About the story: Avinash (Sanjay Dutt) and his parents (Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Asha Parekh) come to Bombay where they miserably scrape along. Sometimes their acquaintance with Samiulla Khan (Rishi Kapoor), the younger brother of the underworld don Khushal Khan (Dharmendra), is quite helpful as Sami, who refuses to deal with his brother’s business, enjoys a good reputation. But after some bitter experiences, Avinash’s father cannot stand his poor situation anymore and commits suicide. Now Avinash bears the responsibility to be the family’s breadwinner which he, as he doesn’t manage to find a job, is unable to fulfill. Desperately (and instigated by his friends from the local gang) he starts stealing. After having killed one of his victims in affect, he more and more bogs down in the mire of crime – and gets into the rivalry between the gangster bosses Khushal Khan and Raghan Anna (Paresh Rawal)...
Hathyar (= weapons) is probably one of Hindi Cinema’s most underrated films. Though it got Sanjay Dutt appreciating reviews for his performance, the film itself didn’t do well. Today you cannot find it anywhere, not even on VCD, and it’s just thanks to Liakot Ali who got me a copy from his own VHS that I finally was able to watch it (once again special thanks to Liakot for his kind support). If Hathyar was a dreadful movie I could understand this at least a bit – but fact is: The film is good. It’s even very good. Intense, without off-times and with some messages worth being heard again and again.
On the one hand there is the only periphally instated but nevertheless solemn warning of weapons and military equipment as children’s toys – a warning which hasn’t become less important now in times of violence-glorifying computer games. To see how fascinatedly children reach out for toy pistols and start firing around with them (and to watch, using the example of Avinash, how this can be the basis for a life-long addiction for firearms) is as oppressive as the rocking horse motive director JP Dutta uses as a frame for his story. On the other hand Dutta vividly pictures how a young man (Avinash), poor and without a chance of getting a job (no qualifications, no money to pay bribes), finds no other way to fend for himself than stealing – and how he then step by step heads for the gutter and becomes a criminal. And in Sanjay Dutt who at that time, after his drug rehab and his Naam success, was in top form, Dutta had found the ideal actor for this role.
Sanjay himself even today counts Hathyar among his favourite movies and rates his performance in this film at one of his best ones. Thus he ranges Hathyar on the same level with movies like Naam, Saajan, Sadak, Khalnayak, Vaastav and Munnabhai. And justifiably so. If he had impressed with the intensity of his performance in Naam, he even topped it in Hathyar. Though you can feel the restlessness within himself (it’s also visible in his eyes), outwardly he appears calm and controlled and thus he confidently and self-consciously delivers an intense and powerful performance. JP Dutta captured this intensity in strong pictures; quite often he uses zooms to give Sanjay’s emotional eyes the centre stage on screen. Though his many prominent co-stars, Sanjay is heart and soul of this movie with his absolute incorporation of a young man driven into ruin by misery, false friends and false decisions – an incorporation not less intense than his Vicky in Naam or his Raghu in Vaastav. In my humble opinion he’d have deserved the first award in his career at the latest for his Avinash.
Consequently the movie’s best scenes definitely belong to Sanjay, too: his guilty soul-searching after having snatched away a stolen wallet from a pickpocket (he should return it but it contains money he desperately needs)... the scene when he, animated by the local gang, commits his own first pickpocketing... the touching scene when he realizes that his mother has to get food for him by begging (because he fails as the family’s breadwinner)... the following scene when he, crying "I’m starving!", kills a man who insulted his late father... and finally the scene when he in frustration and despair destroys a shelf with war toys by firing on it and then a little globe rolls to him which he, happily smiling like a child, takes into his bloodstained hands and turns it round and round until the whole world ball is bloody... (That Avinash then uses this globe as a missile during a shootout and the world ball is blown to pieces is another of the many nightmarish pictures Dutta has found for this film.)
Sanjay’s strong character and mindblowing performance make it not easy for his co-stars. Best is Dharmendra as Khan Bhai who after in Mardon Wali Baat again shares a good chemistry with Sanjay, but also with Rishi Kapoor who plays his younger brother, torn between love and despise for his criminal elder brother. Unfortunately a rather unrewarding role but Rishi makes the best of it. A luxury cast for Avinash’s parents are Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Asha Parekh; especially Asha’s mother-son scenes with Sanjay are deeply touching. Paresh Rawal was close to delivering a good counterpart to Dharmendra’s bhai but his gangster boss’s eternal "very clever" comments are unnerving and make the figure almost a comic relief. Fortunately Paresh mostly applys the handbrake in time and thus bridles his potential for annoyance.
And so JP Dutta’s Hathyar is enjoyably free from comic reliefs which wouldn’t have fit for this serious issue either. Close to taking on this role is the completely unnecessary song-and-dance scene of Rishi and his partner Sangeeta Bijlani (Jenny), and Sangeeta’s frilly clothes may cause some good laughs, too. Obviously Dutta didn’t dare to make a film completely without song and dance though this would absolutely have been the better way. At least he restricted himself to a minimum – besides that playful clip with Rishi and Sangeeta there are just three other short numbers, one in a night club and two beautifully danced songs by Amrita Singh as Avinash’s girlfriend Suman who, however, otherwise hasn’t much to do, similar to Sangeeta.
As I said, how this film could disappear from the scene and vanish into thin air so completely is beyond my comprehension, and I urgently appeal to all the distribution companies in this world to take this Hathyar movie into their programs and to give it back to the public. Not only Dharmendra’s, Rishi’s, Amrita’s and of course Sanjay’s fans would be grateful to them but everyone with a faible for good, intense action movies. Imagine a mixture of Naam and Vaastav and you get an idea of this film’s ambience. In my opinion, Hathyar belongs to the top ten of Sanjay Dutt’s filmography.
Produced by F.A. Nadiadwala; Directed by J.P. Dutta
173 Min.; VHS copy without subs (Special thanks to Liakot Ali from London)