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The Memorable Women Behind the Angry Young Man


 By Jaideep Sen



Deewaar one of the two greatest Films ever made in Indian Cinema – the other being Sholay – celebrated its glorious forty-fourth birthday on 24 January, 2019. On the august occasion, I take a look at one of the female characters who provided the film with strength, style and substance. While many of you may think this is going to be an ode to Sumitra Devi, the mother of Vijay and Ravi who has gone into the hall of pride of Indian cinema, I would like to put the spotlight on Anita, performed with such flamboyance and great sensitivity by Parveen Babi-ji. Anita enters the film at a pivotal juncture in a high-end hotel bar and comes across as a upmarket escort who is instrumental in unintentionally saving Vijay’s life when he is attacked.  From here on Salim Saab and Javed Saab etched out a very understated, mature and progressive bond between Vijay and Anita. 

Parveen Babi as Anita in Deewaar
Consider this exchange between Vijay and Anita: When Vijay takes a dig at her and says, “tum jaisi ladkiyan toh kapdo ki tarah apna naam badalti hain”, she retorts sharply but with great dignity, “aaj pehli baar main kisi ko keh rahi hoon ki mere maa baap ne mera naam Anita rakha tha”. From there on, their relationship navigates to a level of mutual respect. Another classic moment in the relationship is Vijay’s discovery of a saree in Anita’s cupboard and her telling him its history. Later in the movie when she is killed, she is shown wearing the same saree. A subtle touch that not just gives gravity to Vijay and Anita’s relationship,  but reveals the writer duo’s amazing skill in giving respect to a woman and her unsung contributions in a man’s life.


I actually remember calling Salim Saab after watching Deewaar recently and mentioning that Anita is one of the most progressive characters in contemporary Indian cinema. In response Salim Saab remarked that Deewaar was their best written script. 


My personal favourite remains Sholay because I guess along with its powerful writing, I have been mesmerised by the magnitude of Sholay. This brings me to another stand-out character that the masters created in Radha, so poignantly and effectively performed by Jaya Bachchan-ji. Though widowed young due to Gabbar’s brutality the lady has a spine of steel, evident in the sequence in which she confronts Veeru and Jai when they are trying to rob and flee.  The clinical and piercing dressing down that she gives them, shakes up the two mercenaries, compelling them to reform. It takes great insights into the influence that a woman has on a man to write such gems and enhance the strength and standing of women in life and literature.


Raakhee Gulzar as Sudha in Kala Patthar
My post would be incomplete without a mention of Sudha, the selfless doctor played with such dignity by Rakhee Gulzar-ji in Kala Patthar. The sequence, in which she explains to a defeatist Vijay the circumstances in which her farmer father passed away in a remote village was the motivation for her to become a doctor and serve in the remotest of villages, is simply priceless. The amalgam of extraordinarily great writing and a heartfelt performance by Rakhee-ji would be a source of inspiration for any viewer. 


That’s the magic of Salim Saab – Javed Saab’s Writing. They write purely from the heart; each word has a purpose to enlighten and inspire and not simply entertain.  Once the actor has felt the vibe and performed it from the heart it leaves behind impeccable characters such as Anita, Radha and Sudha, who will forever add glory to the corridors of fame of Indian Cinema as the Most Memorable Women behind the Angry Young Man.


Jaideep Sen is a filmmaker and a connoisseur of the art of storytelling.
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