My take on TRISHUL (Hindi, 1978)

After Yash Chopra, Gulshan Rai, Salim-Javed and Amitabh Bachchan left an imprint on the face of Bombay cinema forever with DEEWAAR, they teamed up again for yet another masterpiece TRISHUL, and though it’s not quiet in the same league as DEEWAAR the movie is without a shred of doubt a masterful piece of work which has stood the test of time magnificently well.

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7 Responses to “My take on TRISHUL (Hindi, 1978)”

  1. “and though it’s not quiet in the same league as DEEWAAR”

    unh, in my book its superior to Deewar even though Deewar is the more poplular one. Trishul is a superior and more unadulterated celebration of the angry young man persona by Amitabh and bringing Sanjeev Kumar in the same frame as Amitabh adds to the movie. I have revisited Trishul more than Deewar.

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    • Don’t think so. The author gets my vote on Deewar being a much superior film. The climactic intensity of ‘Vijay’ in Trishul is bad writing. As if he’s lost his personality suddenly!

      Said that, Trishul is a very good film – almost a quadrivial intersection of Zanjeer, Deewar, Trishul and Kala Patthar.

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  2. good review overall.

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  3. Deewar, I find is the more instantly hard-hitting of the two. I’d take Kaala Patthar as a more accurately “unadulterated” angry young man moment in some ways, but Trishul has really bridged the gulf for me as being one of the most compelling narratives that one can return to time and again. The agent of destruction that Bachchan plays here is endlessly fascinating.

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  4. Yes. Kala pathar is the other Yash Chopra movie that leaves a lasting impression. Appararently it didn’t do too well when it was released but has really stood the test of time. All three hold up really well even after 30 years.

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  5. older related comments on Deewar/Trishul/Kaala Pathar:

    “I am reminded of Kaala Pathar (where even if the story was inspired from Lord Jim, the substitution of the mines for the jungles was a good stroke).. the final reckoning comes about in the ‘cave’ (mines) where Bachchan must deal conclusively with all of his ghosts.. here of course the trauma is remembered all too well, all too often and yet it is nonetheless repressed in another sense.. which is why it returns to Bachchan only as nightmare.. but Bachchan must engage with this nightmare world to exorcise those ghosts.. he keeps descending into the coal mines.. finally the apocalyptic moment at the end unleashes the flood(gates) once more..”

    and then on Bachchan’s blog (115):

    “I am reminded of a moving moment in Deewar when the children are with their mother under the ‘pul’ and one can hear ’saare jahan se achcha’ playing.. a powerful commentary on aspects of post-Independence India and how the dream was not fulfilled for many (and still has not been). Your last paragraph here gets to the very same question. Deewar in many ways is an interrogation of what became of the country after independence. Patriotic zeal often obscures the violence inflicted on those who are among a nation’s ‘uncounted’. In another sense ‘patriotism’ is often a kind of luxury. There are people too ‘poor’ or too challenged by life’s basic wants to think much about Independence. Deewar once again highlighted this. Another extraordinary moment, one of the best in Hindi cinema, takes place at the teacher’s house, which is almost a shack. The question of ’shiksha’ is profoundly raised here but also another bitter commentary is offered on the nation. A teacher living hand to mouth, his son forced to steal bread. And finally in that legendary scene Vijay and Ravi meet by that same ‘pul’ and the two brothers represent two paths taken, too roads traveled.

    Salim-Javed had this theme running through some of their best films — the questioning of the nation. Trishul does the same. Sanjeev Kumar represents the newly independent nation (the film released in ‘78, when the story begins, 25 years earlier, it is more or less the early 50s, in fact more or less the very moment at which Raj Kapoor was engaging in enormous reflections of his own and coming up with rather dark commentaries on the nation in both Awara and Shree 420, as always he was prescient) and as such his ‘ethics’ involve rejecting one mother (Waheeda Rahman, allegorized later as ‘nation’) for another (his own biological one) though in a superb move (and a truly subversive one on the part of the writers) it is the latter, representing the ‘old world’ order who recommends and sets him on his somewhat mercenary course in life. It is then the former, the new mother, the newly independent nation, that is born out of this ‘unholy’ marriage and the result is the smoldering Vijay, who is the excess, the detritus of his father’s success (and incidentally we should be aware of the gender implications in all of this, Sanjeev Kumar’s affluent class is created by ‘marrying’ an imagined set of values — imagined because it hearkens to the ‘old’ while rejecting an entire order of ethics associated with it — with a mercenary capitalism; India in effect was ‘new’ before the 90s!). And did not Deewar call such a man a ‘chor’? Vijay’s father is called one for striking a deal (wrongly implicated of course) with the corporate honchos. Doesn’t Sanjeev Kumar strike a similar deal in actuality?

