’s why she disliked it so. Which is actually a different problem completely than Beth had with it! And I didn’t seem him that way at all. Not clean-cut, and not a jerk either…

      So interesting. And it’s funny what you say about “defining scenes”—as I said at the beginning of my post, I remembered so many scenes from this film, although I didn’t remember that they WERE from this film.

  23. This movie brings back memories — of about a year or two ago, when I started to follow your blog and few others, like Beths, PPCC’s, etc. I hadn’t been watching Indian movies for a while — and especially not the older ones. But seeing all of yours enthusiasm about Hindi movies, I decided to check out a few, again.

    Deewar was a movie that I hadn’t seen before. I got it from our local library (i didn’t even know for the longest time our Dallas libraries carried HINDI movies!!), and I picked it because (a) it was available; (b) the blogworld, including yours, seemed to be mesmerized about the 70’s, about Shashi, Amitabh, etc.; (c) and ofcourse, Deewar is a movie that’s widely regarded as classic.

    I didn’t know much about it, except that the oft-used, oft-parodied line “Mere paas maa hain” came from this movie. In fact, this line is so often discussed in articles regarding Amitabh, I actually thought Amitabh had mouthed these lines. I fully expected this to be cliche-laden movie, with the emotional blackmailing, melodrama, etc that was so typical of those times (two brothers fighting over “maa”? how more manipulative can it get??)

    But I was pleasantly blown over by it. As scene after scene of this movie unfolded before by eyes, I was like, WOW! No wonder this is a classic, it truly is a gem of a movie. Good actors can be found in any film, but for me the truest heroes of Deewar was Salim-Javed, for, as you noted, “There is nothing wasted—not a word, not a look, not a nuance, not a scene.” That is EXACTLY how I felt while watching Deewar; and I understood where the respect for this writer duo came from. I think without the fantastic screenplay that they wrote for this movie, all the brilliant performances, the nuances of the story line, the balance of subtlety with the drama, all would have been lost (I later checked out Laawaris, expecting an equally good film, but was terribly let down by Kader Khan’s screenplay, dialogues, etc). This film was entertaining, AND it left us with food-for-thought; and more often than not, movies tend to miss this balance.

    • Yes, that’s exactly how I feel about it too. Just unbelievable. And unbelievable that the same writers came up with Immaan Dharam! Heh.

      • I maybe wrong, but I believe Deewar didn’t actually have a script…the story, screeenplay, dialogues evolved on the sets as the movie was being shot!

        • Hmm…I’ve read that Salim Javed wrote the script in 18 days which is amazing in itself. I am sure that there was a lot of collaboration on the sets too as it was being made. But this isn’t a film that was thrown together, I don’t think.

  24. That comment was getting too long, so wanted to post this separately. =)

    Really interesting discussion regarding Vijay vs Ravi. Again, I was expecting a typical “angry, young man” in Vijay prior to watching it (typical in the sense of countless Mard-like characters Amitabh did in 70’s-80’s). But I was blown away by the subtleties & the nuances Salim-Javed developed for this character (and Amitabh just perfectly brought Vijay into life). From the time that tattoo was itched into Vijay’s hands, you could sense that humiliation and rage that was broiling inside of him! (Kind of reminded me of Scarlett Letter, have you read that novel?). I totally “got” that character, of why he did what he did…

    Ravi, on the other hand, didn’t come across as whiny or jealous to me. You took a sympathetic view towards him, in the sense of how you understood his motivations. But I agree more with AKM, when he says, the 70’s audience “saw a Shashi who made the hard choice to stick to the straight and narrow, despite enough hardship, who fell for the right girl, who was not embittered by his trials, was backed up by his mom etc”. When he said “Mere pas maa hain” it was supposed to be a vindication of his choices– as intended for the audience of those times. I think that’s why that line resonated with the 70’s Indian audience so much, and how it is still referred back to today — “When you make the *right* choices in spite of everything, you’ll get what’s most important in life”. Vijay’s life was empty in the end, and he knew it too; especially when Ravi uttered those lines.

    I personally thought Ravi wasn’t “jealous” per say, but sad, and couldn’t understand (or couldn’t accept) why his mother preferred Vijay over him even though he (Ravi) was the one doing the “right” things. And I do think he loved his brother very much, and to an extent, understood and appreciated the sacrifices he made for him. I think when he felt Vijay breached the ideals that this family stood for, is when Ravi started to feel alienated from him. I mean, as long as Vijay worked hard, even in the lowest paying, but socially & morally accepting jobs, he was respect-worthy to Ravi; but not when he amassed riches by straying off of the right path.

