A few months ago, Saurabh and Shreya wrote down the Hero’s journey for Munna Bhai MBBS, which was helpful to me and a lot of other aspiring filmmakers! I had heard about the Hero’s journey earlier, but this was a very interesting way to break down and analyze a story. As a writer, I often wonder why some of my stories work better than others. Over the past few months, I’ve been working on refining my craft through several courses and discussions.
I spoke to Saurabh, who, like always, was excited about analyzing another movie with me. We settled on Deewaar, a film that inspires people who study films even today. I remember watching the film years ago, so had to rewatch – this time with a writer’s lens. And the number of times I hit pause and just thought about why the scene was constructed in the way it was, I can’t even remember.
A primer on the Hero’s journey…
In short, the Hero’s journey is a story structure that involves the hero of a story facing a challenge, crossing into an alternate world to solve that challenge, and coming back victorious.
This is popularized by Joseph Campbell, in his book – The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Campbell outlines 17 stages that a hero goes through in his journey to this new world and back.
You can break down many of the world’s stories using the Hero’s journey, including the great epics, the early Greek dramas and modern-day films.
Coming back to Deewaar
In our opinion, the Hero in this film is Amitabh Bachchan’s character. And from his vantage point is this Hero’s Journey being written. Read on.
The plot – a quick recap
Deewaar is the story of two brothers who go down separate paths as they grow up and end up in a situation where they can’t co-exist.
Anand Verma lives with his family – his wife Sumitra Devi and sons, Vijay and Ravi. He is the local workers’ union chief, which is demanding better pay and rights for the workers.
As the protests rise, the shrewd businessman who they are protesting against, abducts Anand Verma’s family, leaving him no choice.
Anand is forced to pick his family or the workers’ rights.
Like any father would, Anand Verma chooses his family and leaves aside his moral stand. The workers, who so far looked up to him end up thrashing him, leaving him hospitalized. Anand can’t handle the emotional trauma and runs away, leaving behind the mess that he’s created. His family continues to be ridiculed whenever they step out. One day, when Vijay is returning from school, some goons pick him up and tattoo his hand with “Mera Baap Chor Hai.”
The mother decides to leave the town with the two kids. When they arrive in Mumbai, they are forced to live on the footpath and sleep under a bridge. Sumitra and Vijay (not even a teenager at this point) decide to pick odd jobs to make ends meet and give Ravi a decent education. Vijay sacrifices his own education to become a boot polisher.
One day, after getting his boots polished, a man throws a coin at him. Vijay takes a stand – he would not pick up money thrown at him. Dawar, who was accompanying this person, realizes that Vijay would do something big one day.
Sumitra works at a construction site as a labourer, but she is barely able to do the strenuous work. Her employer gives her a hard time consistently, and when Vijay sees this, he hits him and runs away.
All this while, Ravi is getting good grades at school. The two boys are living in distinct worlds already!
As days pass, Vijay starts working at the docks in Mumbai. He notices how the local goons collect hafta from all the labourers. Unlike the others who continue to bend their heads, Vijay refuses to pay them. In fact, he goes into their den and thrashes them, thereby freeing up the labourers at the dock from the clutches of Samant – the man controlling the docks.
This is noticed by Dawar, who invites Vijay to join his business. Samant is Dawar’s adversary too! Without thinking twice, Vijay joins Dawar. His first assignment is to ensure that Dawar’s smuggled gold is safely brought into Mumbai. Vijay hatches a smart plan that involves duping Samant and is able to execute flawlessly. Samant pledges revenge!
Vijay’s life starts turning around – he buys his mother a better house, a better car, his clothes get better — everything in life starts seeming better. He is becoming the master of this new world, a step at a time.
On the other side, Ravi Verma completes his education and goes away to train for being a police officer. When he returns, his first case is to finish Dawar’s smuggling businesses. Ravi realizes that he would have to catch his brother to solve the case. He refuses to take the case. In fact, he goes and asks his brother to surrender. Vijay, being Vijay, refuses.
The brothers have a dispute over this. As the dispute worsens, even their mother decides to go and live with Ravi, leaving Vijay alone in his giant mansion. A few days later, Ravi decides to take the case again and starts nabbing Dawar’s men one after the other. Dawar realizes that Ravi must be stopped somehow. One of his gang’s members suggest killing Ravi, but Vijay stops them.
He tries to convince Ravi to back away from Dawar’s people, but Ravi holds his ground.
