Thoughts on Hindu Icons in “Trishul”

Trimurti Films

The classic Trimurti Films logo is one of the more recognizable features of some of the landmark Hindi films from the 1970s. The graphic signature is a striking, artful creation. Fluidly animated, gently scored and steeped in some very obvious religious iconography. The three godly elements it unites in one triangular whole are the three essential parts of the Hindu trinity, the Trimurti—Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma. Vishnu’s chakra, Shiva’s trishul and Brahma’s lotus are all present here. The unified whole is, in this depiction, surrounded by stars and the waning lights of the universe. It is a succinct visual encapsulation of one of Hinduism’s most basic beliefs—that the whole of existence, is a result or a natural extension of the balance maintained by these three celestial forces. That this visual representation is also servicing a corporate identity makes it all the more important in the context of the film that it most appropriately precedes—Yash Chopra’s memorable 1978 drama, Trishul.

Quarry

Trishul starts off with a prologue detailing how a young businessman on the rise, RK Gupta, (Sanjeev Kumar) dumps his pregnant but poor girlfriend Shanti (Waheeda Rahman) in order to marry into wealth. Shanti becomes a single mother to a bastard son and ends up working in a quarry for what becomes the rest of her life. At one point, during a moving musical interlude, she is framed in the foreground while a horizon of women pass behind her–quarry workers carrying heavy loads that they balance on their heads, no doubt, to underline the kind of unbearable burdens Shanti must now shoulder on her own. And the years pass by…

Title

Gupta becomes a powerful construction tycoon in Delhi, now cutting a rather severe figure of capitalist excess in his impeccable suits and his shock of silver hair. He produces more offspring including a son, Shekhar (Shashi Kapoor) who is a dilettante, and above all else, a romantic. The definition of levity. Finally, there is the son Gupta left behind with Shanti, who dies from a nameless illness that we can probably assume is an acute case of Nirupa-Royitis. Shanti’s son is Vijay, (Amitabh Bachchan) a man now driven to avenge his mother’s miserable life and sets out on a mission to destroy his estranged father and everything that man has (literally and otherwise) built.

Shiva

Trishul’s title references, of course, the weapon of choice that Shiva, the god of destruction, wields in much of his iconography. It is not a mistake, then, that the universe of this film is, in addition to other things, a snapshot of the universe as outlined by Hindu ideology, namely the snapshot given to us by Trimurti Films in their corporate logo. In Chopra and Salim-Javed’s vision, when the harmony, the peace, the Shanti is destroyed, all hell breaks loose as this once united whole breaks out into a kind of celestial civil war, with Bachchan, the Shiva in this equation, ferociously antagonizing his literal creator, his Brahma. Bachchan is the most potent symbol here, as his introductory moments are iconically awash in destruction (the exploding dynamite demolishing the quarry landscape) and death (as his mother passes in front of his eyes). Indeed, when Bachchan spends the rest of the film on a mission of destruction, it seems almost as if he were picking up the gauntlet he himself threw down to the trishul-wielding Shiva in that magnificent scene towards the climax of Yash Chopra’s other superb drama, 1975’s Deewar.

Brahma

Sanjeev Kumar’s Gupta is also a well-developed human counterpart for his godly reference—Brahma. Gupta is not a creator simply in the biological sense. His corporate identity itself is married to the concept of creation—to the concept of building, to be more accurate, and construction. Kumar’s Brahma is a being entirely consumed by building on his wealth, building his city, building on his empire, on his contracts and his alliances. There is little room for anything else but this constant process of production, moving forward, generation upon generation. This is Brahma as a true and opportunistic capitalist.

Vishnu

Bridging the gap between these two clashing titans is Shashi Kapoor’s Shekhar, the Vishnu in this equation. Aside from exemplifying the very Vishnu-like concepts of preservation and balance, as a kind of diplomat to both sides here, Shekhar also shows shades of the “Krishna” side of the deity in the way that he’s often the focus of the romantic track here. He is depicted as something of an erotic figure. With his flamboyant wardrobe, flirtatious banter and repeated romantic song interludes, Shekhar fits the bill in terms of symbolizing the third part of this trinity. He’s a lover not a fighter, for the most part.

Idol

The resolution to all this is problematic in the sense that though the universe is mended and the three estranged units become whole to restore balance, the “Brahma” is killed. On the other hand, following this character’s destruction, the very end of the film literally reunites Shanti with the Brahma of Trishul through the erection of a signpost for the new company that Vijay and Shekhar have formed together. The sign reading “ShantiRaj” is not just an indication of a corporate merger, or a subtextual acknowledgment that the war is over and we’re now entering an era of peace, but also a recognition of another timeless Hindu concept—that of reincarnation or regeneration of life in another form. In the very end, a corporation, a man made “idol,” is all that’s left of the lost gods.

