About the story: Raghunath Namdev Shivalkar, called Raghu (Sanjay Dutt) fails to make his school qualifications – unlike to his younger brother Vijay (Mohnish Bahl) – and thus causes great sorrow to his father Namdev (Shivaji Satham). To get ahead in life, he starts a snack-stand together with his friend Shorty (Sanjay Narvekar) and is quite successful with it – until one night, Shorty gets involved in a fight with members of the Bandya gang, and as Raghu wants to come to his aid, he unintendedly kills Bandya’s brother. Raghu’s and Shorty’s friend Kishore Kadam (Deepak Tijori), a police sub inspector, dissuades them from surrendering to the police as too many policemen are bribed by Bandya, and entrusts them to another don, "One-Eye" Vittal Kaanya (Ashish Vidyarthi). At a meeting with Bandya, arranged by mediator Suleiman Bhai (Paresh Rawal), Bandya wants to kill Raghu but the latter beats him to it and more and more accepts that now there is no way back for him. He ascends as the mighty don Raghubhai and does dirty jobs for Home Minister Babbanrao Kadam (Mohan Joshi). His attempts to keep in touch with his family fail as above all his mother Shanta (Reema Lagoo) cannot forgive Raghu for his crimes. A ray of hope in Raghu’s life is the prostitute Sonu (Namrata Shirodkar) whom he takes out of a brothel. He marries her, and they get a little son, Rohit. But Raghu more and more gets dependent on alcohol and drugs, and even Sonu cannot prevent him from slowly but surely going down the drain...
Over eighteen years and in spite of many obstacles and private blows of fate, Sanjay Dutt had worked hard for his remarkable career in films. At award functions, however, he had been neglected in all these years. But in 2000, it suddenly rained awards on him, and rightly so – not only because this form of appreciation was overdue, but also because Sanjay’s performance in Vaastav – The Reality really was terrific and made film history. His Raghubhai got him the Filmfare Award and the Star Screen Award as Best Actor and the Award for Artistic Excellence of the International Indian Film Academy, and it finally vaulted him onto the Mount Olympus of the biggest stars and most versatile actors of the Hindi Cinema.
In the film's first scenes, Raghu seems to become Sanjay’s third East of Eden role after Naam and Sarphira, which means another Cal character, a young man with a basically good heart, but to his father’s grief a good-for-nothing with tendency to the small-time crook. Very soon, however, everything spins over, and Sanjay takes his audience on an emotional roller coaster ride for the rest of the film. Again and again you tend to stay on his side as he is not a criminal by nature, he valuates his family and friends above all things and even on the peak of his power keeps certain values alive in him – but on the other hand, how can you do that if he, at the same time, commits misdeeds of unequalled mercilessness, cold as ice threatens to kill children and shoots people without flinching? Should, can, may you sympathize with Raghubhai even if you sometimes feel like spitting in his face like that parsee’s wife? Or do you have to hate and despise him even though you want to take him into your arms and comfort him when he sheds bitter tears over his bungled life where there is no returning for him, or when he finally, a drug wreck, sleepless and full of deadly terror, drifts into madness?
Rarely did Sanjay devote his body and soul to a role as uncompromisingly as in Vaastav. He doesn’t just play Raghubhai, he embodies this character with all its facets. It is undescribable, you simply have to see this achievement yourself; the awards Sanju got for it were in any way very well deserved. His co-stars are very good, too, and here I want to name first Raghu’s parents, Shivaji Satham (his conciliation scene with Sanjay moves to tears) and Reema Lagoo (who plays a crucial part in the unusual showdown). Namrata Shirodkar unfortunately got very little screentime, but nevertheless she shapes a moving portrait of the prostitute Sonia, and her scene with Raghu when he’s close to madness is one of the film’s highlights. And a special praise goes to Paresh Rawal for his strong peace mediator Suleiman.
Vaastav is an absolutely superb and outstanding film which without doubts counts to Sanjay’s best performances ever. Mahesh Manjrekar is to be congratulated for the terrific job he has done (the unfitting song and dance scene in Switzerland is not his fault as this was a producer’s demand). Three years later, Mahesh made a sequel to Vaastav called Hathyar in which he told the story of Raghu’s son Rohit. For Sanjay, this Hathyar movie became a rare opportunity to play his own son. ;)
Produced by Deepak; Directed by Mahesh Manjrekar
146 Min.; DVD: Eros, English Subtitles (not for the songs)