Their mother falls sick, but Vijay cannot visit her, because if he does, he would be nabbed by the cops. Vijay is distressed. Around the same time, Samant, who had pledged revenge, kills Vijay’s girlfriend. Anguished, Vijay goes to the hotel where Samant is staying and kills him. But in the process, he exposes himself to Ravi and the cops. Left with no choice, Ravi fires at Vijay.
Vijay manages to drive away, only to hold long enough to come to his mother praying at the temple she frequents. As he takes his last few breaths, he asks him if his mother loves him. She does.
A few disclaimers:
- This is our interpretation of the Hero’s Journey for Vijay’s character. Things may be wrong!
- Please do point out flaws. We know this is not perfect.
|Beat (i.e. a section that moves the story forward)||Hero’s journey stage||Notes|
|Film starts with a bravery medal being given to Ravi Verma. He talks about Sumitra Devi (his mom) being the reason that he got the medal. Makes the mom accept the medal.||This serves as a hook into the world of Vijay and Ravi|
|Flashback – Sumitra gets back to the Hartaal where Anand Verma (her husband) is leading the hartaal. He is demanding that the labourers get a better life. They do not care about getting a lot of money|
Kids say that in their school their teachers say that father is usool ka pakka. His wife says that kids look up to him. Anand mentions that he likes kids more than anything else.
|The ordinary world||This scene establishes the milieu. The ordinary world. And the fact that there is this huge divide between the rich and the poor.|
|They protest at the factory owner’s bungalow. The owner calls Anand inside and offers a deal. Along with that he blackmails Anand. “aur to kuch nahi, is tasveer ke tukde tukde kar doonga”. He has kidnapped Anand’s family. Anand has to choose between his family and the workers.|
Anand Signs and goes back to his workers and says that he has sold them. The flaw in the character of Anand is showcased
|Establish the conflict in Anand’s life and sets up for a larger conflict in the life of the hero. A conflict that would eventually grow into the inciting incident for the Hero.|
|Mom and 2 children are left in the middle of a park. They meet the father in the hospital, where everyone is making a slogan that Anand babu is a thief. When Sumitra returns from bringing medicines, she finds Anand Babu gone. He’s on a train to nowhere.|
Some drunkards round up Vijay and abuse him. Vijay comes home beaten and battered and shows the tattoo to his mother.
Mother decides to move away. There is a calendar on the wall that has Mumbai’s photo. They go to Mumbai. Mother is forced to take odd jobs. They sleep under the bridge with others.
|Challenge from the outer world||The hero’s life, as we know it, is about to change.|
|One day Ravi is missing and Vijay and mother see Ravi standing at gate of the school. Vijay says that he would work as well, so that Ravi could get good education.|
Vijay becomes a boot polisher.
|Call to adventure||The hero accepts the challenge and decides to do whatever he could do to get his younger brother education|
|Dawar buys a racebook and gets his shoes to polish. Jaichand (Dawar’s associate) throws money at Vijay, who refuses, saying he is not a beggar. Dawar asks Jaichand to pick the money and hand it to Vijay. Also, he predicts Dawar to be a winner in his life!|
Juxapose to Ravi who’s topping the school.
|The seed of separation between the two brothers is sowed. This is what Boman Sir calls breadcrumbing!|
Also an act of standing for himself. His father couldn’t stand to his morals, maybe Vijay wants to correct it.
|At her construction site, the mother is thrown out from work. On seeing this, Vijay hits the Munshi and runs away.|
Mother compares the two brothers. She tells Vijay that Ravi is his brother and yet so sorted. Vijay shows the tattoo and asks for an answer.
|The wound is shown for the first time.|
Another incident where the hero is acting for his own. Wants respect. Anyone who is not going to respect him/his mother is going to have it from him.
|The mother takes her two kids to a temple. Vijay takes a stand for himself, stating he will not enter the temple.|
Time passes and sons grow up.
