About the story: Underworld don Raghubhai (Sanjay Dutt) once married prostitute Sonu (Namrata Shirodkar). After his death Sonu tried to provide their son Rohit Raghunath Shivalkar a better future, far away from the world of crime. But society never gave the son of a gangster boss a chance. Stigmatized from his earliest childhood on and permanently provoked because of his mother’s profession, adolescent Rohit one day responds with his fists and thereby kills for the first time. Don Hasan Bhai (Shakti Kapoor) sees Raghubhai’s potential in Rohit and takes him under his wing: Soon Rohit (Sanjay Dutt), aka Boxerbhai due to his passion for boxing, follows his father’s footsteps. In company with Munna (Sachin Khedekar) and Pakya (Sharad Kapoor) Rohit becomes the mightiest don in Mumbai and even is elected as a city-councillor. When he, after many detourings, finally can marry his beloved Gauri (Shilpa Shetty) and they get their little daughter Shanti, Rohit’s cup seems to run over. But soon enough it becomes more and more difficult for him to differ between friend and foe...
Hathyar – Face to Face with Reality (at the planning stage still called Pratibimb) is Mahesh Manjrekar’s sequel to his success movie Vaastav – The Reality, again with Sanjay Dutt who thus plays his own son in Hathyar, so to say. In some sequences he is even to be seen in his parade role as Raghubhai once again. Other figures from Vaastav return in Hathyar, too; e.g. Raghu’s parents Shanta (Reema Lagoo) and Namdev (Shivaji Satham), his wife Sonu (Namrata Shirodkar) and his friend DCP Kishore Kadam (Deepak Tijori). It’s not absolutely necessary to know Vaastav for to understand Hathyar but it would be helpful as Hathyar (= weapons) in the first half-hour contains many flashbacks – sometimes even flashbacks within the flashbacks – where you easily can go into a skid when you don’t know the characters and the Vaastav events, especially when Sanjay alternately appears as Raghubhai and as Rohit. Above all, however, Hathyar gives away the unusual showdown of Vaastav, and those who happen to see first Hathyar and then Vaastav are definitely cheated of the effect of Vaastav’s shaking final.
In both films, Sanjay Dutt plays the roles of the bhais who despite of all their coldbloodedness and cruelty still have a soul, and he plays them with an amount of energy, power and passion which knocks you off your feet. He is simply gorgeous. Those who never experienced Sanjay as Raghubhai and Boxerbhai will never understand why I am at this character actor’s feet. This man is a god’s gift to the film world. His Rohit is even a bit more pitiless than Raghu, and nevertheless Sanjay, thanks to his forceful emotionality, makes you commiserate with him when he commits downright unforgivable sins – because his despair and his remorse about his mistakes are genuine and true and unveil emotional dephts which go as well under your skin as previously his cold-blooded use of his gun.
Apart from Sanjay, the rest of the cast fade to minor characters; solely intense Shilpa Shetty and Sachin Khedekar can match up to him. Shivaji Satham had some very forceful father-son scenes with Sanjay in Vaastav while he now in Hathyar hardly appears at all. Reema Lagoo as Rohit’s grandmother has a bit more to do but cannot match up to her achievement in Vaastav; okay, her terrible make-up is surely not her fault – I mean, sorry, but face-lines just painted with dark colour are good for stage perfomances but look simply ridiculous in films. Apart from that, Reema’s character is symptomatic for the incorrigibility of society’s mentality: She has learnt nothing from her experiences with Raghu. Like in Vaastav her son, she now also condemns her grandson from the moment on when he enters the world of crime and cold-heartedly rejects him every time he tries to contact her instead of giving him the support he desperately is looking for and with which many things probably would have changed for the better.
By the way, I nearly was flabbergasted when Sanjay’s first few lines in this film came with a strange voice. Could Hathyar possibly have been another Jung – with Sanju keeping away from the dubbing studio? But fortunately I soon realized that these first lines belonged to the entry clip and the makers – unlike one year later in Munnabhai MBBS – simply did without asking Sanju to do the spoken parts in the song himself. So Sanju had to act his first few lines in playback before he – thank heaven for that – could use his own voice again...
In short: Vaastav and Hathyar are must-sees, and please exactly in this chronological order. Even those without a special faible for gangster movies will get their money’s worth thanks to Sanjay’s fabulous performances. Nobody plays such bhais as he does.
Produced by Ganesh Jain, Ratan Jain; Directed by Mahesh Manjrekar
139 Min.; DVD: Eros, English Subtitles (including songs)