Deewaar (transl. The Wall) is a 1975 Indian action crime drama film written by Salim–Javed (Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar), directed by Yash Chopra, and starring Shashi Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Nirupa Roy, Neetu Singh and Parveen Babi. The film tells the story of a pair of impoverished brothers who, after their family is betrayed by the misplaced idealism of their father, struggle to survive in the slums of Bombay, and eventually find themselves on opposing sides of the law. The Deewaar ("wall") of the title is the wall that has sprung up between the two brothers, drawn apart by fate and circumstances in a time of socio-political turmoil.
Upon release, Deewaar was both critically and commercially successful, with praise going towards the film's screenplay, story, and music, as well as the performances of the acting ensemble, particularly Bachchan, Kapoor and Roy's performances. It is often considered a ground-breaking cinematic masterpiece, with Indiatimes ranking Deewaar amongst the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films, as well as being one of three Hindi-language films to be included on the list of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. The film had a significant impact on Indian cinema, as well as wider Indian society, with the film's anti-establishment themes and Bachchan's criminal anti-hero vigilante character resonating with audiences, cementing Bachchan's popular image as the "angry young man" of Bollywood cinema. The film also cemented the success of the writing duo Salim-Javed, who went on to write many more blockbuster films; the value of film writers skyrocketed thanks to Salim-Javed, who were paid as highly as leading actors at the time. Deewaar's influence also extends to world cinema, influencing films from Hong Kong and British cinema.
The film opens with a depiction of the strong leadership of trade unionist Anand Verma (Satyendra Kapoor), who works hard to enhance the lives of struggling labourers. He lives in a modest home with his wife, Sumitra Devi (Nirupa Roy), and their two young sons, Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) and Ravi (Shashi Kapoor). Anand, however, is blackmailed by a corrupt businessman who threatens to kill his family if Anand does not cease his protest activities. Forced into compliance, Anand is thus attacked by the very same labourers who then jeer him for his betrayal, unaware that he was blackmailed. His family is also persecuted by the angry workers. Out of shame, Anand leaves town, leaving Sumitra to care for their sons alone in poverty. Several of the angry workers kidnap Vijay and tattoo his arm with the Hindi words "मेरा बाप चोर है" (merā bāp chor hai; my father is a thief). Not knowing what else to do, Sumitra brings her children to Bombay and struggles as a day labourer to care for her now homeless sons.
Vijay, the older brother, grows up with an acute awareness of his father's failure and is victimised for his father's supposed misdeeds. In the process of fighting for his rights, Vijay, who starts out as a boot polisher, was a dockyard worker in his youth, now becomes a smuggler for the underworld. Vijay beats up several thugs working for their ruthless leader Samant (Madan Puri), which then influences one of Samant's rivals to bring Vijay to his inner circle, leaving Vijay to become a new leading figure of the underworld. He also sacrifices his own education so his brother Ravi can study.
Ravi is an excellent student. He is dating Veera (Neetu Singh), the daughter of a senior police officer (Manmohan Krishna). On the Commissioner's suggestion, Ravi applies for employment with the police and is sent for training. Several months later, he is accepted by the police and has the rank of Sub-Inspector. When Ravi returns home, he finds that Vijay has become a businessman overnight, has accumulated wealth, and a palatial home. One of his first assignments is to apprehend and arrest some of Bombay's hardcore criminals and smugglers, which includes his brother, Vijay – much to his shock, as he had never associated his own brother with criminal activities. Ravi must now decide between apprehending Vijay and quitting the police force. Ravi, at first reluctant of arresting his brother, is moved when he non-fatally shoots a boy who stole two rotis in an attempt to catch him. When Ravi goes to the boy's family, giving them some food, the mother berates Ravi while the boy's father sends her back to the room. The father justifies Ravi's action by saying that stealing of a 'lakh' or of food is the same, due to which Ravi agrees to take the case.
When Ravi finds out that Vijay has acquired wealth by crime, he decides to move out along with his mother. Shouldering past the loss of his mother and sibling, Vijay enters a sexual relationship with Anita (Parveen Babi), a woman whom he meets at a bar. When Anita falls pregnant, Vijay decides to abandon his life in the underworld, marry her, and confess his sins. He also hopes to seek forgiveness from his mother and brother. However, when Anita is brutally murdered by Samant, Vijay murders Samant in revenge, leading him to be branded a criminal forever. Their mother, who had sided with Ravi despite the fact that Vijay was her favourite, is tormented by Vijay's decisions and rejects him. When the two brothers meet for a final clash, Ravi, pleading with Vijay to stop running, shoots Vijay in his arm, and Vijay dies (after crashing his car into a wall while trying to escape) in his mother's arms in a temple, seeking forgiveness. Ravi is felicitated for pursuing justice, though he is wracked with remorse for killing Vijay.
