The only real Bollywood film I’ve seen is Dilwale Dulhania la Jayenge, and I liked it, for better or for worse. But seeing as this one, Deewaar, was directed by Yash Chopra, the father of the director of Dilwale Dulhania la Jayenge, there’s a predisposition for me to like this one as well. Yash Chopra was known widely for the type of musical film that Bollywood would itself be well known for, but according to the Book, Deewaar is a departure from this, having only a couple of songs instead of the ten or twelve or so that normally fill a movie of this length. I found a few more songs than the Book did, unless they were retreads of previous numbers, which I couldn’t have been arsed to remember since the songs are so disconnected from the actual plot the print of the film I saw didn’t even bother to have them subtitled; but yes, there is a noticeable downgrade in the amount of songs in this classic Bollywood film. What’s left is still a very Hindi story of two brothers who end up on opposite sides of the law, and the lead-up to their inevitable and fateful confrontation; a classic story, and aside from a great number of foibles I had with the storytelling aspects, one that largely worked for me.
First off, this film couldn’t be any less blunt if it were trying, and it tries just the opposite. Every plot point, thanks to either the music, the camerawork, or oftentimes both, is so telegraphed I couldn’t help but groan at a number of them when they happened. The film is extremely, extremely melodramatic, and again, this is mostly thanks to the music, which swells and explodes with intensity at each so-called “revelation” or plot twist, and the camerawork, which is highly fond of rapidly zooming in and out. Chopra seems very fond of moving and using his camera, and normally I’d be all for that if his cameramen knew what the hell they were doing. Pretty much every movement shot, even those on a tripod, are jerky and not in the least bit smooth, and I’d be a little more understanding of that if I hadn’t seen other films from the same time period that got this basic detail down pat. The technicals aside, even the storytelling was so upside the head I felt like I was being whacked repeatedly with a truncheon. For instance, the love interest of Bachchan, who plays the ne’er-do-well brother, is introduced in a bar, where the background tune playing literally sings, “I’m falling in love with a stranger”. Also, when it is finally revealed to the law-abiding brother that his kin is involved in criminal activities, not only is it a shock to the brother, who had up to that point just seen his brother up and buy him and their mother a lavish new house as well as a spiffy new wardrobe seemingly out of the blue, it is a shock to the chief inspector that the two are related as well, even though they, you know… have the same last name. I don’t know if “Verma” is basically the equivalent of “Smith” in India, but unless it is, you would think having the exact same last name would merit a little bit of curiosity on their part, as well as the part of the criminal brother’s associates, who know the police brother’s name well enough but, just like the police, make no connection to their associate who shares the same last name with him. It was little details like this that popped up all over this film, from start to finish, that just spoke to me that the film hadn’t dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s at all, and frankly, it was a little ostentatious that the film would have the gall to be released without this basic level of filmic proofreading.
Now, all that being said, I was still surprised to find that I liked this film. For all the melodrama and on-the-nose storytelling and camera devices it uses, by jove, it still worked, dammit. The film took a good long while to set up its main story, mostly through extensive (but still mostly necessary to the plot) flashbacks, but once it finally did get to the whole “two brothers against each other” angle, it worked splendidly, largely thanks to all the prep work that we’ve sat through in the first hour and a half or so. I found myself alternately rooting for both brothers, and I cared about both of their storylines, so much so that when the ending finally came along, I found it was an excellent payoff that the film had been leading toward. I personally liked the younger Chopra’s film a little better, but this one is still a very fine film, even if all the parts don’t look like it when you look them over. This is a pretty good example of a film that somehow ends up being greater than the sum of its parts, and aside from the length, which would turn off a number of people, this is one I can pretty widely recommend to just about anyone open to it. Just don’t start regretting it when you do get to one of the numbers, and their awfully noticeable overdubbing; it’s the story beneath all that that’s really what’s important here.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10