69 Responses to “Thoughts on Hindu Icons in “Trishul””

  1. Interesting read.

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  2. Outstanding post on Trishul and really one that that illuminates. I had never thought about the film along these mythological lines. An extremely valuable reading of a film that as I’ve said before is my favorite in the world. The film is so fluid that it’s hard to be believe how much of it was rewritten and reshot I think because Yash Chopra wasn’t very satisfied with the way it was proceeding.

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  3. Truly illuminating piece, on one of the greatest Hindi films ever in my opinion, and one of the best acted too…

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  4. Who has written this? I thought it was Satyam when I was reading it. Trishul happens to be my all time favourite Bachchan film but like most, I didn’t think of it in these terms at all. Very, very illuminating, truly made my day.
    Mythology may not be a ‘cool’ subject to explore as it is, but it’s templates are firmly entrenched in the Indian psyche and hence never fail to make a connection.
    Here is a piece i had written related to mythology, films and literature.
    http://sandyi.blogspot.com/2009/03/mythology-and-cinema.html

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  5. magnificient.. spellbounding.. who is the author???

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  6. Thank for reading and commenting on this. Trishul was a film I only recently revisited and I have to agree with Satyam’s assessment on it being an extraordinarily “fluid” film – possibly Salim-Javed’s most potent screenplay in this sense. I had no idea that there were issues with the way this was being shot and Yash Chopra’s frustrations here….to be honest, I always imagined Yash Chopra was simply happy to be given the golden egg that Salim-Javed laid for him once every couple years!

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    • Salim-Javed suggested at one point that this was one film where Yash chopra deserved almost equal credit in terms of the script.

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    • check this out (this is Yash chopra):

      http://www.screenindia.com/old/fullstory.php?content_id=9808

      “Trishul: This was again a film about an unwed mother, the story of an illegitimate son settling scores with his father. I was delving into a complex relationship and the mixed emotions the boy goes through, so understandably romance was not the focus of the story. The film is about the family, the other relationships are incidental.

      During the making of the film, one day Gulshan Rai mentioned that Premji had suffered a big disaster, Meera. Javed Akhtar, the writer of Trishul, who was present in the room, with characteristic humour said, That’s because we’ve still to release Trishul…

      Javed wasn’t joking. We had shot more than three fourths of the film, but all of us agreed that something was amiss. We stalled shooting for a while, reworked the screenplay and reshot the film for almost 20-25 days. The change was worth it. Even Javed acknowledged that. He said that Salim and he should only partly be credited for the screenplay, as all of us had contributed to the screenplay of Trishul. “

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      • It’s obviously asking too much but there should be more of an attempt to preserve, on DVD or otherwise, certain “elements” and deleted scenes, interviews, etc…I’m sure there is some stuff out there (be it on celluloid or human beings with anecdotes) that will simply wither away through natural decay….a shame too.

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        • Yeah I constantly lament this point in the context of many films.. on the existing DVD the quality is otherwise alright but you can see the image suddenly going very dark at points in the credits.

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  7. GF – absolutely amazing piece. You need to do this on fortnightly basis, if not weekly.

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    • Hey Sandy, thanks. I do try and write as often as I’m inspired to, which is not an always directly proportional formula…but thanks for the vote of confidence. Certainly these “random thought” pieces are far easier to manage than an actual essay where one tries too hard to edit as one writes.

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  8. GF: I was wondering if you or Satyam can do a piece on literature on celluloid. Everyone can of course contribute. I, for one, would. Right now, I’m heavily back to classics.

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    • that’s a big project Sandy! I’ll try to think of something.

      Speaking of books I finally got through Roberto Bolaño’s Savage Detectives and the posthumously published 2666 (I had only read some of his novellas earlier). These two books are about as incredible as the novel is likely to be at this late date in the genre’s history. There have been excellent pieces at this end on both books but here are a couple of pieces from the Hindu:

      http://www.thehindu.com/lr/2009/01/04/stories/2009010450330800.htm

      this is especially well-written:

      http://www.thehindu.com/lr/2009/02/01/stories/2009020150100300.htm

      here’s a piece from the LRB on Savage Detectives:

      http://www.lrb.co.uk/v29/n17/kunk01_.html

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    • here’s the redoubtable James Wood on the same:

      The Visceral Realist
      By JAMES WOOD
      Skip to next paragraph
      THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES

      By Roberto Bolaño. Translated by Natasha Wimmer.

