Book Review: Deewar – The Footpath, the City and the Angry Young Man

20 pages into the book and one gets a solid impression that this book on Deewar has been written just because the author (Vinay Lal) wanted to bring his own interpretation to the idea behind the film. That’s about it. That’s because apart from his own interpretation along with the dissection that every scene and character goes through in this 150 page book, there is precious little that one gets to know about what actually went behind the ‘making of the film’. All one gets to see is a reading material which is more like a paper being written around those one thousands tangents that Deewar has taken in the author’s mind. No wonder, in a book about a legendary film that brought together people like Yash Chopra, Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor and Nirupa Roy, one gets to hear everything ranging from Shashi Tharoor to Communist Party of India (CPI) to Emergency to Dev Anand to Dilip Kumar and many more. And all this while, one impatiently waits to read about the real Deewaar, the movie which has been watched by anyone and everyone who has ever watched an Amitabh Bachchan film. Well, as it turns out, the wait is futile as Vinay Lal, who is a historian, writer and cultural critic, doesn’t quite give an avid movie buff much to munch on from the perspective of the actual film. This starts becoming more and more apparent as after going through dozens of pages, one realises that there is just a passing mention or two of the man behind it all – Yash Chopra.

Yes, Amitabh Bachchan’s characterisation goes through quite some analysis by Lal as he brings in his own take on it but a total avoidance of Yash Chopra clearly indicates that the write up here isn’t the kind that would meet the expectation that one originally had from the book. This is the reason why it turns out to be a disappointing read because while half the book has everything which has actually nothing to do with Deewar, a masala entertainer that audience would continue to watch it as for years to come as well, the other half basically is the interpretation and more than that a display and sharing of knowledge that the author may be carrying around the core of a scene or an instance. No wonder, Lal doesn’t even blink when he actually equates the conflict between the two brothers (Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor) as that of India and Pakistan (yup, you read it right!). This is not all, you are also told that the scene where young Amitabh throws a stone at his mother’s tormentors was something that came way before (hold your breath) Palestinians and Kashmiris adopted it as a protest mechanism!!! While there are dozens of such equations being set, right from mythological references to political interpretations, there are also essays being documented, one of them being all about definition of ‘forged signatures’! Of course there are redeeming moments for an average reader (read: a Bollywood follower) when there are actual scenes from the film brought to fore all over again with dialogues to boost. Now more than anything else, they end up adding on to the nostalgia as multiple memorable scenes and dialogues from the film are hard to forget and only so refreshing to revisit all over again. In this respect, Lal does well in bringing back the film to the audience and enticing them to give it a repeat viewing. However, other than, there is hardly any fun to go through this exhaustive write up that only ends up being an indulgent exercise more than giving anything to the reader to cherish. As a paper to be written for a thesis, this book may qualify as a good effort but for someone who is interested in knowing more about the film for what it is, there is absolutely nothing at all to be offered.

Price: Rs. 250/= Rating: 

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