About the story: Vidhyadar Ramkrishna Patwardhab (Amitabh Bachchan) and his wife Sumitra (Sharmila Tagore) are very happily married since many years, and small everyday tiffs belong to their matrimony as well as a loving caring for each other. Their son Amar (John Abraham) studies in London and announces his return for his birthday. To his family’s surprise he arrives with a girlfriend in tow: lovable Jenny Mayer (Anusha Dandekar) who only speaks very little Hindi but seriously struggles to learn it and with her gleefulness immediately wins over the hearts of Amar’s parents. But shortly after Jenny’s and Amar’s wedding the harmonic family happiness abruptly is ended; Vidhya’s and Sumitra’s lives are shattered, and Vidhya is forced to fight for his son’s honour. In this crisis they are supported above all by mechanic Ali Asghar (Sanjay Dutt) who, after initial frictions, has become the family’s best friend...
Mahesh Manjrekar’s linear and songless film Viruddh was tailor-made for Amitabh Bachchan, and Big B thanked him with a terrific performance. He plays the roller coaster ride from joyful and light-hearted comedy to deepest tragic, despair and anger with a range of expressions without equal, and rarely I have seen him act with such sophisticated gestures – often Amitabh doesn’t need words, his glances and gestures are enough. Even Sharmila Tagore with the warm-hearted but nevertheless resolute authority of a former teacher is gorgeous, and her chemistry with Amitabh is marvellous. Especially in the first part of the film they make you roar with laughter, and I guess that many Indians recognized in Vidhya and Sumi their own parents or grandparents, like Anusha Dandekar did as she admitted in the Making of Viruddh.
Originally Mahesh Manjrekar had roped in Sharmila’s son Saif Ali Khan for the role of Amar, and some details of the script still remind to this, e.g. Vidhya’s remark that Amar is looking like Sumitra (Sharmila and Saif are indeed very alike) or a nice hint to Saif’s movie Kal Ho Naa Ho. But then Saif could not do the film due to schedule hassles, and John Abraham stepped in for him. He plays unostentatious and tasteful, is absolutely likeable and obviously has a good chemistry with Amitabh which he, however, couldn’t deepen considerably in this film as his role is not very big. A pleasant discovery is Anusha Dandekar from Australia who enchants with her fresh and fuss-free nature; just crying is not her strong point, in this discipline she’s probably only beaten by Amisha Patel among the other Hindi Cinema actresses.
Alongside these four leading roles there are many lovingly shaped minor characters wonderfully supporting Amitabh, all of them charved out by routiniers like Sachin Khedekar, Shivaji Satham and Prem Chopra, good old acquaintances from former joint film productions Manjrekar could rope in for Viruddh. Another of them is Sanjay Dutt "in a dynamic appearance" as it says in the credits. His Alibhai is a small but good role, and as usual Sanjay taps at least its full potential if not even more. Very credibly he portrays the change from the rough-cheeky fellow to an understanding and relyable friend. Too bad that Manjrekar didn’t extend this character a bit, once or twice it would have been easily possible. But even so the film offers some funny and also absolutely heart-rending interactions of Amitabh and Sanjay (they are and remain a wonderful screen jodi), and in a hilarious encounter with Sharmila Sanjay once again proves that he has enough humour to pull his own leg.
Viruddh is a very watchworth film, but please, keep your hankies ready – you’ll need them for your tears with laughing as well as for your tears of compassion and fury. Hardly ever the gap between cheerfulness and despair has been bigger and a plot twist more shattering than in Viruddh. Though you learn the reason for this twist already after a few minutes, the consequences are not given away beforehand. So I won’t do it either and just recommend to watch the film and find out yourself.
Produced by A.B Corp Limited & Satyajeet Movies Pvt. Ltd.; Directed by Mahesh Manjrekar
131 Min.; DVD: UTV, English Subtitles (including song); the DVD also contains a Making Of and Deleted Scenes (among them, after about ten minutes, even one with Sanjay).
(By the way, I want to make a big compliment for the Making Of which features hardly any interviews but primarily offers you backstage impressions from the set. In combination with humourous intertitles this makes 38 minutes of informative entertainment.)