    The question of the biological is never far from all of this. Sanjeev Kumar’s set of choices represses the biological or the ‘family’ even as it celebrates a second biological. The ‘name of the father’ is denied the son, he in effect represents the ‘return of the repressed’, the ‘monstrous’ that must be kept in chains, forgotten, left uncounted, but ultimately cannot be. This is why Vijay is a force of nature intent on destroying every semblance of the familial that was founded on the ashes of the original promise of the nation (the mother). This is why Sanjeev Kumar has to die, has to shed blood, has to seal his biological link with Vijay, for the latter to achieve closure.

    Yet another example is Kaala Pathar. Here a step further is taken in one sense. Vijay is himself the owner of a dreadful secret. Trishul castigated the generation of the newly emergent nation. Kaala Pathar contends that Vijay’s own generation of the 70s might not be entirely blameless. The ’ship’ (of state) is therefore abandoned. However Kaala Pathar for all its splendors cannot quite match the complexity of the earlier two films and relies on some rather easy resolutions. Therefore in a move that is a bit too romantic in an less mediated way Vijay ‘atones’ by going down into the bowels of the earth. Of course it is interesting here to note that Vijay does more to redeem himself than R K Gupta ever does. Still, for all the simple romanticism involved in such a gesture, and the relative bluntness of the coal mine site and world being used as stand-in for ‘mother earth’ and ‘nation’, there is something movingly sincere in Vijay’s decision. What is inexcusable however, is the simply extolling of the ‘government’ in a simple opposition involving the predatory corporate figure on the other side. Odder still that the writers should have had such a sanguine view of the government given that the nation had been through an emergency in the very recent past. The final resolution is once again too easy — a flood that washes out all sin. What happens in the coal mines stays in the coal mines! The revolution is never brought out of that milieu as indeed the earlier two films did which did not stay restricted to their respective sites of origin. Kaala Pathar has much to recommend it in other ways, certainly it is structurally a film ahead of its time but in the context of this discussion it is nonetheless somewhat lacking.

    And who is the heir to this forgotten man or repressed figure from the 70s today? Who is the character who represents the residue of the 90s ‘new economies? Who embodies the violence that capitalism always shares a symbiotic relationship with even sometimes at the cost of risking its (capitalism) very foundations? But of course Lallan Singh! Yuva is nothing if not commentary on Deewar and Vijay. Rathnam is a masterful reader of these texts (the films and ‘Bachchan’) and in Yuva he employs another character, another ‘Bachchan’ (the biological link once again!) to represent in a contemporary age a completely disturbing creature. Vijay was still too ‘rational’, too dictated by the logic and economies of ‘reason’, Lallan is ‘a-rational’, impenetrable, ultimately beyond understanding. Once again we see a familiar structure return. He is left by his brother at the station when the latter wishes to pursue a brighter dream for himself. As opposed to there being a clash between fathers and sons Yuva offers fratricidal war (Deewar and Trishul to an extent also offered this theme but coded it simply as an unfortunate result of the father’s original sin) where the focus is entirely on the present and though history is always obliquely invoked this is done so as meta-narrative. For Rathnam the contest today is one between Lallan and Michael and the Arjun who prefers escape (exit from the country) to descending into the Ranbhoomi. Of course as we see in the film Arjun does join Michael in what is a bit of an idealization but Rathnam nonetheless leaves Lallan intact. We are no closer to understanding him than when we started out and we have not at all defeated his ilk.

    In Guru finally we are at our contemporary impasse. Many misread this film as being entirely celebratory of contemporary Indian corporate mantras. But this is where we are. Guru (the character) does not have a dark secret as R K Gupta did which makes him a harder kind of character to grapple with specially when he displays certain ethical infractions. In any this is where we are. A history of the present…

    One hears that Rathnam’s next film is a loose adaptation of the Ramayana.. doubtless another interesting chapter in this history awaits us…”

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