“Mere Paas Maa Hain,” Reasons why everybody in India knows this line irrespective of having watched Deewar
There is no doubt that Classics define cinema. There are new age films, contemporary and seminal films. There are those that are conventional and those that are hatke.
When I watched Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor starrer Deewaar - The wall, I waited desperately for the line, “Mere Paas Maa Hain” expecting to enjoy it, but I never thought I'd be blown away. I was so wrong!
Anand Verma played by Satyendra Kapoor is a labor organizer who is viewed as a hero by the workers in his area – much like an old Hollywood classic with a boxing theme Anand faces threats against his family.
Then the workers' admiration quickly sours to revilement and Anand flees, leaving his family to bear the burden of his disgrace.
His wife played by the lovely, and very young Nirupa Roy takes their two boys to Bombay in hopes of rebuilding their lives. The boys grow up together, but on very different trajectories – Like two sides of a coin. Ravi the stunning, clean shaven, Shashi Kapoor – humble and pious, joins the police force at the encouragement of his joyously perky girlfriend Leena played by an even younger Neetu Singh.
Vijay the bad fruit of the 2, the legendary Sr. Bachchan, more deeply scarred by his families early struggles, plays big brother by renouncing God – remember the famous ghanti and mandir scene, tried hard to be mimicked by all the younger Khans in later films, Vijay - takes a more thuggishly practical approach to problems.
When Vijay single-handedly beats up a cadre of gangsters who were extorting wages from his fellow dockworkers, he becomes a hero among his colleagues - and attracts the notice of an underworld don – Iftekhar.
Iftekar pushes Vijay to the dark side, hires him to protect his shipments of smuggled gold. Vijay proves a natural talent, and Iftekar decides to retire, leaving Vijay in charge of operations. It's not long before Ravi and Vijay find themselves in direct opposition on either side of the law, with their mother caught in the middle - “Mere Paas Maa Hain”
The plot summary might sound like a recipe for masala, drama, family tension, law and court and crime and brotherhood. It may seem to all lead to one big happy ending with 2 sons in their mama’s arms and 2 bahus at her feet! If only…
The brothers on opposite sides of the law, saintly mothers, gangsters, thugs, and pretty girls call to mind masala classics like Amar Akbar Anthony, Silsila and Parvarish - but not Deewaar.
Deewar is hard in the face, real and gritty. At the same time deeply its characters are highly symbolic and emblematic for the Indian age. There is very little to distract from the core narrative, with great cinematography by Kay Gee and a powerful script, dialogues and story, by the then happy-go-lucky- together together ‘Salim Javed.’ With no subplots or comic diversions, just the unflinching, driving force of a story that is bigger than the sum of its parts Deewar tells an impeccable story.
Vijay is an anti-hero par excellence. He is at his most compelling state when he quietly interacts with his pyaar-shyaar Anita played by the sizzling Parveen Babi. She probes his suffering, and he pours out his heart to her. It is difficult to imagine a Hollywood tough-guy hero baring his soul to a woman as Vijay does - And so! Vijay is a revelation, a marvel of compelling cinema, brought vividly to life by Salim-Javed's expertly crafted dialogues and a dense, earthy performance by Amitabh Bachchan, whose super duper stardom had not yet come into force then! Sholay was still 8 months to go for release.
Deewaar is virtuous and not – “Mera Baap Chor Hain”. It is as taut, tense, and lean as Vijay and Ravi themselves. There is very little fat in this film; I understand that even Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar, those quintessentially populist poet-entertainers, originally intended that the film be songless, and only relented upon the Director Yash Chopra’s insistence that songs be accommodated.
And the songs – all the many 3 of them – are charming Kishore-Asha duets "Keh doon tumhe", and the sexy uncredited item number by the fiery Aruna Irani.
Though the outcomes to the plot hold surprises – it is easy to guess where the path of revenge has to end - so scarred and wrought is Vijay's vengeance, Ravi’s trajectory towards his brother’s redemption and their mother’s pitiable resolution that tears sneak into eyes several times as the film's climax approaches.
Undoubtedly, anyone would be blown away!