I can't recall the first Bollywood movie I saw, but the first movie I remember watching was ‘Deewar’.
Back in the good old days of DD1 and DD2, we had a colour TV and a VCP (Video Cassette Player, Funai branded - if you must know), and one fine evening when I was probably 6 or 7, my father, returning home, proudly announced that he had rented the video cassette of Deewar, and he had brought mutton.
I knew that something special was in the offing because mutton (usually a Sunday lunch affair) was served to coincide with the start of the movie.
How much of the movie I actually understood at the time is debatable, but I remember being awed, awed enough to watch it again the next day, and over the years, I have seen Deewar time and again, to the extent that I pretty much know every line, every pause, every gesture.
But then, most people over the age of 18 probably do as well.
Deewar was a special movie and had many firsts to its credit. A leading man who blurred the lines between being a hero and a villain (thereby introducing the term 'anti-hero'), a female lead with a morally ambiguous character, very few songs, and the list goes on.
And unlike so many movies which were critically and commercially successful at the time of release, Deewar has stood the test of time, you would be hard-pressed to find faults in the movie even now, 44 years after its cinematic release.
But what made Deewar really special was Amitabh Bachchan.
It is tough to imagine any other actor from any era playing the role of Vijay; of course, Amitabh Bachchan acted brilliantly, but there were bits where better actors would have faltered, and it was there that Amitabh Bachchan, the star, that came to fore. Deewar may have been a great film, but it was essentially a masala movie, and Bachchan played to gallery perfectly.
The thrill of seeing Bachchan emerge victorious in a fight where the odds were overwhelmingly stacked against him or the goosebump-inducing Salim-Javed lines still haven't lost their intended impact. The scenes, the dialogues, The cocky arrogance that Only Amitabh Bachchan could carry so convincingly, who can forget the scene when Bachchan puts his feet up on the table coming to terms over his newly-acquired power, the coolness he exudes when he says that he doesn’t think he can pull off a seemingly suicidal mission, but knows that he can, the utter disdain with which he tells a gang of thugs that he had been waiting for them in their den when they had been out looking for him.
As a teenager, on the extremely rare occasions that I managed to perform half decently with a cricket bat (my highest score is 21, the dream of scoring a half-century may remain unfulfilled) immediately after the innings I would run to the nearby tap, turn it on and place my head under the stream of water, a desperate attempt at highlighting how the efforts had taken their toll.
Even now, every year, post-appraisal, I have to stop myself from saying things like “Main aaj bhi feke hue paisa nahin uthata,” to HR.
|Yup, that's me on the left.|
Unfortunately for Deewar, it released in the same year as Sholay, the biggest Hindi film of all time, and for the lack of a better word, a more ‘wholesome’ one. Sholay had everything Deewar had and everything that Deewar lacked - romance, songs, a larger than life villain, comedy, memorable supporting characters. But the fact that Deewar is more often than not mentioned in the same breath as Sholay is a testament of its importance.
They say that Bollywood is going places, that the stories are coming of age and that the era of the mindless blockbusters is finally coming to an end.
They say that with the Bhatts and the Kapoors in front of the camera and the Kashyaps and Hiranis behind it, things can only get better.
They are right, the times, they are certainly a changing, but call me old fashioned (or straight up old), but when it’s a Sunday and mutton is on the cards, there’s only one thing I prefer watching, and it’s not the latest critically acclaimed Ranbir/Ranveer/Alia/Kangana starrer.
Images are screencaps from here.