      Over the last few years, Roberto Bolaño’s reputation, in English at least, has been spreading in a quiet contagion; the loud arrival of a long novel, “The Savage Detectives,” will ensure that few are now untouched. Until recently there was even something a little Masonic about the way Bolaño’s name was passed along between readers in this country; I owe my awareness of him to a friend who excitedly lent me a now never-to-be-returned copy of Bolaño’s extraordinary novella “By Night in Chile.” This wonderfully strange Chilean imaginer, at once a grounded realist and a lyricist of the speculative, who died in 2003 at the age of 50, has been acknowledged for a few years now in the Spanish-speaking world as one of the greatest and most influential modern writers. Those without Spanish have had to rely on the loyal intermittence of translation, beginning with “By Night in Chile” (2003), two more short novels — “Distant Star” (2004) and “Amulet” (2007) — and a book of stories, “Last Evenings on Earth” (2006), all translated by Chris Andrews and published by New Directions.

      The best way to offer a sense of this writer might be to take a scene, and a sentence, from “By Night in Chile,” still his greatest work. The book is narrated by Father Urrutia, a dying priest and conservative literary critic, a member of Opus Dei, who comes to emblematize, by the novella’s end, the silent complicity of the Chilean literary establishment with the murderous Pinochet regime. In one episode, Father Urrutia is sent to Europe, by Opus Dei agents, to report on the preservation of the churches there.

      This is where Bolaño’s imagination suddenly expands into a magical diorama. Father Urrutia discovers that the chief threat to the churches comes from pigeon excrement, and that all over Europe churches have been using falcons to kill the pests. In Turin, Father Angelo has a fearsome falcon called Othello; in Strasbourg, Father Joseph has one named Xenophon; in Avignon, the murderous falcon is named Ta Gueule, and the narrator watches it in action:

      “Ta Gueule appeared again like a lightning bolt, or the abstract idea of a lightning bolt, and stooped on the huge flocks of starlings coming out of the west like swarms of flies, darkening the sky with their erratic fluttering, and after a few minutes the fluttering of the starlings was bloodied, scattered and bloodied, and afternoon on the outskirts of Avignon took on a deep red hue, like the color of sunsets seen from an airplane, or the color of dawns, when the passenger is woken gently by the engines whistling in his ears and lifts up the little blind and sees the horizon marked with a red line, like the planet’s femoral artery, or the planet’s aorta, gradually swelling, and I saw that swelling blood vessel in the sky over Avignon, the blood-stained flight of the starlings, Ta Guele splashing color like an Abstract Expressionist painter.”

      Much of the most successfully daring postwar fiction has been by writers committed to the long dramatic sentence (Bohumil Hrabal, Thomas Bernhard, W. G. Sebald, José Saramago). Bolaño is in their company: the quotation here is broken off of a phrase that takes about a page in the book. The musical control is impeccable, and one is struck by Bolaño’s ability to nudge on his long, light, ethereal sentence — impossibly, like someone punting a leaf — image by image: the falcon, the red hue, the sunset, the dawn, the dawn seen from a plane, the femoral artery, the blood vessel, the abstract painter. It could so easily be too much, and somehow isn’t, the flight of fancy anchored by precision and a just-suppressed comedy. (In Spain, amusingly, the falcons are too old or docile for killing, and the priests have none of the dangerous elegance of their French or Italian counterparts.) Likewise, this fantasia about falcons in every European city might have been thuddingly allegorical or irritatingly whimsical, and isn’t. It is comically plausible, and concretely evoked; the surrealism lies in the systematic elaboration of the image. The Catholic Church is likened to a bird of prey, murderous and blood-red in its second capital, Avignon, and we are free to link this, without coercion, to the Chilean situation and the ethical somnolence of Father Urrutia.

      That long sentence is a poem, really, proceeding by foliation; in fact the entire novella is a poem of a kind. It will not surprise you to learn that Roberto Bolaño wrote poetry before he wrote fiction. Even in a long novel like “The Savage Detectives,” his favorite unit is the discrete, Browning-like monologue, not the extended scene. He was born in Chile in 1953, but came of age in Mexico City, where his family had moved in 1968. Returning to Chile in 1973 to help with the socialist revolution as he saw it, he was caught in the Pinochet coup and briefly arrested. He went back to Mexico, where he published two books of verse, and then began a long period of displacement and travel and drug-taking and odd jobs in France and Spain. He died of liver failure, in Barcelona, a far violin among near balalaikas (to adapt Nabokov’s words on a fellow exiled writer). He knew time was short: the fiction that is currently being translated — there are more novellas to come, and a huge novel, “2666,” will appear in English next year — was written in a spasm of activity in his last years.