    With that being said, I totally get Vijay — and this plays out like a Shakesperian tragedy with no black-&-white lines, but lots of shades of gray.. But I also get where Ravi is coming from. Even in that “deewar” scene, I sense tremendous love between the two estranged brothers — hats off to both Shashi & Amitabh (and yes, Amitabh did deserve an award. But he is still remembered & widely respected for this performance, which is an award in itself).

  25. I completely agree that Ravi loved Vijay, and that is part of what made him so angry when he discovered Vijay’s new profession :-) But the fact remains that he killed his brother, purposefully, and there had to be something more deep-seated behind that than just devotion to duty, precisely because he did love him. At least, for me there needed to be more—and there was. Maybe Indian audiences had a more innate respect for “duty” itself, which is fine; but that would not have worked so well for me.

    I did fleetingly think: “Too bad laser removal of tattoos wasn’t available back then” and wondered if it would have changed anything ;-) Probably not. And of course you are completely correct that Amitabh has been amply rewarded by history for this performance!

    • Memsaab, i read this today at Amitabh’s blog, and immediately thought of yours! This is regarding his missed award @ Filmfare for Deewar:

      ” Filmfare gave everyone connected with the film ‘Deewar’ an award, but gave me nothing. If they didn’t give Dilip Kumar an award for best actor in ‘Ganga Jamuna’, who the heck was I, is how I consoled myself. But greater consolation followed soon after. They gave the award for best actor to Sanjiv Kumar for the film ‘Andhi’ and invited me to the function. And as he stood on stage to receive his reward they announced my name to come up and present the award to him.

      I went up on stage to the loudest roar and applause that I had ever heard in my public life till then. The next day Mr Karanjia the editor of Filmfare wrote a letter to me. Those contents I shall not disclose but I can say this that he was most gracious in acknowledging my presence at the function and my agreeing to give away the best actor award. For that moment and day it was my greatest consolation.”

      • I noticed a few days ago on my stats that there were a lot of incoming readers from his blog—a reader of his had put a link to this post in a comment. I doubt that Big B himself made it here to read it! but I was glad to see that he felt he was finally getting recognition for it. It’s interesting to get the background story on it straight from him too!!

        Thanks for linking his post here, I didn’t think of it :-)

  26. lol, i so totally don’t want to get kicked out of your blog, but i do have another comment –and the last one, I promise! (hehe, can you tell i LOVE this movie?? =D)

    About the female characters. I was actually expecting a little bit more about Anita in your review. Again, beautifully written & wonderfully enacted – it managed to rise above stereotypes (the obligatory girlfriend! the vamp with a heart of gold!). Their scenes together were wonderful. Even when she died towards the end, it didn’t feel like the “bad” girl getting punished by movie-laws for having premature sex, but it added yet another tragedy to Vijay’s already down-sliding life.

    Leena was another character that really could have been the obligatory girlfriend, the spoilt child of rich parents, bla bla, and I think that Salim-Javed even teased the audience into thinking that with her intro scene. But then you find out that she’s helping Ravi prepare for his interview — and I loved how this established that Ravi treated her as his “equal”, that it wasn’t beneath him to ask her for help, and how they shared a friendship and not just love (usually movies with the focus on brothers didn’t have female characters & relationships like this).

    And, finally the Maa! Not weepy, but gritty; you could totally get why the movie would revolve around such a strong character. The best “maa” character of hindi movies, Nirupa’s potrayal of a lifetime,– just PERFECT!!

    ~~Sorry for taking up so much space, I’ll leave now (hehe) :P

    • Hey I started this blog because I so wanted to discuss movies with other people and nobody in my immediate circle watches Hindi movies (except my sister, now)… so comment away.

      I didn’t write much about Anita or Leena because my post was already more than long enough, and I didn’t think people wanted to read a scene by scene analysis LOL! But I had no problems with their portrayals either—Neetu was lovely as a foil for Ravi, and their relationship was very sweet and went a long way towards mitigating some of his actions/failures. And Anita—she was awesome. She was Vijay’s soulmate, in a way, and brought some light and beauty and solace into his life that he hadn’t expected to find. I agree that her death wasn’t a punishment for being a “bad girl” but the final tragic straw for Vijay.

      I didn’t talk much about the religion thing either, mostly because for me Vijay’s turning his back on God isn’t as big a deal as it might be for Indian audiences. But even that is offset by his reliance on his “lucky” badge—and the fact that it’s lucky b/c of its Islamic meaning (the number 786) contributes the Hindu-Muslim bhai-bhai thing (but it’s not overdone). It protects him until he drops it, but he is allowed to make his peace with God (and Maa) before he dies.

      Could really go on and on and on too! Thanks for your comments, we def. saw the same film ;-)

  27. Oh, I’ve come in so late. Everyone has already written and said what I would have liked to :-)
    And your review memsaab is absolutely divine.

