After directing the colorful and romantic Silsila, Yash Chopra took a different route straight into the slums and chawls of Mumbai or "Dogar Bhatti" as he puts it and directed an extremely realistic and hard-hitting flick "Mashaal". This time around Yash Chopra cast thespian
Dilip Kumar in the lead role and got the legendary Waheeda Rehman and Dilip Kumar together on the screen after a gap of more than 15 years. Yash Chopra┬┤s association with Dilip Kumar goes back as long as B.R. Chopra┬┤s Naya Daur albeit Yash Chopra being the assistant to his elder brother B.R. Chopra. Giving them company was Anil Kapoor in one of his major roles after Bapu┬┤s "Woh Saat Din".
Mashaal is about 3 different and vivid personalities, Vinod Kumar (Dilip Kumar), Raja (Anil Kapoor) and S. K. Vardhan (Amrish Puri). Vinod Kumar is an idealistic journalist and ready to take on the negative elements of the society through his articles in a local newspaper. On one such occasion, he exposes the evil side of a powerful and respected industrialist S.K. Vardhan and that costs him his job. Forced by monetary issues, Vinod Kumar and his wife Sudha (Waheeda Rehman) move into a very harsh neighborhood and run into a local thug Raja. After initial confrontations, Raja is impressed with the idealism of Vinod Kumar and starts to respect him. With the help of his friend and landlord (Saeed Jaffrey), Vinod Kumar intends to start his own local newspaper and gets assistance from another journalist Geeta (Rati Agnihotri). Unknowingly Raja begins to differentiate been justice and injustice and tries to change as he begins to stay aloof from his fellow black-marketers. Fond of Raja, Vinod Kumar and Sudha want to give Raja the correct direction and want him to realize the importance of good values, which Raja is devoid of owing to the life in slums and leading a life without the blessings of his own parents. Vinod Kumar sends Raja to a training institute to learn journalism and come back as an individual rich with determination and idealism.
Next is a chain of events that leads to the complete destruction of Vinod Kumar at the hands of the ruthless and egoistic Vardhan. Loss of the printing press and subsequently being thrown out of their own house, Vinod Kumar and Sudha are left with nothing but humiliation. Ailing health, leads to the death of Sudha and driven by this shock, Vinod Kumar is left shattered. What happens next is the riveting transformation of an idealistic and honest journalist by the name of Vinod Kumar into a ruthless underworld don Vinod Bhai, surrounded by entities of the same game such as VithalRao (Nilu Phule) and launches a crusade against Vardhan. As Vinod Bhai gets engulfed in he underworld rivalry with Vardhan, Raja returns as a journalist and both men find them on the opposite sides. From here it is how Raja has to expose the same man of his wrongdoings who had passed on to him the same Torch (aka Mashaal) of societal upbringing!
First and foremost, let me compliment the work of Javed Saab. His script, dialogues and lyrics are all award-worthy. Of course, the Yash Chopra and Javed Akhtar combination was already seen earlier in Deewar,
Trishulamongst others, but as the combined work of Salim-Javed. One of the scripts written by Javed Akhtar right after the Salim-Javed breakup, the screenplay is absolutely magnificent and the dialogues are extremely hard-hitting. The characters in the movie are all close to life characters, whether the ones played by Dilip Kumar or Anil Kapoor. The dialogues by Dilip Kumar at the death of Waheeda Rehman or the ones by Anil Kapoor describing the hardship of his parents are spell bounding.
The script exploits idealism and at the same time emphasizes as to how the concept of socio-awareness can be transpired from one generation to the next using a torch, which in the current context is signified by journalism. Javed Akhtar makes a brilliant allegory about the lives of two individuals and the game of football. As it happens with the game of football where the two teams change sides mid-way during the game, life and its unexpectedness leads to a similar situation where two individuals find themselves on either sides of the law.
Direction by Yash Chopra is as usual commanding and without injecting any melodrama, he is strong in treating the script with realism. The metaphor of two protagonists being on the opposite side of the law used by Yash Chopra has been repeated many times since then, one of them being the Naseeruddin - Jackie starrer "Laxmanrekha". Without any superfluous action sequences, Yash Chopra resorts to the peculiarities of the life in slums or the "Dogar Bhatti" as he described it, be it the day to day living or the way of celebrating the festival of Holi. However, if there would be a small complaint it would be regarding the climax. After a pretty realistic narration throughout the movie, the climax is pretty much routine and "filmi".
Technically, the movie is also very good. The entire set of "Dogar bhatti" is realistic and gives the feel of slums seen in a big city like Mumbai. The editing quite sharp in the first half, needed a bit of tuning in the second half. The sequences leading to the climax are predictable and could have been edited. Hridaynath Mangeshkar┬┤s music is unique and enjoyable. All the songs are hummable and picturized well. "Footpathon Ke Hum RehneWale" picturized on Anil Kapoor, Gulshan Grover and tapori gang is suits the situation perfectly. The "Holi Aaaye Re" and "Zindagi Aa Raha Hoon" songs are the pick of the lot with some great lyrics by Javed Akhtar.
Last but not the least, the performances of Mashaal. The sheer mention of the name "Mashaal" and anybody who has seen the movie recalls the great performance of Dilip Kumar, especially the scene performed by him at Waheeda Rehman┬┤s death. One of the landmark scenes of Indian cinema and a scene that many other actors in Hindi cinema have tried it after that. His outbursts "Arre Bhai....Koi Hai...Koi Hai....Meri Bibi Beemar Hai .. Asptal Pahucha Do..Warna Woh Mar Jayegi" haunt the audience for a long time. This sequence and the expressions of Dilip Kumar when he is found on the street with the dead body of his wife, send chills down the spine. His dialogue delivery throughout the movie is just sensational. Anil Kapoor also delivers a scintillating performance and the role which got him his first filmfare award in the same year his close friend Anupam Kher got it for "Saaransh". Anil suits the role of the "tapori" to perfection and this being his first major role after "Woh Saat Din", he is just superb. Anil┬┤s best scene is the one with Dilip Kumar where he describes the hardship of his parents and how they worked hard to make a living, "meri maa wahan bai thi...aur woh bartan manjti gai manjti gai...aur fir who mar gayee". Being cast opposite the thespian Dilip Kumar earlier on in his career, Anil Kapoor holds his own and and comes out as a surprise packet of the movie delivering one of his career defining performances.
The best part about Waheeda Rehman┬┤s performance is her sensitivity. She plays the ideal wife and as she has done in other Yash Chopra movies where she has played some really vivid shades of the "Bhartiya Naree" ranging from the ideal wife in Mashaal to the ideal mother in Chandni and the "Dai" in Lamhe. Rati Agnihotri looks good and she lends good support to the cast. Saeed Jaffrey provides good comedic relief. Nilu Phule, Mohan Agashe, Gulshan Grover, Madan Jain form the rest of the supporting cast and then lend good support, yet underdeveloped. Amrish Puri as Vardhan is good and though he might have done this role many times later on in his career, he delivers his dialogues with style. His confrontation scenes with Dilip Kumar are explosive.
Overall, the movie is worth the money and definitely classifies as one of Yash Chopra┬┤s best movies and one of the best movies of the eighties. Great script, terrific acting and hard-hitting dialogues is the name of the game.