Mishelle Godvia Shiri
16 February 2014
Deewar: The Oedipal Struggle
‘Mere paas maa hai’ (I have mother with me) – a dialogue delivered by the dimple cheeked Shashi Kapoor in a movie titled, ‘Deewar’, a 1975 Indian crime drama film directed by the late Yash Chopra ,even after thirty five years of its release in 1975 remains one of the most significant and emulated dialogues in Indian cinema. The line, often used, misused and abused gravely in different comical situations, is a signifier to its listener of the turbulent years of 1970s and80s, the decades marking the transition of modern Indian history.
As my text, therefore, I have chosen this movie in order to explore the very present psychoanalytic phenomena echoing throughout its 2 hours within the psyche of the protagonist Vijay. Through a brief overview, I have attempted to analyse the dynamics that exist within Indian cinema corresponding to the psychoanalytic implications of the “Oedipus complex”, a theory proposed by Dr. Sigmund Freud in his essays on Psychoanalysis and later on adapted by Jacques Lacan, a big contributor in the semiological understanding of the phenomenon
Synopsis of Dewaar.
The story of Dewaar follows the lives of a family of four which is reduced to three.
The story begins with the Anand Babu, a man who leads the workers of a mill on strike in demand for higher wages and better working conditions. Later he is confronted with a cruel choice by a ruthless management who kidnap his wife and two young sons are threatened to be killed at the expense of the demands of these workers .Under duress, he signs certain papers where in the workers give up their demands and therein desert their right to strike and also agree to work under conditions laid down by the management. Having saved the lives of his family members, he also betrays the trust invested in him by the workers. His life is made unhappy by the town dwellers. Abused, insulted and injured Ananda Babu goes into deep silence and unable to endure the prick of conscience, he leaves his family behind and abdicates himself to the unknown.
The family now has to fend for themselves and bear the rage of the people. One day, Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan), the older of the two brothers, is assaulted by a group of men and questioned about who is father is. When he returns home that day, hurt, his arm is tattooed with the words, ‘Your father is a thief’. These words are lined deeply into his arm and also become imprinted into his mind. The constant memory of that painful imprint never leaves Vijay until his death.
Troubled by their condition in the town and ostracised by the society, the mother and sons leave the village and go to Bombay, the city where one could find a life, success and dignity. However, in harsh contrast , they live a life of utter poverty and distress.
The mother, Sumitra Devi, eventually finds work as a labourer. Later on we see Vijya gradually taking to work for the family as well. Two meagre salaries enables the younger brother Ravi (Shashi Kapoor), to be sent to school.
Thus, from this very point, we see the parting of the two boys into two different roads though they belong to the same household. This is a point that becomes highlighted by Vijay’s refusal to step inside the temple, unlike Ravi, who is dutiful and cheerfully accompanies his mother into the temple.
After a lapse of years we now witness the next stage where the boys have both grown into men.Vijay works as a labourer at the docks that belongs to a local mafia. After the death of an innocent co-worker Vijya refuses to pay ‘protection money’ to the local gang governing the docks and gets himself involved in a fight.
Following this incident, Vijay becomes recognized as a rebel and a boy filled with aggression. This leads another underworld don, Dawar played by Iftikhar, to invite Vijay to join his business. Before long, Vijay is in the owns millions, and his mother and brother are now moved from a miserly one room home to a top notch mansion.
The lives of these brothers would have continued to stay in different compartments under the same roof but as fate would have it, Ravi, who up until this point is unemployed, receives commission into the police Before long, he is given to handle a case of finding evidence that would implicate Dawar and his associates with smuggling and other illicit operations.
In what becomes a very heart breaking and sudden turn of events, duty compels and brother is pitted against brother.
Once Ravi discovers that his own brother is leading a life of crime, the two cannot remain under one roof; Ravi leaves, and takes their mother, who is at the heart of their equation, along with him.