    All I can say now is that this is one of my favourite films, and I think it is one of the best films ever made.

    After reading the comments I began to sway from one to the other side.
    Some comments made me think, yes, Ravi really is an ass. But then another comment would take me back to thinking no, he just has shades of grey.
    To solve this problem, I have decided to watch it again, and make up my mind.

    Amitabh of course left me with a clear decision regarding his character. In addition, those smouldering scruffy looks are just so attractive, if one likes the type of course, and I do.
    OK I have proved my shallowness by thinking more of his looks. :-)

  28. I saw this ages ago, and while overall I did enjoy it, I was more on your sister’s side of thinking of the ending. Clearly, after reading your review I’ll have to rewatch it.

    However, I did watch a bunch of Shammi Kapoor numbers off this Mohammad Rafi collection (I swear the large majority of the numbers had Shammi Kapoor) and that’s making me want to rewatch a bunch of Shammi films…

  29. Love all the analysis and how this film meant so many different things to different people. The way the film played out for me, I felt that I was being manipulated into sympathising with Vijay first, and then agreeing that what he was doing was wrong and he should have been forsaken by his near and dear ones – the classic “high ideals is more important than love” (as Marta puts it) trope that Hindi films typically tend to promote. Ravi is shown to be teetering on the edge – not wanting to be tough on his beloved brother, but the whole shooting-a-hungry-boy-who-steals-bread incident stiffens his resolve to do his DUTY. For me it screamed of Krishna’s famous lecture to Arjun in the Mahabharata battle-field – do your duty, no matter what – a philosophy that I completely disagree with.

    Apart from conveying a message that I did not agree with, my main problem with the film was the dialogues. Every dialogue was a punchline and I felt that throughout the movie we were moving from climax to climax, with no let up – and that was really tiring! The only other Salim-Javed film I remember watching with similar punchline-dense dialogues was Sholay where such dialogues worked because it was a very OTT masala-flick. In a serious film like Deewar, I felt that it made a lot of serious situations and emotions sound very cliche.

    And from a Shashi-fan bias (which of course, I cant deny!), it makes me sad to think that this is the performance he is most remembered for, when he did much better films and acted waaay better elsewhere (in all his home productions and Merchant-Ivory films, and even several masala films).

    • If I thought that was really the message I wouldn’t like it either, but I don’t. And maybe because I wasn’t listening to the dialogue in Hindi, it didn’t seem too much too fast. Seemed perfectly paced to me, with nice breaks here and there from all the angst.

      And I hate Merchant-Ivory films, they are duller than watching grass grow :) Not a big fan of Shyam Benegal either, for the same reason. And I thought Shashi was great in this. Ah well—to each his/her own! :-) (I did LOVE Raaj Mahal, thanks for that recommendation!!!)

  30. Saw it in 1975 at Defence cinema (Navy Nagar) in Bombay… Defence was one of those tiny cinema houses where you sweat for 3 hours…

    SPOILER: I remember crying and praying Amitabh would be able to get his 786 badge as it fell beyond his reach… things would have been so different if he had been able to get it…. so my tiny brain thought then…

    BTW, one thing that sets apart Deewar from any big HIT is the total lack of popular songs/music. The only song anyone can remember is “Kah do tumhe” Shashi and his niece-in-law.

    • Aruna’s mujra/qawwali is pretty darn awesome too :) I love the way so many of you can remember exactly where and when you saw a film. I remember THAT I saw Star Wars when it came out, but I could not tell you where I did :)

  31. Greta,

    Can we have “badi” or “chhoti” memsaab, i.e. your sister write a guest post on the blog? I can’t think of a more appropriate film for getting differing takes from siblings.:-D

    Lovely review of a movie that I’ve seen and admired a number of times, but never managed to *love*.

    • Ha! She would love the “chhoti memsaab” title I think :) She wrote her feelings about it above, I don’t think that there was much more to her dislike of it other than she hated that Shashi—despite killing his own brother for the sake of sticking to his high ideals—was supposed to be a good guy (that’s how she saw it). She was really angry that he killed Vijay. Well, so was I…but I understood it in the context of his character as I saw it. She also found it severely depressing, which it is—but I just was so blown away by the writing and acting that it didn’t get to me as much.

      It’s not a film to “love” as much as admire for sure. I won’t reach for it over and over the way I do with my favorites, but I think it’s a brilliant piece of cinematic art. The old “best” versus “best loved” is certainly an issue here.