      “The Savage Detectives” was published in 1998, but its heart belongs to the Mexico City of the mid-1970s, when Bolaño was an avant-garde poet bristling with mad agendas. Like much of his work, the novel is craftily autobiographical. Its first section is narrated in the form of a diary, by a 17-year-old poet named Juan García Madero who is on the make, erotically and poetically, and who has been asked to join a gang of literary guerillas who have named themselves the “visceral realists.” The group is led by two young poets, Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, a wild duo who appear elsewhere in Bolaño’s work (in “Amulet,” for instance). Lima is based on one of Bolaño’s friends, the poet Mario Santiago, and Belano is based on … Bolaño. Literature in Spanish and Portuguese, from Fernando Pessoa to Javier Cercas, from Cortázar to Borges, seems especially infatuated with alter egos. (José Saramago wrote an entire novel, and a great one too, “The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis,” with one of Pessoa’s authorial stand-ins, Ricardo Reis, as its protagonist.)

      A novel all about poetry and poets, one of whose heroes is a lightly disguised version of the author himself: how easily this could be nothing more than a precious lattice of ludic narcissism and unbearably “literary” adventures! Again, Bolaño skirts danger and then gleefully accelerates away from it. The novel is wildly enjoyable (as well as, finally, full of lament), in part because Bolaño, despite all the game-playing, has a worldly, literal sensibility. His atmospheres are solidly imagined, but the tone is breezy and colloquial and amazingly unliterary — Gide’s novel about writers, “The Counterfeiters,” comes to mind, or better, a kind of Latinized Stendhal, whose characters just happen to be writers (Bolaño often warmly invoked Stendhal). He places us there, in Mexico City, and reminds us of the excitement and boredom, the literary pretentiousness and ignorance, the erotic ambition and anxiety of being a young writer or reader in the company of like-minded friends. The juvenile diarist who is our guide can write things that made this reader, at least, wince in painful recognition: “Depressed all day, but writing and reading like a steam engine.” Or: “Then I read William Burroughs until dawn.” Or: “Nothing happened today. And if anything did, I’d rather not talk about it, because I didn’t understand it.” One of his friends, a gay poet, grandly and absurdly classifies all literature as heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual: “Novels, in general, were heterosexual, whereas poetry was completely homosexual; I guess short stories were bisexual, although he didn’t say so.” The same poet announces that at present poetry is enough for him, “although sooner or later I’m bound to commit the vulgarity of writing stories.” (The pleasure we take in this, as readers of English, owes everything, of course, to the book’s talented translator, Natasha Wimmer, who repeatedly finds inspired English solutions for what must be a fiendishly chatty and slangy novel.)

      The visceral realists conduct “purges,” steal books (I particularly liked the sound of the Rebbeca Nodier Bookstore, whose owner is conveniently blind), write and read and have sex and attitudinize. Life is a heaven’s kitchen, with everything simultaneously on the boil. “It’s incredible how much free time Mexicans have,” one character claims. The young diarist falls in with a mad family and loses his virginity to one of the daughters, María Font. Meanwhile, Ulises Lima and Arturo Belano have become peculiarly obsessed with a poet from the 1920s named Cesárea Tinajero, a surrealist and modernist who belonged to the forerunners of the later visceral realists. Her work is revered by other writers from that period, but is nowhere to be found. She herself seems to have disappeared into the Sonoran Desert. Lima and Belano, accompanied by the young diarist and a prostitute, set out on a quixotic hunt for their equivalent of Quixote’s Dulcinea.

      We are 120 pages in, and suddenly the book alters its form. The next 400 pages feature first-person interviews with scores of witnesses, friends, lovers, acquaintances and enemies of Lima and Belano. These are all people whose lives intersected, however briefly, with the two visceral realists, from 1976 to 1996. It is as if the novelist has taken a tape recorder and journeyed around the world, from Mexico City to San Diego to Barcelona to Tel Aviv, desperate to find out what became of the young, optimistic, but perhaps now doomed poets. Where did they go after the Sonoran Desert? What jobs did they have? What did they write? What became of all that ambition? Page by page, the novel begins to darken. An editor who met Lima and Belano before they set off for the desert says “it was as if they were there but at the same time they weren’t there,” and the novel precisely mimics this poignant presence and absence.

      Again, it should be stressed that this is not just a postmodern game about the fictionality of novelistic characters (though it is that, too). Movingly, no one seems quite able to get the two young poets in focus; Lima and Belano flicker in and out of other people’s lives, and the news is not good. They are dealing in drugs, they are often high, they drift from job to job. Lima is living in Paris for a while, desperately poor. He once found a 5,000-franc note on the sidewalk and now always walks with his head down. Belano is spotted near Perpignan, looking for a “friend” who has disappeared and who is about to commit suicide. A painter, interviewed in Mexico City in 1981, says that Belano and Lima weren’t revolutionaries: “They weren’t writers. Sometimes they wrote poetry, but I don’t think they were poets either.” Belano moves to Barcelona, and works as a dishwasher in a restaurant. Lima goes to Nicaragua, and disappears there; two years later he has returned to Mexico City, and is glimpsed by the secretary of Octavio Paz. In a wonderfully sad scene, Lima approaches Paz, and the two sit on a bench, talking. The impeccably establishment Paz had been the great bête noire of the visceral realists, but Lima now seems emptied of revolt. He meekly shakes the hand of the Nobel laureate — who has never heard of him, of course — and disappears.