The film's screenplay, story and dialogues were written by Salim–Javed (Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar). The main inspiration for the film's plot was the 1961 Dilip Kumar film Gunga Jumna (1961), which had a similar premise of two brothers on opposing sides of the law, with the elder criminal brother as the main character. Deewaar is thus considered to be a spiritual successor to Gunga Jumna. Salim-Javed credited Gunga Jumna as well as Mehboob Khan's Mother India (1957) as the main inspirations for Deewaar, which they described as a "more urban, much more contemporary" take on their themes; while Mother India and Gunga Jumna took place in a rural context, Salim–Javed reinterpreted their themes in a contemporary urban context with Deewaar.
Amitabh Bachchan's character, Vijay, was loosely inspired by the real-life Bombay underworld gangster Haji Mastan. Vijay's story arc in the film parallels that of Mastan's life, such as the rise from a humble dockyard coolie worker to a powerful smuggler, and Mastan's rivalry with smuggler Sukkur Narayan Bakhia is similar to Vijay's rivalry with Samant (Madan Puri).
Salim–Javed's screenplay had dynamic dialogues, and incorporated a number of symbolic motifs. For example, the scene where the two brothers meet as adults takes place under a bridge, symbolising a bridge forming between the brothers. Set in the Dharavi slums of Bombay, the film's story of gangsters in Dharavi was a critique of socio-political inequality and injustice in Bombay. The characterisations of the two brothers are sociologically contextualised to represent a form of urban conflict and drama, aimed at presenting a causal explanation for the sequence of events and Vijay's social alienation, with the narrative explaining his every action and decision, grounded in his memories and experiences.
The script generally has an atmosphere of secularism, while incorporating subtle religious motifs. The mother Sumitra Devi (Nirupa Roy) and police brother Ravi (Shashi Kapoor) are religious Hindus, whereas the criminal brother Vijay (Bachchan) is generally not religious and "upset with God", yet he carries a badge numbered 786, which the Muslim Rahim Chacha (Yunus Parvez) points out to be a number of religious significance in Islam (representing Bismillah) and has its own sub-plot. The 786 badge plays a powerful and symbolic role in several scenes, saving Vijay at key moments and signifying something ominous when he loses it.
Salim-Javed initially showed the script to Bachchan, who they had in mind for Vijay's role after having worked with him on Zanjeer (1973). At the time, Bachchan was working on another film with Yash Chopra, and told him about the script. After some initial scepticism, Chopra was eventually convinced to direct the film after Salim-Javed narrated the storyline to him.
Bachchan's "angry young man" performance as Vijay in the film was inspired by Dilip Kumar's intense performance as Gunga in Gunga Jumna, which Bachchan sharpened and reinterpreted in a contemporary urban context reflecting the changing socio-political climate of 1970s India.
Producer Gulshan Rai initially wanted Rajesh Khanna to play Vijay's role. However, Salim-Javed "felt only he (Bachchan) could do justice to Vijay's role." According to Akhtar, they "saw his talent, which most makers didn't. He was exceptional, a genius actor who was in films that weren't good." At Salim-Javed's insistence, Bachchan was cast in the role. Director Yash Chopra's first choices for Vijay and Ravi's roles were Rajesh Khanna and Navin Nischol, respectively, but Salim-Javed had Amitabh Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha in mind when they wrote the script; Sinha turned down the film when he heard Khanna was initially cast in the lead, due to a fallout between the two. Nirupa Roy's role as Sumitra Devi was also first offered to Vyjayanthimala; Nischol and Vyjayanthimala turned down the film after they found out Khanna would no longer be in the film. Shashi Kapoor was subsequently cast as Ravi, and Nirupa Roy as Sumitra Devi.
In 2014, Bachchan revealed that his iconic look in the film – a "denim blue shirt worn with khakee pants and a rope dangling over the shoulder" – was the result of a mistake by the tailor. He said, "The knotted shirt and rope on the shoulder in [Deewaar] was an adjustment for an error in stitching, shirt too long so knotted it". In certain scenes, Bachchan had some input on Chopra's direction, such as the father's funeral scene where Bachchan, instead of lighting the pyre with his right hand, suggests to use his left hand to show off the tattoo, "Mera baap chor hai" ("My father is a thief"). The film was shot mostly at night because Bachchan was shooting for Ramesh Sippy's Sholay at that time.
The film contains a fight scene, which involves Bachchan performing martial arts sequences inspired by Hong Kong martial arts cinema, which Deewaar was one of the first to do in Indian cinema. Rather than following the Hollywood model, it follows the Hong Kong model, with an emphasis on acrobatics and stunts. The style of fighting seen in Deewaar combined kung fu (as it was perceived by Indians) with Indian martial arts (particularly Indian wrestling).