      (Sister is also moving today and tomorrow, but I’ll tell her about your request :-)

  32. Anyone who doubts that ‘Deewaar’ is a great film should read this thought-provoking write-up and all the fascinating comments as well.
    I actually loved ‘Deewaar’ as opposed to just admiring it… I loved the complexity of it, all the food for thought it kept throwing at me… and the fact that for all that complexity, the story felt so symmetrical – it just made total sense to me the way it all played out. It was so satisfying to watch. At the end of the day, there was no victor, no vanquished. Everyone lost out, but every character went on such a journey.
    Amitabh was amazing as Vijay, but this was actually the first Shashi Kapoor performance I loved… I thought Ravi’s coming of age was brilliantly brought to life – from a naive, sheltered kid refusing to come to terms with the all-too-real injustice of the world, to a man who must confront the dark shadows that lurk around him – and within him, as well.

    • Yes, I agree so completely re: Shashi—I think it is one of his best performances that I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a lot of Shashi :-)…

      And I suppose that I am putting too fine a point on the love vs. admire thing. I loved watching this, and would watch again for sure, but I really do hate tragedies and sad endings so can’t clutch this to my bosom like I do films that are equally well made but are romantic or comedies instead. But this is a great film, and would go on my list of ten best movies ever made, anywhere, for sure.

  33. Super review memsaab. I have to agree that the intensity of Amitabh’s performance here is matched only in Trishul, Kala Patthar, Sharabi and Zanjeer though Deewar is … well, Deewar, at the end of the day.

    Too bad Amitabh’s movie choices deteriorated drastically later on and movies like Toofan, Ajooba, Aaj ka Arjun, Ganga Jamuna Saraswati, etc make you wonder if it’s the same Amitabh you saw in such powerhouse performances like in Deewar, Trishul etc. He was quite obnoxious at times in those later movies and when Zee Cinema tries to tantalize audiences with double dosages of Amitabh by offering Toofan and Ganga Jamuna Saraswati I just roll my eyes and change the channel.

  34. Oh, God, I couldn’t agree more; this movie is completely memorable and absolutely fantastic. One thing that really strikes me is the realism of the fight scenes, and this is from the 70s!!! Why couldn’t films from the 90s have that?

    And oh, the performances and the characters! Absolutely perfect. This movie held my attention from start to finish.

    • You know, I thought at the end of it that although I loved it and it’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen I wouldn’t want to watch it again that soon—it’s so very very sad, after all. But I’m already feeling like I could watch it again. That is a very unbelievable thing for me, I really HATE being sad at the end of film!

      I just think it’s a masterpiece.

  35. i think the script was cleverer than most of us,all of u missed the catharsis which shashi undergoes when he shoots the boy stealing bread and hangal tells him that theft is theft wether of a single rupee or of millions,this changes his view point totally and he loses all sympathy for amitabh,this is what is so compelling about this movie

    • That is a very good observation which escaped most viewers including me.

      And it can be noticed that Salim Jawed scripts tended to have one such helpless but fircely idealistic character in many of his movies. For instance the blind school master of Sholay (which was again played by A K Hangal).

  36. This is really a terrific site, both the original review and the comments, thanks to all for providing so much insight and well-informed opinions on one of my alltime favourite films..(favourite anything, in fact). I have so muh to say on this film, wish I’d found this discussion…I’ll get back on here later perhaps.

  37. Glad you liked it (the conversations that spring from posts here are always the best part!)…it is a fantastic movie and you are welcome to keep the discussion going!