      “We poets in our youth begin in gladness; / But thereof come in the end despondency and madness,” are Wordsworth’s famous lines, precious to a generation of American poets like Lowell and Schwartz and Berryman, whose lives ended in suicide or bouts of insanity. Curiously, “The Savage Detectives” is both melancholy and fortifying; and it is both narrowly about poetry and broadly about the difficulty of sustaining the hopes of youth. Bolaño beautifully manages to keep his comedy and his pathos in the same family. For instance, it is at once very funny and oddly appalling that not once does Bolaño quote a single poem of Lima or Belano. We know their careers were not hoaxes (some of the witnesses speak of reading poems by the young men); but were they dreams? What kind of actual poetic talent inflated the ballooning ambition of these young writers?

      The terror of the MacGuffin always hangs over Bolaño’s work. In “By Night in Chile,” he tells the story of a rich shoemaker in the Austro-Hungarian empire who becomes obsessed with building a Heroes’ Hill, a vast mausoleum dedicated to the heroes of the empire. When, decades later, Soviet troops storm the hill, all they find is a crypt containing the skeleton of the shoemaker, who gave up his life to the grand insanity of his dream. Ulises Lima and Arturo Belano, whose work we never see, drove off in 1975 in search of a poet whose own work was never published! Well, that’s not quite accurate. The two men do eventually find a single poem by Cesárea Tinajero, published in a one-off magazine, and it’s not even a poem but a hieroglyph. It is called “Siíon” (i.e., Zion), and consists of three line-drawings. In the first, a square that looks a bit like a boat on a horizon, sits on a calm, straight line. In the second drawing, the line is wavy, undulating like a choppy sea, but the little boatlike square is gamely floating in the wave. In the third sketch, the line is stormily jagged, like a terrible EKG, and the little boat is barely clinging to the vertiginous wave.

      This “poem” might mean lots of things, but in the context of the novel, it surely evokes the difficult passage from the bathwater of youth and gladness to more treacherous adult waters. An Israeli friend of Ulises Lima’s says that the importance of the poets’ lives had nothing to do with visceral realism: “It has to do with life, with what we lose without knowing it and what we can regain.” He continues, and says that what we have lost we can regain, “we can get it back intact.” Can we? Minutes after delivering this wisdom this same man dies in a car accident. A Mexican academic, interviewed late in the novel, says that hardly anyone remembers the visceral realists anymore. Many are dead. Lima, he says, is living in Mexico City. “About Arturo Belano,” he says, “I know nothing.” This is finally how the novel makes good on its playful, postmodern impulses. Roberto Bolaño’s alter ego, Arturo Belano, whose life so closely shadows Bolaño’s own (night watchman and dishwasher, life in Paris and Barcelona, and so on), disappears from the story — to re-emerge, of course, as the man willing to “commit the vulgarity of writing stories,” the man who triumphantly wrote this marvelous, sad, finally sustaining novel. Truly, it is as if he is there but at the same time isn’t there.

      James Wood is a senior editor at The New Republic and a professor of the practice of literary criticism at Harvard University. His most recent work is a book of essays, ‘’The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel.”

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    • I definitely think Satyam is better equipped to write on the topic of Indian literature transposed to film….Leaving classics aside, I did want to revisit “The Guide” adaptation that Dev Anand did in order to examine what a travesty it was in comparison to Narayan’s novel which is probably my favorite piece of English literature by an Indian author.

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    • and this Saramago is my most awaited novel:

      Click to access SaramagoElefante.pdf

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  9. Exceptional piece,gf.
    A unique and thoughtful reading on one of the classics. Will have to ponder a little more before I say more. Many thanks.
    I guess one should be tnaknful for these interludes of ‘intellectual snobbery’ between periods of acerbic comedy!

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  10. Seriously though, I do want to write on Adoor’s own history of transposing Malayalam literature to film. The problem here is I’d have to acquaint myself with the original writings which I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t read more than a few excerpts from…

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  11. Was wondering if anyone has read Maugham’s Of Human Bondage here?

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    • I had to read it in high school and haven’t revisited it…can’t say that I have more than an impression of the book and I don’t remember being enthralled by it…I’ve seen parts of one of the earlier film adaptations as well…

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    • same here it’s been years since I’ve read it. there’s a classic Hollywood version with Bette Davis that’s decent. I much prefer though the Razor’s Edge with Tyrone Power (as a film). The Moon and Sixpence is also something I’d recommend. The recent Painted Veil (which you reviewed) was worthwhile too. All in all can’t say Maugham is a favorite of mine.

