Today is Shashi Kapoor’s birthday. The veteran actor and filmmaker had left for his heavenly abode on 4th December last year and now only his memories are left for his admirers in the form of his movies. Shashi Kapoor had not just been a mainstream hero for around two decades but had served the art-world in more than one ways with utter selflessness. The youngest of the three sons of Prithvi Raj Kapoor, he had started acting in movies since his early childhood. He won the Filmfare award for the best supporting actor for his unforgettable role in Deewaar (1975) and won the national award for the best actor for his role in New Delhi Times (1986). He made money by acting mostly in trash commercial Hindi movies but then he devoted that money to the service of genuine art in India. He established Prithvi Theatre in 1978 naming it after his legendary father – Prithvi Raj Kapoor. He invested money in making quality cinema without bothering for the return of his investment. As a producer, first of all, he produced a gem like Junoon (1978) which won the national award for the best feature film. Later on also, he made quality movies like Kalyug (1981), 36 Chowringhee Lane (1981) and Utsav (1984). Despite making an extremely popular on-screen pair with Nanda, he never had any affair with any heroine and always remained devoted to his wife Jennifer Kendal who herself was an excellent actress and had delivered an unforgettable performance in 36 Chowringhee Lane. Her death by cancer in 1984 virtually broke Shashi but he kept on serving Indian theatre and Indian cinema.
While remembering him today, I am presenting the review of a long forgotten but high quality movie produced by him. It’s Vijeta (1982) which has been directed by Govind Nihalani and which features his son Kunal in the lead role. It’s a very touching as well as very inspiring movie which portrays the journey of a youth from boyhood to manhood. Real life father Shashi Kapoor himself has played the role of the hero’s reel life father with evergreen Rekha playing the hero’s mother.
Vijeta (winner) is the story of Angad (Kunal Kapoor) who is the son of Nihal Singh (Shashi Kapoor) and Neelima (Rekha). Angad has a tense and troubled childhood because of his father’s self-pitying and guilt-complex soaked attitude to life and in turn a highly defective and counter-productive fatherly treatment to him. Home is no better than hell for him because of the ever-present tension between his parents the background of which is his father’s being infidel to his mother sometime in the past. As a result of this situation, the kid Angad is not able to grow-up like a normal child.
In the verbal duels taking place between his parents, Angad who has been made a Sikh by his mother, takes the side of his mother because of his deep-seated dislike for his father. But his father is genuinely concerned for his future seeing the lack of self-confidence in him. This fear of the father is all the more intense because he looks upon himself as a sufferer and a loser in his life. Going through his teens, Angad is not finding any ray of hope and enthusiasm in his life until one day a visit of his maternal uncle Arvind (Om Puri) who is a militaryman, takes place and then after spending some time in the military environment, Angad decides to join the Indian air-force and goes ahead with his intention despite opposition from his nagging father who is over-concerned for him.
But joining the armed force is one thing and doing something worthwhile is another. The old demons of childhood haunt Angad and he remains apprehensive of taking risks though he aspires high – dreaming to become a fighter-pilot. However under the strict training of the air-force instructor – Mr. Verghese (Amrish Puri) with the womanly love of his daughter Anna (Supriya Pathak) coming to him, Angad slowly but steadily starts growing up at the mental level and taking real steps into manhood. And then the moment for him to prove that he has actually come of age, arrives when India is caught in a war with Pakistan in 1971. And quite expectedly, our hero who is no longer a boy, emerges a winner (Vijeta) to the boundless delight of his parents especially his father as well as to the inner satisfaction of himself.
Vijeta may not be a perfect movie or a masterpiece but it’s worthy of a five star rating from any sensitive reviewer. The movie has been made on an admirable theme and the writers (Dilip Chitre and Satyadev Dubey) may have faltered on a few points, the director who has earned a name for himself in the history of the parallel cinema movement in India, has done his job quite well with complete support from his cast each one of whom has delivered an outstanding performance.
A man, really or perceptually, may be a winner in life or a loser in life but if he looks upon himself as a loser or a sufferer in life, he should not allow the same to affect the upbringing of his generation next. The little ones who are like clean slates or lumps of clay, need to be nurtured with utmost care and the demons of the past of their parents / guardians should not be allowed to ruin first their childhood and then their adulthood which largely depends upon the fact how their childhood has been spent. After all, self-confidence is the essential pre-requisite for anybody to do something worthwhile in his or her life. And snatching or curtailing a kid’s self-confidence or morale is the biggest damage that the parents can do to him. Vijeta underscores it quite emphatically.Husband and wife may be having grudges against each other due to one or more reasons and some of them may not be resolvable also because you cannot unring a rung bell and life does not have any UNDO command like a computer has. But they have to understand one thing loud and clear that one has to move on in life especially when the future of a kid who is innocent and has nothing to do with the past of his parents, lies ahead for taking care of. The parents of the hero of Vijeta come to understand it quite gradually after spoiling the childhood of their son by their defective approach. Thus this tale is not only of the hero’s coming of age, it is also of his parents’ coming of age.
The movie does not bore at any place though the pace of the narrative has been deliberately reduced by the director in the post-interval session but that slow pace suits the movie well and truly speaking, enhances its impact upon the audience. Since a realistic filmmaker has directed the movie, except for the expected climax, there’s nothing filmy here. Everything appears to be real though the conversations of the characters living in the military milieu appear to be a little more intellectual than they might have been in real life.The movie contains an aura of secularism of India without yelling the word ‘secularism’ anywhere. The parents of the hero are Hindu whereas the hero has been groomed in Sikhism by his mother. He falls in love with a Christian girl. His buddies in the air-force consist of a Muslim (Raja Bundela) and a Christian (K.K. Raina). Thus different religious flavours have been spread in the movie quite naturally without overdoing any of them. And this mixed flavour renders a very pleasant feeling to the audience. An Indian who is secular in his thinking can sniff this aroma always emanating from the Indian soil in this movie.
The storyteller has been quite successful in carrying the audience alongwith the characters of the story and the things happening to them or happening because of them. That mental connection of the audience who is able to relate to the characters and starts longing and praying for the hero to ultimately emerge as a winner (Vijeta), is a great achievement for any filmmaker. Vijeta is a movie which sensitizes, moves, touches, energizes, delights and finally conquers the spectator.
Full marks to the art director, the cinematographer (director Govind Nihalani himself), the editor, the costume designer (Shashi Kapoor’s wife and the hero’s real life mother – Jennifer Kendal Kapoor) and the action director for creating a completely realistic environment on the screen for the story of the movie. Ajit Varman’s musical score is admirable. Mainly it’s the song in Raag Bhairavi – Mann Anand Anand Chhayo sung by Asha Bhosle and Satyasheel Deshpande which remains with the audience. Other songs – Mann Base Mor Brindavan Ma (sung by Manna Dey) and Bichhudat Mose Kaanha (sung by Parveen Sultana) are also ear-soothing. Vasant Dev has written beautiful lyrics for the songs.
Performances are outstanding. Kunal Kapoor could not play a successful innings as an actor in Bollywood but for this role, he appears to have brought his heart out. Supriya Pathak was very pretty in her youth and she has excelled on the acting front also. Shashi Kapoor and Rekha have entered the skins of their characters. The same can be asserted about the other cast members viz. Amrish Puri, K.K. Raina, Raja Bundela etc. too.
I wholeheartedly recommend this extra-ordinary movie to all those who are fond of viewing quality cinema.
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