  38. thanks memsaab.
    I’ll try to limit my ramblings on this film, because once I start I might not be able to stop, lol – and of course a lot of points have been well covered already. Just want to add a few thoughts:
    One, about genre. I think this film mixes different genres very successfully (and in an infinitely more sophisticated way than any run-of-the-mill ‘masala’ effort): a family [melo]drama and a crime/gangster thriller, with some elements of a more gritty, urban social drama thrown in. The family drama lends emotional edge to the thriller which otherwise might become rather too dispassionate; and the thriller tempers the more emotional effects of the family drama. It’s not a unique kind of approach, but I’ve never seen it work as well as it does here, somehow they get the blend perfectly right. That’s not to say there aren’t some less successful scenes: some of the more melodramatic musings and excessively sentimental background music at times I still don’t take to, after repeated viewings over many years. But this is really a minor quibble. Nothing dims the overall impact of this film.
    About the characters: I was smitten with Vijay first time I saw this film, at the tender impressionable age of ten, and twenty-seven years later I have to confess I still am! Those dark, smouldering looks, WOW. But I don’t think he’s such a complex character as is sometimes said. He’s compelling, certainly, but not that complicated. I think his motives are always fairly simple, he just does whatever he can to materially improve his situation and that of his family. And although he lashes out against injustice I don’t think he really deals in abstract notions and ideals, rather he hits back at individuals who wrong him or his family, he doesn’t really set himself up as a champion of the downtrodden or anything. He’s very practical, always acting wih immediate, concrete motives.
    In a word, Vijay is realistic, while Mother is idealistic, and in fact it’s poor Ravi that ends up caught between these two, I feel. I find Ravi’s role more and more intriguing these days (I never used to pay that much attention to him). I feel that he ends up being the most conflicted character of all. He doesn’t just suddenly become committed, in an impersonal way, to duty (any more than Vijay undergoes a genuine religious conversion). Duty, whether religious, moral, social, or all three, takes a terrible toll on him. Like Vijay, he remains very much on the human level throughout the film, and that’s why the situation remains so involving for the viewer. I don’t think Ravi is ever jealous of his brother or anything, either; from the start he’s shown as being very loving and openly affectionate to him and though obviously he has to tone down the demonstrative side of his nature later, that doesn’t mean he stops loving and feeling for him. And the scene in the hospital with the explicit invocation of Arjuna of the old epic who also had to take up arms against his brothers in the name of duty, is absolutely key here, it makes clear his confusion and anguish, he expressly says that he cannot match up to Arjuna, that exemplary moral hero, he doesn’t feel himself equal to the task at all. If Vijay is the portrayal of the ‘angry young man’ par excellence, then Ravi is a pretty effective portrayal of the ‘confused young man’ (& not just when suddenly faced with a terrible responsibility, but also earlier, as he struggles to find a job and gropes unsurely towards his place in society).
    Stunning film, so much to take out of it, it commands endless admiration and affection from me. Also Amitabh’s incredibly intense (and broodingly attractive!) portrayal of Vijay remains one of the greatest single performances I’ve ever seen, anywhere.

    • You make me want to see the film again NOW, and with you :) I really believe that every performance in this was profoundly what it needed to be. And so is the film…

      • Sounds good, re: watching the film again!
        Just to finish up my Ravi-related ramblings, I’d say he forms a contrast to both his mother and brother who are really more steely and single-minded and fixed in their different ways and ideas from the beginning, but he has to force himself to become that kind of person. As to why he resolves to take it upon himself to be the one to hunt Vijay down, well it’s presented as the ultimate test of his mettle as a police officer by his senior (who in a rather sniffly way intimates that he’s a real weakling if he does anything less), maybe he does feel he has to prove himself in this way, and in that great showdown scene when he asks his brother to sign a confession, I feel he’s really blustering quite a lot, trying to live up to this image of the ideal police officer (although that he appears rather cooler when he meets Vijay by the old bridge).
        But maybe although he never says it, he also agrees to take it upon himself to get Vijay because he doesn’t want to let a stranger do it. Keep it in the family, one might say, maybe something along the lines of ‘I’m doing this for your own good, bro!’ If something’s gone wrong in the family, it should be up to another member of the family to rectify the situation. Maybe he kind of feels that. Or maybe I’m trying to read too much into it all!

  39. I think all of you have missed the essence of this movie.

    Shashi Kapoor (the actor) as well as Ravi Varma are not ‘losers’ or ‘asses’

    And I think your pseudo-psychological analysis of Ravi being jealous of his mother loving Vijay more is one-dimensional – in the sense – you have all decided that there is a sibling rivalry and are developing rationale that supports that point of view.

    Here is my contrary point-of-view

    All the characters the Dad, the mother, the two brothers are extensions of each other.

    The screenplay and the various roles depict a conflict that the human condition faces.

    Dad is idealistic – but too trusting – his love for the world creates danger for his family.
    He gets hate in place of love
    That disillusions and confuses him. He is scared that his view of the world threatens his family so he removes himself from them.

    The mistake he makes however is that his absence becomes even more of a threat to his family – in a male dominated world.

    As I said his worldview gets confused and emotional thought overcomes rational thought (which has broken down)

    Vijay – exposed suddenly to threat and danger – lives in psychological terror which he contains for the sake of his mother – and to not add to her troubles – after Dad (in his view) deserted them.

    Vijay and his mother – protect Ravi – from the harshness of the world – so Ravi does not live in terror.

    The mother is the personification of love and understanding – women in general being closer to emotions than men – she understands the emotional response of her husband – and instead of feeling betrayed is empathetic – she knows it is the husband’s love that caused his behavior

    This is love – it looks beyond the apparent – and trusts.

    The reason why she loves Vijay more than Ravi – is because Vijay needs her support more than Ravi – she understands that he feels deserted by the father.

    The feeling of being deserted is also because of the love of Vijay for his father – because he trusts his father so completely – watch the relationship between the kids and their father in the beginning of the movie – he is startled to find him missing – because he is a child and does not yet understand that his father can feel threatened by the world too. Fathers are superhuman for all children.

