Prakash Mehra’s Zanjeer might have been the starting point for the Amitabh’s legendary ‘Angry Young Man’ but it was director Yash Chopra who really refined that screen image. Surprised? No wonder, the over-emphasis on Amitabh- Prakash Mehera- Manmohan Desai nexus and all too familiar ‘eternal romantic film-maker’ labeling of Yash Chopra, have somehow sidelined his role as perhaps the best director of the superstar.
Deewar (1975), Trishul (1978) and Kala Patthar (1980) represent three unique and yet similar simmering roles conceived by the talented film-maker for Amitabh’s screen persona. Mind you, none of these films is an Amitabh solo- all being multi-starrers. Yet it is Amitabh’s ‘Vijay’ (His screen name in all three films!) who is the central character and of course, the scene stealer.
The smuggler in Deewar, the corrupt builder in Trishul and the disgraced navy captain-turned-obscure coal mine worker in Kala Patthar portrayed by Amitabh are all well etched roles, written superbly by Salim-Javed. In Deewar, Vijay is the elder son bearing an idelible tattoo of ‘Mera baap chor hai’ on his forearm as the cross of his father who has deserted the family. In Trishul, he is the illegitimate son who is trying to ruin his father who had left his mother to fend for herself, to get married to a rich girl. In Kaala Patthar, his anger is directed towards his own cowardice and abdication of duty as a ship’s captain. Here he is running away from the world and from himself by immersing himself into work as a faceless mine worker. The smouldering anger in each ‘Vijay’ is justifiable and you end up liking the ‘bad guy’. The subtle shades of these characters brought out in confrontational scenes show the greatness of Chopra as the director and Amitabh as an actor. The temple scene where atheist Vijay grudgingly asks for divine favour for his mother’s health is simply brilliant.
Shashi Kapoor- one of Yash Chopra’s favorites- plays important roles in all three films and does it in his easy-going charming way. His famous “Mere paas maa hai!” line from Deewar has become immortal. Sanjeev Kumar’s stern businessman-father in Trishul and Shatrughan Sinha’s street smart ruffian in Kaala Patthar are also memorable. As leading ladies – (Almost always in background in Amitabh movies!) – Parveen Babi in Deewar and Raakhi in the other two, have brief but impressive roles.
Innovative action sequences (closing the warehouse door and throwing the key away in Deewar, bringing an ambulance for the fight in Trishul and rescue work in the collapsed, water-logged mine in Kaala Patthar) make for a compulsive viewing.