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  12. If you’re a fan of Maugham, though, and since we’re talking in part about adaptations here, there was a film version of “Up at the Villa” that came out some time ago which wasn’t very well reviewed (I’ve never seen it) but has a pretty good cast:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0153464/

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  13. Trimurti Films is banner under Gulshan Rai and now Rajiv Rai

    Having assisted Yash Chopra, one of the best directors in Indian cinema, Rai came into his own as an independent director with Yudh (1980). This was followed by Tridev (1989), Vishwatma (1992), Mohra (1994) and Gupt (1997), Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat (2001).

    http://www.trimurtifilms.com/

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  14. “”””The film is so fluid that it’s hard to be believe how much of it was rewritten and reshot I think because Yash Chopra wasn’t very satisfied with the way it was proceeding.”””””

    Seems all great Epics on Celluloid suffer from birth pangs…I just read the article on Telegraph that shows how Producers of epic The GodFather felt-when making the film…

    “It was the most miserable film I can think of to make,” declares its producer, Al Ruddy. “Nobody enjoyed one day of it.” Coppola agrees: “It was just non-stop anxiety and wondering when I was going to get fired

    Sharing the full article for your views and reviews:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/starsandstories/6189162/The-Godfather-Nobody-enjoyed-one-day-of-it.html

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  15. This is indeed a stunning post and I am indeed stunned by the depth, logic and unthinkable connection. Somehow brain is not ready to give this much intelligence to Yash Chopra and writer duo Salim & Jawed but readily agree to give that to Gf for this innovative thoughts.

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    • Actually Javed Akhtar is extremely well versed in literature. he’s a poet himself and among other things he’s translated Shakespeare as well. This in addition to the fact that he certainly has a good acquaintance with important elements of Western literature. Don’t know as much about Salim Khan. Yash chopra himself, whatever his other faults might be, a complete lack of connection with the ‘literary’ is not one of them,

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    • it could well be that in this instance they didn’t think consciously of the tropes GF has laid out. But that’s immaterial. Because these ideas and themes are transmitted culturally in unconscious ways as well. Leaving aside Trishul I think all the great Salim-Javed scripts display enough certain sharpness and depth to suggest literary cues. Deewar of course could be consider a loose reworking of Brando’s On the Waterfront (there was a more obvious ‘remake’ of this with Dev Anand’s Baarish) though I don’t consider it a lesser film than the latter. In fact I find it to be a greater film on many levels much as Sholay is a far superior film to Magnificent Seven when it comes to works in a Seven Samurai genealogy.

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    • Thanks for the very kind comment, Pradip, and Satyam’s note is very valuable in terms of some of the creators’ own background.

      I’d find it hard to believe, though, that they didn’t have an inkling of some of the mythological resonance here. I’d like to think it was a conscious effort though perhaps not a fully realized one. I don’t posit anything particularly complicated, it’s all really surface stuff. This subtext was all the more discernible to me because of the title of the film …

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  16. Brando’s Waterfront I have a great weakness for and picking between that and Deewar would be incredibly hard for me….particularly as I saw the Kazan film years before I was even exposed to Hindi cinema…

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  17. Is there a way to find out real facts? This is the first time such mythological connection has brought forward by anyone in any form or in any media-at least for me. There was never any direct or indirect whisper regarding this. If there was indeed any unconscious or conscious mythological connection then it would have surface in some forms but in my knowledge that’s not the case.
    Let’s have a poll and find out…

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    • It’s safe to say Pradip that a lot of the pieces and comments here bring up aspects of films that no one has whispered about in the media! Surely you’re not expecting this kind of piece from Adarsh?!

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    • By the way there is nothing ‘factual’ about the interpretation of a film or book or any other work of art. The only question is whether the interpreter can find enough ‘evidence’ in the body of the film or text to justify the interpretation. We can never know what the ‘intentions’ of an author were but even if we did it would be beside the point. In terms of how a majority ‘reads’ a film or artwork that is simply a question of convention. Doesn’t mean it’s the only valid one. For example there are alternative traditions of the Ramayana as ancient as the canonical ones that privilege Raavan in many ways (Rathnam is referencing this). The ‘majority’ doesn’t do this but that’s also because the majority insists on the Ramayana having a certain meaning by virtue of which Raavan has to be portrayed a certain way. People living in different ages will always try to reconfigure the meaning of a text so as to suit their cultural prejudices. A work is richer than another to the extent that it can be constantly reconfigured. In other words it has enough ambiguity or alternatively depth to be interpreted a number of different ways.

      With Trishul here GF for example (as I read him) is not suggesting looking at Trishul only through a ‘Hindu’ prism. But these Hindu tropes are available in the film as indeed others from the same tradition are in different Bachchan films (and not only Bachchan films).