    Also the mother loves Vijay more because he loves Ravi so much that he wants him to have a better life than them. Vijay makes all his decisions for his mother as well as Ravi.

    Ravi has the love of his brother AND his mother. Vijay only has the mother – so she loves him more. Vijay is terrorised – he needs the mother more.

    If Ravi had been terrorised the mother would have loved Ravi more.

    Shashi Kapoor (and Ravi Varma) only come into their own – when he is confronted with the truth of his brother.

    As far as he is concerned – theirs is an idealistic family – he really only sees the harsh reality of the world – when he is left confused about why Vijay’s name is in the police files.

    It is a brutal shock for someone who loves and idolises his elder brother.

    Remember Shashi Kapoor is older than Amitabh Bachchan in real life. And he is also the established star.

    To play a younger brother who is only gradually coming out from under the umbrella of protection that his brother and mother create for him – and to come into his own identity – and figure out what the correct thing to do – is incredibly difficult for an older and more established star – and that is Shashi Kapoor’s genius.

    Ravi Varma does not lack empathy for his brother. He does not want his duty to be influenced by his love for his brother.

    It is the classic paradox of the tussle between emotions and rational thought – and not knowing which is right and which wrong in a given context.

    Ravi agonises over what he should do – he even wants to resign – not wanting to surgically operate on his own body.

    I think these sensitive scenes were completely missed in your review.

    The superior officer persuades him to confront rather than run away from facing the conflict – there will be many such conflicts to face in the line of duty. Every criminal is a human being and is somebody’s son or daughter. There is nowhere to run.

    Shashi Kapoor and Ravi Varma do not want to listen to Vijay’s recounting of the troubles they faced and yells at him because he is struggling to do his duty – when his emotions support his brother – he is barely containing his urge to side with his brother.

    In fact this is the reason why he offers an olive branch to him – expose the gang – that is our only salvation.

    The logic – of the mother and Ravi – has now moved to the collective consciousness – from a selfish preoccupation with their own lives.

    Vijay however continues to live in the terror that if you do good to society, the family will be threatened.

    Vijay is fending for the family. Ravi and the mother think they live in a society and that the individual and group goals should be subordinated for larger group (societal) goals.

    Vijay’s anger is that – the society should also fend for the family.

    The anger of Deewaar – is the anger against the bystanders in society.

    Society expects Anand Babu or Vijay or Ravi to take care of them – while they do nothing – a whole group of people do nothing – while they expect individuals to do what they won’t do.

    What’s more they are brutal rather than understanding when these individuals don’t or can’t.

    Maa trusts Ravi so much – that she tells him that she loves Vijay more – and only when he is grown up – when he can understand.

    Ravi and Vijay are alter-egos.

    When Maa loves Vijay more she automatically loves Ravi – because Ravi feels the love of Vijay – they are an inseparable family – there is no division between them.

    Your psychological analysis fails to understand the unity within Indian families.

    Everyone loves everyone else in the family boundlessly.

    The question is – what is the right thing to do in the given situation – which is the context of the story?

    Ultimately, the movie develops the theme – through A K Hangal (a teacher’s) role – that societal unrest has to be arrested before it is too late.

    If even the good guys become bad guys society will deteriorate.

    Instead the bad guys must become good guys

    The only way to do so is to ensure that crime does not pay.

    The story focuses on one family – but in one way or the other – as depicted in one movie or the other – the story unfolds to decipher what will happen along the path of crime.

    Since the audience identifies with heroism – heroes have a conscience.

    The lives of villains – supposedly without conscience – is explored in other narratives..

    The supreme sacrifice that Maa guides and Ravi executes – is the jihad advocated by religion.

    When Good is thwarted it becomes Bad or even Evil. Jihad is the fight against Bad or Evil in all of us.

    • Good analysis. Lot of aspects you mention are what we when see a movie (or live life for that matter) unconciously judge it as “good” or “bad” or “ethical” in fraction of seconds and build our collective judgements without ever deciphering why, and move on accepting it or rejecting it.

      DEEWAAR for me is the best motion picture ever created by us homo sapiens. Besides the story the tight screenplay and just the cinematic creation was too good. Salim-Javed were boon to Bolllywood for 70’s. The music was just-oridinary and I read that after the film RD-God lemented that had he known it was such huge masterpiece he would have given some better music.

      It is so amazing DEEWAAR and SHOLAY both released in same year. I remember reading Shekhar Kapurs mention somewhere about SHOLAY and its impact iand reverance is like we have B.C (Before Christ) and A.D (After Death); Before Sholay and After Sholay!

