There are movies, then there are cult movies, and then there is Prakash Mehra’s Sharaabi. Set in the backdrop of a morally swayed societal institution, Amitabh’s legendary status cannot be defined without the contribution of his role as the virtuous rich and spoilt. In an era when cinema was the sole balm of fraught masses, Sharaabi was a breather for the vastly tumbling Indian socio-political institution.
Initiating and elaborating on the build-up which led to the iconic sharaabi, the movie is a bouquet of catchy songs, ethereally gorgeous Jaya Prada and the disdains of a troubled father son relationship. It is not too hard to understand what led to the movie’s phenomenal success; portrayal of the opulent Indian dream, wealth beyond imagination.
Vicky (Amitabh Bachchan), the protagonist is raised by his uncle affectionately referred to as Munshi ji, the former friend now servant of the rich and powerful Rai Amarnath Kapoor (Pran). Munshi Phoolchand (Om Prakash Bakshi) bound by the love for his nephew decides to play the caretaker for young Vicky. Revolving around a life of opulence, Vicky grows up to be a rebel alcoholic with a steady sense of humour and a knack for shayari. Buying his way into the hearts of nearly all he encounters, Vicky carelessly enthrals the audience with the generosity he has attained by showering his inherited wealth amidst the needy. An idealist endeavour from a rational perspective, Vicky portrays the aspirations of a directionless alcoholic and vagabond who is in a quest for a purpose in life.
The movie attempts to touch on a number of social aspects, the struggling working class contrasts with the pointless extravagance of the wealthy, evidently pointing towards the disproportionate distribution of wealth. There is a conscious attempt to uphold the sanctity of stage performers and an equally desperate attempt to highlight the hollowness of industrialists.
Unarguably, the prime antagonist of the movie is Natwar Shah (Ranjeet), a shrewd small time event manager. His first appearance in the movie is accompanied with palpably malicious intent; awed by the lavish spending habits of young Vicky, Natwar resolves to capitalise on this carefree money bag. Enter Meena (Jaya Prada), a stage performer and member of Natwar’s crew and Vicky agrees to watch her perform as a sign of his encouragement for her skills.
A formerly conformed bachelor, Vicky is bowled over by the delectable Meena; whose performance satiates his long subdued appetite for companionship. Vicky attempts to buy his way into another heart by showering his congenital extravagance only to be blocked by an equally stubborn Meena who upholds her values as an ‘honourable woman’. Spellbound by such finesse, Vicky is determined to transgress all shackles of economic and social vagaries to attain the ‘love of his life’.
Amitabh amicably paints an eloquent reverie of the affection deprived son of a workaholic father. Striving for emotional association, Pran’s character is a reflection of the shallow bourgeoisie ideals that drive capital moguls. Echoes of the socialist values that hint at responsibilities of an ideal industrialist form the backbone of Amitabh’s character as he struggles with pre-established notions that guide capitalists.
Bappi Lahiri judiciously utilises his tact to ensure that each scene is aptly accompanied by an equally influential background score. Kader Khan’s soul stirring dialogues are accentuated with J Adhikari’s sharp editing which result in an amalgamation of some of the best work in Hindi cinema. Fight scenes directed by Ravi Khanna are elemental in establishing the machismo that is rudimentary for a hero of that era.
On the whole Sharaabi ensures are well knit package of emotions, humour, questions on social ethos and a novel idea. The glorified alcoholic coupled with memorable dialogues and an iconic performance by Amitabh ensured that the movie lived up to the honourable institutions which highlighted the cinema of yesteryears. The modern day movie buff would eagerly await the climax despite the two hour fifty minute duration primarily due to the rich storyline.
In the era of torrents and comfort aided piracy, this is one movie whose DVD one won’t regret purchasing.