At the Indian box office, the film grossed ₹75 million ($9 million).[a] In Bombay alone, the film grossed ₹10 million. In terms of footfalls, the film sold an estimated 31 million tickets at an average 1975 price of ₹2.40 per ticket. Adjusted for inflation, this is equivalent to an estimated ₹4.17 billion ($64 million) at an average 2017 price of ₹134.38 per ticket.
Numerous DVD editions entered the market by companies like "Eros Entertainment", "Shemaroo Entertainment" and "Eagle Home Video". These were released as non-restored, non re-mastered editions and bare bones, void of supplementary features. Eagle Home Video came out with a restored edition of this movie, preserving the original aspect ratio in a 4:3 pillar box and a DTS Master Audio (HD) in 2.0. The restoration took place in Shemaroo studios.
Upon release, Deewaar was a major commercial success, ranking as the fourth highest-grossing Bollywood film of 1975, and received critical acclaim, with critics praising the story, dialogue, screenplay, as well as the performances of the cast, particularly those of Bachchan, Kapoor and Roy. Indiatimes ranks Deewaar amongst the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films. It was one of the three Hindi films featured in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, the others being Mother India (1957) and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995).
It was perceived by audiences to be anti-establishment, while Amitabh Bachchan's character Vijay was seen as a vigilante anti-hero, establishing Bachchan's image as the "angry young man" of Indian cinema. With the unprecedented growth of slums across India at the time, Vijay was seen as a new kind of hero, with his suppressed rage giving a voice to the angst of the urban poor. Deewaar is also remembered for its iconic dialogues written by Salim-Javed. The most famous is when Shashi Kapoor delivers the line, "Mere paas maa hai" ("I have mother"), a line that is widely known in India and has become part of Indian popular culture. The film Loins of Punjab Presents (2007) mocked how the line is sometimes wrongly attributed to Amitabh Bachchan. It also established Parveen Babi as the "new Bollywood woman".
The film cemented the success of the writing duo Salim-Javed, who went on to write many more blockbuster films. After the success of this film, the value of film writers skyrocketed thanks to Salim-Javed, and they soon were being paid as highly as some actors at the time. Amitabh Bachchan described Salim-Javed's screenplay for Deewaar as "the perfect script" and "the best screenplay ever" in Indian cinema. Deewaar, one of the first Indian films with an action sequence modelled after Hong Kong martial arts cinema, popularised the use of martial arts sequences in Bollywood films from the 1970s to the 1990s. The style of fighting popularised by Deewaar, with acrobatics and stunts, and combining Chinese kung fu (as it was perceived by Indians, based on 1970s Hong Kong films) with Indian pehlwani wrestling, became the standard model for Bollywood action scenes up until the 1990s.
The film was later remade in Telugu as Magaadu (1976), in Tamil as Thee (1981), in Malayalam as Nathi Muthal Nathi Vare (1983), in Persian as Koose-ye Jonoob (1978), and in Turkish as Acıların Çocuğu (1985). The Brothers, a 1979 Hong Kong film produced by the Shaw Brothers Studio, is a remake of this film. Another remake of Deewaar was the 1994 Bollywood film Aatish: Feel the Fire, starring Sanjay Dutt as the older criminal brother, Atul Agnihotri as the younger police brother, and Tanuja as the mother. Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers studio remade Deewaar as The Brothers (1979), which in turn inspired John Woo's internationally acclaimed breakthrough A Better Tomorrow (1986). The Brothers also starred a Hong Kong actor that would later be known for heroic bloodshed films, Danny Lee (playing Shashi Kapoor's character), with a police officer persona later seen in Hong Kong crime films such as Woo's The Killer (1989).
Deewaar had an influence on Hong Kong cinema and in turn Hollywood cinema, by playing a key role in the creation of the heroic bloodshed crime genre of 1980s Hong Kong action cinema. Deewaar, along with several later 1970s "angry young man" epics it inspired, such as Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), had similarities to elements later seen in 1980s Hong Kong heroic bloodshed films.
British director Danny Boyle described Deewaar as being "absolutely key to Indian cinema" and cited the film as an influence on his Academy Award winning film Slumdog Millionaire (2008). The film's co-director Loveleen Tandan noted that "Simon Beaufoy studied Salim-Javed's kind of cinema minutely." Actor Anil Kapoor noted that some scenes of Slumdog Millionaire "are like Deewaar, the story of two brothers of whom one is completely after money while the younger one is honest and not interested in money." Slumdog Millionaire, which pays homage to Amitabh Bachchan, has a similar narrative structure to Deewaar. Composer A. R. Rahman referenced the film in his Oscar acceptance speech.
Deewaar received the Filmfare Best Movie Award of 1976, and also won six more Filmfare Awards for Best Screenplay, Best Dialogue, Best Director, Best Sound, Best Story, and Best Supporting Actor (Kapoor), and received two other nominations for Best Actor (Bachchan) and Best Supporting Actress (Roy).