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  18. Excellent piece here gf. This innovative piece reminds me of a fascinating discussion that Satyam, gf and perhaps Q had on the relative merits and techniques that directors like Mehra, Hirani et al possess. Not sure if that was here or before when you were at NG.

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  19. Thanks for this great article, GF. It’s always a pleasure when somebody illuminates something new in an old favourite film of mine. I particularly like how you link Vijay’s trail of destruction with the gauntlet in the climax of Deewar.

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  20. Didn’t know where else to put this. Revisited Trishul again after quite a few years. While Deewaar still remains my favourite from that golden period, Trishul and Kaala Patthar are a close second and third.

    Anyway, what I observed on this umpteenth viewing, and which I never did on my previous viewings ever was the lyrics to that song which keeps playing throughout as Vijay’s theme… the Lata Mangeshkar sung Tu Mere Saath Rahega Munne. The initial stanzas of this song speak of a mother that tells her son that he shall be with her and bear witness for the trials and tribulations that she will have to go through in order to raise him. What shocked me were the last few lines of this song-

    Mera har dard tujhe dil mein basana hoga
    Main teri maa hoon, mera karz chukana hoga
    Meri barbaadi ke zamin agar abaad rahe
    Main tujhe doodh na bakshungi tujhe yaad rahe

    These are strong words coming from a mother. And perhaps one of the rarest instances in popular media where a mother literally pushes her son to avenge her. But the fact that this is a ‘deal’ in exchange of having raised him is what disturbed me. It is almost as if the Waheeda Rehman character, Shanti, could’ve very well chosen not to have the child or even defamed Sanjeev Kumar’s Raj for having shamed and deserted her. But Shanti chooses to have the child, and raise him as the ‘tool’ to destroy her wrongdoer. To take the seed and nurture it with hatred and annihilate the seeder. This is almost reverse-Oedipal, most notable when Amitabh’s Vijay performs the ‘father’s’ role at the daughter’s wedding. That the Vijay here, unlike in Deewaar where the mother chastizes him precisely for having avenged that which she never asked of him, is commanded by his mother to replace the ‘father’ while reminding him of what she went through to have him… made this experience of watching Trishul a particularly fascinating one, where for the first time… Amitabh’s borderline dark destructive persona suddenly made sense. I always had this uncomfortable feeling watching Trishul where I didn’t like or condone many of his character’s actions.

    Amazing how rich these films are and continue to reveal something to them upon every viewing.

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    • thanks for this great comment Abzee.. Trishul is my favorite film of all time, the one I would take to a desert island if I could only have one! Just said something on this the other day:

      https://satyamshot.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/bachchan-1093-1094-1095-1096-1097-1098-1099-1100-1101-1102-1103-1104/#comment-92077

      and your comment also makes me revisit my sense of Trishul in the light of for example this comment:

      https://satyamshot.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/bachchan-1065-1066/#comment-85409

      But I will also agree with your comment that Trishul is the most unsettling ‘Vijay’ film. No matter how many times one watches it this aspect always comes through.

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      • It is a bit harder to not think about certain things that then make one uncomfortable when one is watching Trishul as opposed to Namak Halal. To frame it yet another way if one wants all the iconic appeal of the angry young man but in a more institutionalized way which is to say without his most radical charge one should watch the 80s work.

        Thanks for that link. I miss out on so many comments made here due to work or time difference. But the first of the above lines exactly point to what I always felt while watching Trishul. Not that I at anytime preferred the mere gestural Amitabh of the 80s (leaving aside Shakti which was an exception, and in some sense attempts a unified trilogy after Deewaar and Trishul where the fratricidal digressions are completely done away with and instead just the paternal struggle is filtered), but even amongst the Vijay roles that were decidedly political, the one in Trishul was always a more dangerous one for me. He deviated far too much on the wrong, not that I am questioning or stating that as a negative, for me. This more than anything reflects upon me, where I am perhaps not ‘ready’ to accept the complete de-institutionalization of Vijay. That which Rathnam achieves with Yuva perhaps.

        If I could pick just one favorite scene among all the films I’ve ever seen (no exceptions of any kind) I would pick from my very favorite film Trishul and admittedly it would be very hard but I’d in all probability pick the moment where Vijay finally reveals to R K Gupta who he really is.

        This, and the earlier boardroom sequences, are my favourite scenes in the film. I particularly love the play on words in that climactic scene where Vijay labels Raj Gupta as his illegitimate father. Almost always it is the child that is ‘najaayaz’. But the cleverly written lines here, also alluding of course to the nation state, legitimizes the son and illegitimizes the father.

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        • “But the cleverly written lines here, also alluding of course to the nation state, legitimizes the son and illegitimizes the father.”

          Fantastically put!