  40. What, not even a passing mention about one of your beloved and most beautiful Parveen Babi as Anita? I’ll have to re-read this one again in case I missed one. She had little to do and did it well.
    Loved your understanding of the Maa-Beta relationship and analysis in various comments. Have to read them again, they’re so good. I was also hoping you might know who the bearded guy is in the coolie-line who is the first defiant one.
    Gosh, all these years, I thought Neetu Singh’s character was called Veera (Ravi in reverse).
    The boy-shot-for-stealing-bread incident in the movie is another unforgettable one. I too hoped and prayed that Vijay would somehow retrieve his lucky `billa’ and survive the first time I watched the movie.

  41. an awesome movie but i was not really fond of it because no comedy. totally emotional….
    in this nirupa roy everytime gets bad luck…
    otherwise the movie was movie was good….

  42. Hello Memsaab! A question, if you don’t mind :-)

    ~ are you happy with the DVD quality and subs for your copy of Deewaar? It’s on my current “to purchase” list and I see Induna has a Eagle version and a Shemaroo version and I’m not sure which to buy. I recently put in my copy of Trishul and was very disappointed at the subtitling (and overall quality) which obviously had 2 lines of subs, but only showed the bottom line, and I’d like to avoid that with Deewaar. If I can!

    Thank you!

    • Ugh, I feel your pain. Buying these dvds is such a crap shoot (pun intended!). I think my copy of Deewaar is from Eros—I’m not sure where you are, but you can find that one on eBay if you use it. I didn’t have any real issues with mine, subs were fine. I’ve had problems with that second line of subs disappearing too, usually I get around it by using the “zoom” feature on my television although it makes the picture smaller too.

  43. Dear Memsaab
    A lot have been written about ‘Deewar”,about Amitabh/Shashi as this film is a landmark in Hindi cinema.But i like to say about actors who had a brief but impressive role in the film.
    1.Kamal Kapoor(Mines owner)who can forget his menacing eyes,Remember him as “Narang’in Amitabh starred DON.He is real maternal grand father of Goldie Behel,Father in law of Ramesh Behel…i regret to inform you that he died last year.
    2.Sudhir(Throwing coin to boy Amitabh)-I have been seeing him in numerous films of 70s & 80s..poor fellow only doing chamcha or Assistant to BOSS,His moustache is no doubt unique..can anyone tell me where is he now/
    3.Mohan Sherry(Goonda extorting money from Dock coolie)-really looks like a goonda but a veteran actor from 60s…got a very good footage in Prakash Mehera’sHera Pheri.I don’t know where is he now.I really liked him..can anybody give me information about him.
    4.Shetty(Father of Rohit Shetty)-Unlike other films,he did n’t act in Deewar but i always remember him in Deewar because he composed the best fight sequence(Ware House fighting sequence)i have ever seen in any films.I have seen this particular fight scene so many times..

  44. I really love this movie. It reminds me of a time when things such as idealism, patriotism were considered true ideals and not cynical words to be used by corrupt. Both Amitabh and Shashi Kapoor are magnetic (Shashi more in second half). Supporting cast too is great.

    But I disagree with you that second half is weaker. It is the payback half after the (admittedly exceptional) setup of first half. Money scenes like the ‘sign’ clash, under the bridge meeting and Amitabh’s death outside the temple are all in this half.

    Also, Ravi’s inflexible idealism, in my opinion, was used to convey that principles should not be abandoned even in face of grave personal costs. This improved on what his father did. Vijay is similarly unbending. Both the sons recognized the weakness in their father, and were determined to not follow the same path. Of course, Vijay’s deviation was desired because he would in fact become a better person by giving up the life of crime.

    I love the masala of Hindi movies as much as any other fan, but it is movies like this which truly stand the test of time. Yash Chopra’s best!

  45. No question about the fact that Deewar has a great story and the best performance of Amithabha’s career but I find the movie to be unbearably heavy handed. Every scene is full of drama ,excessive symbolism and over the top “acting, more to the point crying. A fault that I find with all Yash Chopra movies with the exception of Daag which was helped by RK’s natural charisma and charm. I guess Yash Chopra had never heard of less is more! His last movie with SRK has the most cringe worthy acting and story line I have ever scene. Give me a. Raaj Khosle movie any time over Yash Chopra.