The film eventually winds its way to tragic conclusion. A search warrant is issued for Vijay’s name, and a chase through the city streets leaves Vijay, wounded and bleeding, caused by a bullet from his brother’s revolver. He is trading on the verge of death but despite it all , makes his way through the city in a stolen car with his brother dangling on top of it. He is a few minutes away from death but does not let go of his life till he collapses into his mother’s arms, where he can at long last find the eternal and peaceful sleep. It is, as some would maintain, the return to the womb.
The context of this story provides for us , and in abundance, a deep seated implication of the mother – son dynamic that is inescapable in any level of understanding of the film.
The same context sets the stage for the development of an extensive and growing yet controversial field of psychoanalysis as it lays for us a multi-layered understanding of this dynamic that characterizes relationships in many Indian cinematic domains, even to this day.
The psychoanalytic forerunner of the movie is Vijay.Vijay’s character is presented to the viewer as a constant and intense engagement with struggle. Vijay becomes thence for us a model of representation on many levels- sociologically, cinematically and psychologically for struggle.
On the sociological front, Vijay becomes a representation and the product of the collapsing and turbulent times of the 1970’s. Cinematically he becomes the archetype of such characters who have within them a constant struggle and ache for its resolution. Psychologically,he presents to us still a model of struggle, but this struggle unlike its other two manifestations is at the heart of a psychoanalytic conflict of the stages of development within a child that eventually lead to the becoming a fully civilized heterosexual being with a sense of morality and conscience. However, the struggle, like in the other two spheres, remains unresolved and ends in a seemingly in-evitable tragedy. In the following sections, we will briefly look at the different levels and stages of the sub-conscious struggle of Vijay’s character from the time of his childhood till his death in the end.
Vijay Varma and the Psychoanalytic Battle .
In the movie, Vijay Varma, a role played by Amitabh Bacchan , presents to us as viewers of a certain tradition of cinema, some sense of dilemma. We are not fully sure if he is a protagonist who seemed to have lost his way along the conflicting road of morality or an antagonist who , by fate and the role of family , happened to have a few good morals. Whatever the conflict, we are certain that Vijay ultimately chooses for himself a path that leads to his own destruction, sadly or otherwise, dying in his mother’s arms. Though this may seem plain , if we put on our psychoanalytic perspectives and view the character of Vijay from the eyes of Freud, we become very much aware a certain conceptual phenomenon of his that we see developing throughout the movie – The Oedipus Complex.
Further, through the movie we see Vijay as a boy till the time he dies in the arms of the mother constantly engaging in a certain struggle. His journey begins with the trauma he is thrust into as a child because of his father and never escapes it even long after he and his family come out of it. Vijay as a child is forced to replace his father in the equation of his family and assume the role and responsibilities after him. Thus we see the beginning of Vijay’s Oedipal journey symbolically represented at this point onward. However, what we come to witness as a completely converse concept to what should happen is the fulfillment of the desire central to the Oedipal complex in the case of Vijay which is the desire to replace the father or in Lacanian terms, become the object of desire of the mother.
Vijay’s conflict throughout the film remains at the Oedipal stage and continues throughout in his pursuit of the Phallus. We may conclude from the ending of the film a view that can be looked at in two different directions. One direction is that the conflict remains unresolved as there is no possible means of getting past the conflict due to the absence of the father figure as well as the impossibility of the child obtaining the phallus thereby shaking the grounds of civilized society which will lead to the collapsing of social systems. Thereby, death of the child was inevitable and was a forgone conclusion
Vijay, though not the moral hero still establishes himself as a substantial protagonist in the plot. But the eventual fate of Vijay serves to the viewership the morale of giving into the demands and destructive powers of the id which is a threat to civilization and society.
Therefore, with these conclusions and with the background of the time in which this movie was produced, it becomes very easy to understand how Vijay’s character serves as a implication into the larger sub-conscious of the Indian psyche and serves as a reminder to the eventual fate of death to anyone who is a threat to the society and its structures.
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Freud, Sigmund. "Civilization and its Discontents II." Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and its Discontents. London: Imago Publishing Co.,Ltd, 1941,1948. 14. Book.
Klages, Mary. "Psychoanalysis." Klages, Mary. Literary Theory: A Guide for the Perplexed. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2008. 65-64. Book.