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    • Superb comment. And not only are these films “rich” (in the sense of meaningful), they are also more “true” — i.e. they respect the ambiguous truth of so many relationships far more than the films that wear family values on their sleeve (which films are simply interested in “staging” idealizations, in the way Soviet or Fascist poster art was. Not that these posters cannot be interesting, but they cannot be confused with the sweep of canvas.) The directness, the grim determination, of the lyrics you quote, is shocking. [As is the mediocre bourgeois glorification the same director indulged in just 3 years after Trishul with Silsila (although this is still by far the best of the “staged” films, inasmuch as its staging relied on the frisson of a forbidden passion coming face-to-face with the “authorized” domestic partner, in full public view; vulgar, yes, but the vulgar can be compelling too)…]

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      • Agree completely on the respecting of ambigious truth. This was true of almost all of Amitabh’s Vijay roles. Be it the illegitimate son or the labeled outsider.

        By the way, it is also interesting to note that at a time when almost all films were set in Bombay, especially the Amitabh starrers… Trishul was one of the rare ones that takes place in Delhi. There are very many scenes here with the Humayun’s Tomb and other makbaras that can be seen through the windows of these offices. Given that the primary occupation of the men at loggerheads in this film is ‘construction’, this setting of Delhi is of special significance given the political undertones present.

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        • never thought about this point.. very interesting.. you have been greatly illuminating today (as always)..

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        • This fact (location) was so hidden in plain sight that I did a double take when I read it. Very suggestive indeed. One might point to a larger narrative of “dispossession” when Amitabh engages directly with patriarchy/authority — you have pointed Trishul-in-Delhi; and then there is Lawaaris, which opens on Republic Day in Delhi…

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          • PS — in this war of the Son against the Father, unlike the almost reflexive alignment of the Father with memory, here it is the Son who is on the side of Memory — in fact the Son has come to avenge the injury done to him even before his birth. Hard not to read echoes of Paradise Lost and a “correction” of the (to me, always rather bland) Christian orthodoxy here…

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          • That’s a great point Q. I’d written on a similar dynamic (in which a younger generation is aligned to a national and personal memory “forgotten” by their elders) taking place in Gulzar’s Hu Tu Tu – a film I think I recall you not being the biggest fan of.

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          • I actually like Hu Tu Tu, but did not care for the ending; and generally find Gulzar’s depiction of powerful women problematic…but I do think it remains the best of the Hindi “political films” from the last 10-15 years… I must check the link out — any title linking Mausam and Hu Tu Tu is a must read!

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  21. Excellent exchange here, thanks much Abzee. I was very coincidentally planning on revisiting Trishul the other day but didn’t get around to it. All of this discussion is making me want to get to it fast.

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  22. Excellent Piece GF, Thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish. I agree with many here, you need to write more often and I feel classics maybe your forte, You write so beautifully bringing in the mythological angle was superb, Everything makes sense. Almost like poetry (Ask a Trishul fan they will agree,,,lol)Beautiful my friend. 2 thumps up.

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  23. Saurabh:

    Satyam but what do we say abt this. YRF’s next with Arjun Kapoor and Jackie Shroff ‘Aurangzeb’ is a remake of Trishul- Apparently Arjun, by playing a double role, is filling in for both AB and Shashi. And Jackie may play Sanjeev’s role- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/bollywood/news-interviews/Aurangzeb-inspired-by-Trishul/articleshow/15399938.cms

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    • Yash Chopra has already remade Trishul once — the very unfortunate ‘Vijay’!

      Arjun Kapoor though fine as a presence was simply too weak as an actor in Ishaqzaade. So doubt he can take this on. In a serious attempt though the idea of the same actor doubling for both brothers is a suggestive one.

      But most troubling to me is the title of ‘Aurangzeb’. If this film has religious coding along those lines and following on the inter-religious battles of Ishaqzaade it would be a rather disturbing development. So there could be the normative Hindu family and then the Muslim avenger son.

      And yeah who remakes Trishul? But as GF said at some point Deewar with Ranbir or Imran is probably a distinct possibility.

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      • Kapoor struck me as a bit too much of a child to embody the character he played in Ishaqzaade. Even otherwise found this to be a very overrated film.

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    • Sasha Aagha to debut in Aurangzeb
      By Bollywood Hungama News Network ,Sep 3, 2012 – 14:39 hrs IST
      #

      Sasha Aagha (daughter of yesteryears’ actress Salma Agha) joins the cast of YRF’s Aurangzeb, directed by Atul Sabharwal and produced by Aditya Chopra, which started shooting mid-August.

      Sasha will be playing a glamorous role in a striking new look in her debut film opposite Arjun Kapoor, who plays a double role in this intriguing drama, along with Prithviraj, in lead roles. The film already boasts of a dynamic supporting cast of Rishi Kapoor, Jackie Shroff and Amrita Singh.

      Aurangzeb is scheduled for an early 2013 release.

      Like

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