Thoughts on a wall on Mother’s Day
Growing up in Bombay as a small kid in the 1970s meant knowing your Sholay  and Deewar. I had allegedly seen Sholay, but I couldn’t remember a single frame of it. It is quite possible that this was again a trick by my siblings to console me since they often went to films without me. After all who would like a eight years younger brother tagging along. I never had a chance to see Deewar. All the same I think I knew all the dialogues of both the films. One just couldn’t escape them. One thing all the same always rankled me that I hadn’t seen Deewar, this fact was remedied by the post on Parveen Babi, where in the comment section, pacifist provided me with the link to the movie (bless her!).
In this post, I will just write down some thoughts to this landmark film and not write much about the story, I think many of my readers know it. If some don’t, Anu has given an excellent (nearly frame to frame) narration of the plot on her blog. Good insight in the film has also been provided by Philip Lutgendorf and at Upperstall. All three articles make good reading.
Possible Spoilers Ahead
The most famous dialogue of the film is surely mere paas maa hai. The story also has some similarities to Mother India . Just like in the monumental film by Mehboob Khan, Salim-Javed the script writers, project Mother India as a mother who would be ready to kill her errant son. They go a step ahead and show her situation in the 1970’s. The ransom photo becomes her image. She is Mother India, who is being held hostage by the rich industrialists, crooks and criminals. The moral leadership has abandoned the ship and is in exile wandering about and the youth represented by Vijay and Ravi are left to fend for themselves. They are caught between the high ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and the lure of fast money.
What/Who is the Deewar (wall)?
The answer seems very simple. The wall separating the two brothers can only be their ways of life, their occupation. I won’t disagree with that. At the same time, I feel that the mother herself is also a wall separating the two brothers. Curiously enough, we hardly see any interaction between them as kids, like in Haath Ki Safai, where the older brother protects his younger sibling. We only notice that Vijay is ready to give up his education so that Ravi can go to school. At this point Vijay takes up the position of the man in the house, which would be a parallel role to the mother and not that of a sibling. It is quite evident, that she loves Vijay more, even before she admits to Ravi. The only role left for him to play between the mother and her favourite son is that of the mediator.
At the same time he is also a wall between Vijay and the mother. Since he incorporates everything, which she would like to see in Vijay. Vijay is a deewar (wall) between Ravi and mother too. That brings us to Ravi and the role he plays in the film.
The film and its story are more sympathetic towards Vijay. They show us his deep wounds, not only the tattoo on his arm declaring meraa baap chor hai (my father is a thief) but also his deep aversion against injustice. The only peek in Ravi’s inner turmoil we get is when their mother lies in the hospital. He admits to his girl-friend Veera (Neetu Singh) that in such times, one doesn’t know what is right and wrong. On the one hand he would like his mother to meet his son and on the other he has to arrest him. Furthermore, he admits his debt towards his elder brother in the words mere in ragon me baap ke khoon ke saath-saath kuchh maa ka dudh aur bhai ka pasina bhi hai (in my veins not only my father’s blood but also my mother’s milk and my brother’s sweat).
Ravi is a reluctant hero. I think he never really wanted to play the valiant hero he ends up playing. We see him acting as a mediator between the mother and her favourite son. Like in the scene after the big show down between Samant’s men (0:51:17) and Vijay or when Vijay declines to eat the prasad (0:29:45).
One can imagine that it must be taxing on one’s nerves to always act like a buffer between two people.
No wonder that he searches for a person, with whom he can be himself and this is also the key to the necessity of the song maine tujhe manga tujhe paya hai.
I have a feeling he blames their mother for the fratricide he has to commit, while she sees him as the culprit, who has killed her favourite son. It is after all she who gives him his arms when he has to catch Vijay. No, they don’t really accuse each other for it but certain scenes speak for themselves.
The look on Ravi’s face, after Vijay has died in his mother’s arms. He stands (again) all alone carrying the guilton his shoulders but also the look on his face expresses an exclusion, a feeling of never having been a part of the deep love which the mother and son shared. The way the camera zooms away from the Pieta-like posture towards Ravi gives me the feeling that the mother accuses him of murder. Their facial expressions during the award ceremony at the beginning and the end of the film also speak volumes. During this ceremony Ravi doesn’t say my mother, but calls her name, Sumitradevi, and then adds, who is also khushkismati se (fortunately) his mother. The reaction on her face shows, that she knows that her son is not sharing the honour with her but rather the guilt.
Vijay is, compared to Ravi, quite an open book, though he is portrayed as a closed one. The script gives him more opportunity to vent his anger and show his emotions. The fact that he is not so ebullient and effervescent like his younger brother accentuates this more.
What surprises me about him is his comet-like career in criminality. Till the point he has the fight with Samant’s men, he is not shown to be in any way involved in criminal actions. We only know that he can become very violent when emotionally charged (he attacks the man, who throws his mother out, with a stone). His talent as a cold and calculating manipulator comes to the fore suddenly when he starts working for Mr. Davar. Are we to assume that he was involved in petty thefts and such before this? To look after a sick mother and guide a school-going brother must have cost more money than what a shoe-shine boy could afford.
Of deep interest is the role of the father. He epitomises the lost ideals and moral figure of the nation. If the script writers had wanted they could have made him commit suicide. Instead of that they send him on an endless journey. In search of salvation? It reminds a bit of Raju the Guide, who after his crime also can not find peace; in further sense this also reminds of Devdas.
And when does he die? Right after the scene of mere paas maa hai (I have mother). Does he get mukti (salvation), because he knows now the Mother India is in the hand of the righteous?
Bhatacharjee and Vittal in their vibrant book R. D. Burman – The Man, The Music write that of the five songs composed for the film only three remained in the final cut. That is a bit confusing since in the video mentioned above there are four songs. The only two songs which are still remembered are keh doo tumhe ya chhup rahoon and maine tujhe maanga tujhe paaya hai. The song in English I am in love with a stranger is supposedly the only one where Pancham also acted as a lyricist. Then there is the mujra-qawaali type of song koi mar jaaye kisipe kahan yeh dekha hai, which was forced upon by financiers. That brings the total to four. Maybe the authors didn’t consider the English song as a proper song since it is much of a background song.
Interestingly enough in the credits at the beginning of the film, Manna Dey features in the list of playback singers. Thus it must be his song, which was cut. I wonder why they put koi mar jaaye in. They could have featured a cabaret with Helen instead, which was quite en vogue at that time.
Personally I think the script writers had a big say in this matter. Javed Akhtar is quoted as saying „There is no scope for music in the film. It was meant to be a film about a man who rebels against the establishment“. Maybe this was also communicated to Pancham in a subtle manner, which resulted in the drought mile for the film. His previous partnership with Trimurti, Yash Chopra and Sahir had yielded the wonderful score of Joshila. The title music of Deewar is by the way, the same that of Joshila and according to the book mentioned above it was used alter on for Ujala Hi Ujala, Heeralal Pannalal, Ganga Meri Maa (all R. D. Burman films), Mahabadmash (Ravindra Jain), Laparwah (Bappi Lahiri), Anpadh (Hemant Bhosle) and Yaarana (Rajesh Roshan).
I would love to see a remake of Deewar, but not again with Vijay as a gangster and Ravi as a policeman. It should be given a certain spin. Do you think it will work if the elder brother continues to work as labourer and the younger brother in search of money and status climbs the career ladder and has to kill the trade union leader elder brother. Hmm.. that would be Namak Haram then. What do you suggest?
Sumitra Devi………………Jaya Bhaduri
Don’t forget to have a nice and happy Mother’s day. A Mother is someone special and everybody has one!