  46. Memsaab –
    Engaging write-up. To me, there are only a handful of Bachchan films that stood out because of Bachchan – and Deewar leads that small pack. Perhaps, it took an extraordinary script – a Bollywood rarity – to release the extraordinarily intense latent talent that Bachchan had then.
    In the 70’s and 80’s, with few avenues of entertainment available, re-releases of films like Deewar (& Sholay of course) in a neighborhood Mumbai suburban theatre, were inevitable re-re-viewing. And it was not unusual for some to saunter into the stuffed darkness (where Oxygen smelt) around the time Vijay is Bachchan in the temple footsteps – and reel off dialogs along-side Vijay and never failed to be impressed with both Amitabh and oneself. BTW, that still happens with Sholay.
    Deewar captured the angst & the general bleakness of the 70s youth in urban India, esp, of Bombay. Few employment opportunities, stifling labour problems in the then dominant textile industry, a government turning increasingly left – was not unusual to find a blunt ‘No Jobs’ banner at the gates of factories / industries of that time.
    It is in this perspective that you may want to re-look at your qn “So how can he resist Davar’s plea, and his offer?”
    Deewar also captured another migrant dilemma – one of faith. First generation migrants carried with them their rituals of faith handed over to them over generations that the 70’s educated youth of Mumbai could simply find neither use of nor relevance in. Mind you, they were not non-believers. They were much like Vijay – angry – and vented their impotent anger, like Vijay did – at God. It is not uncommon in urban Indian middle-class families (living in India) today to find grand-parents and grand-children to be believers and the middle generation to be agnostics, though not atheists.
    Deewar is not so much a Yash Chopra film, as it is a Salim-Javed-Bachchan film. Direction mattered less for Deewar so long as it stayed with the script – and that Chopra ensured happened. And he was fortuitous to have an eager Amitabh to act, nay, become Vijay so much that the moniker stuck to the actor in his films thereafter even if the acting never could reach that scale ever again.

  47. Hi Memsaab, I guess I’m the last to join in- as usual! Nonetheless, there’s an interesting piece of trivia no one seems to have mentioned. The role of Ravi Verma was originally offered to Navin Nischal. But Nischal’s career was shaping up well at that point in time, so he was uninterested in playing second fiddle to Amitabh Bachchan, who was still a rising star (he was, after all, playing second fiddle to Dharmendra in Sholay).

    On the evidence of (much) later movies like Bollywood Calling or Khosla ka Ghosla, there’s no doubt that Nischal was a very fine actor. A classic case of what could have been, if you may…

  48. Shashi kapoor was good in deewar, thoiugh he did not get the credit for that. For amitabh, it started the trend of the youngry “young” man which he carried on for many years.

    The film was first offered to rajesh khanna by yash chopra & kaka agreed, but salm-javed refused & insisted on amitabh.

    Though amit was touted as the superstar since Zanjeer, it was only after this film, did he actually attain superstardom.

    Deewar is the only film amit can be proud of while he was superstar.

  49. Maybe someone’s already covered this. But the reason Ravi has to be the one to hunt down his brother and finish the job is perhaps because he is driven by the motivation to “not run away” like his Dad. Remember that the commissioner character taunts him and asks whether he wants to run away from duty like a coward. So while Vijay too remains committed and steadfast to righting the wrongs, Ravi’s sense of commitment to duty and not running away too is paramount to the story.

  50. I have been watching Hindi movies for the past Fifty yrs. I was in my college when I saw this movie in my home town Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh.

    For raw emotion Deewaar is on par with Mother India and Ganga jumuna. They dont make movies like that any more.

    Amitabh at his best, Deewaar and Amar Akbar Anthony put him on top of Bollywood ladder for the next decade.

  51. There ain’t no grave that can hold amitabh bachchan’s body down. He is incomparable phenomenon that has been best since day 1….No one can think of rising above such high critisism flops. Indeed he did it and is the one cult of personality.

  52. Hello Greta: I re-read this review after some years, and feel compelled to write another comment now. I find the review well deciphered, well extrapolated and well written. Kudos!!

  53. You might enjoy Naam (Sanjay Dutt,Kumar Gaurav) which is an alternate version of Deewar.Penned by Salim, who couldn’t resist mixing the ingredients of his masterpiece. Ma’s favorite son still got to be named Ravi.

  54. Ravi portrayed or perhaps was the incarnation of Vibeeshan of Ramayana.

  55. Wonderful review! This is my first time on your blog and I am hooked! I have seen Deewaar at least a hundred times and can virtually recite the entire movie from start to finish! I loved what you said in your review about how not one word, one scene and one nuance in the movie is wasted. It is the tightest script ever written in Hindi cinema. One minor correction though – Neetu Singh’s character was named Veera (not Leena).

  56. Having watched this over 100 times, I really appreciate how nicely you have reviewed the movie. This is cult movie of its time and as someone mentioned in the comments it moved AB from star to superstar. There is no scene in this movie which doesn’t have a message. And the temple scene is my favourite, the angst with god. Yes the climax hurts, the heart goes out with AB and one leaves the theatre thinking why he didn’t remain alive all the more when he just choses to surrender to police. Very high voltage performances by all the characters and thanks to YRF!!

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