Ravi asks what does mom wants. She says “tere liye sukh and Vijay ke liye Shaanti”. The two brothers go their seperate ways
|Crossing the first threshold||This shows the clear juxtaposition of Vijay and Ravi. Mother already knows what the big challenges in their lives are!|
By refusing to go into the temple, Vijay is protesting against the injustice in his life. He didn’t do anything wrong for the price he had to pay. Doesn’t believe in God anymore.
|Vijay now works at the docks. He gets a badge with the number 786 engraved. Rahim chacha tells Vijay that 786 is a good number. Tells him to keep the badge always with him. They also talk about the hafta the coolies have to pay to the owner.|
A coolie, Gangu gets killed when he refuses to pay it (he has to get his sister married). Something stirs in Vijay. “Agle hafte ek aur coolie paisa dene se inkaar karne wala hai”
|The road of trials||Vijay is challenged again. Gareebi ka jurmana is a trigger for him to fight the norm. He wants to change things. 786 ka billa is the supernatural aid|
|Ravi Verma is mock-interviewed by his girlfriend for a job. He is clearly getting nervous in front of her.|
He then goes to an interview, where he almost gets selected. But then there is a phone call and the naukri goes to someone the brother in law of GM Saab.
He is aghast and as he is getting out of the room, tells another person waiting that he would waste his time if he is expecting to get a job.
|At the docks, Vijay refuses to pay the lowly gundas. Fights and comes out on top.|
Next day, they come to beat Vijay. Rahim Chacha convinces Vijay to leave. However, Vijay goes to Peters den, hands him over the key and says that “taala main kholoonga”, beats everyone and comes out victorious.
|Road of trials||Again the same characteristic shows – when someone challenges his respect, he will revolt.|
The path for Vijay is full of such “trials”.
|As he comes home, his mom scolds Vijay and in response he says, “Tum chahti ho main bhi mu chupake bhaag jaata”|
|Once again, Ravi almost gets a job and as he’s accepting, he sees another person that is even more struggling and gives up a job for another person. He decides to back out.|
Ravi struggling to get a job, while talking just like his father – idealist and repeating the dialogues that his father would have used.
Father is spotted travelling in a train
|Dawar and Vijay meet and Dawar hires him.|
The dialogues, “Mujhe tumhari zaroorat hai aur main tumhari har zaroorat puri kar sakta hoon” and then, “Main aaj bhi faike hue paise nahi uthata”.
|Meeting with the mentor||Daawar acts as the mentor who helps Vijay into this new world.|
|Ravi meets girlfriends father (who’s a cop) and he recommends that Ravi join the police force|
|Dawar’s people meet about a new smuggled gold consignment that’s going to arrive. Vijay says that he will do it alone.|
He joins Sawant in lift. The dialogue – “Suna hai lift ki deewaar ke kaan nahi hote”. They discuss how Vijay could get Sawant the consignment. It seems like Vijay is playing a double-game, dealing with both Dawar and Sawant (adversaries).
They transfer gold at a jetty and Vijay brings the gold to Samant. He collects his bounty. Says sone ke ande dene waali murgi story to Samant. He then steals the van and drives it away towards Dawar’s place.
Ravi brings all the gold to Dawar and takes 5 lakhs from him as commission.
|Road of trials||Establishes Vijay as a formidable personality. And in the process he makes allies and enemies.|
|Vijay shows a giant house to his mother. She gets suspicious of Vijay’s work. Ravi comes running and shares he got a job as a cop.|
Ravi goes away for his training.
|Vijay is starting to see success with his efforts. This is the first false victory for Vijay.|
He is getting sucked into the web.
|At a swanky hotel pool side, Vijay suggests they should plant someone in Samant’s gang. Plot a scheme to get Darpan recruited in Samant’s gang.|
Darpan goes there and says Vijay would be at Sona bar and they can kill him. Sawant plots for that.
|He is continuing to make friends and enemies. In other words, he is getting sucked into the new world.|
|Vijay meets at Sona Bar and forgets the billa. Anita comes after him and whlie handing over the billa, drops it. They bend to pick it up and the sniper misses the shot. Vijay manages to get away from the scene. Again, it is the billa that saves Vijay.||This is a case of setup and payoff – the 786 billa which Rahim Chacha had set up early pays off!|
|Dawar says he wants to take a backseat and gives his throne to Vijay. However Jaichand wanted it.||Belly of the whale||At this point, Vijay is deep into the new world. He has conquered the new world – or at least he thinks so.|
|Ravi Verma comes back home as a police officer and announces that he has been posted in Mumbai. Maa talks about Vijay’s business and how he is busy.|
Two brothers meet – Ravi asks chakkar kya hai.
Vijay is worried. Vijay laments with Anita that Ravi and he are different.
|There is no going back from here on|
|Ravi asks Commissioner about people that are making Mumbai hell. Commissioner introduces Mulk Raj Dawar and Vijay Verma.|
Ravi is shocked. He denies to take the case. Commissioner demands an explanation. Ravi says Vijay is my brother. Ravi says “shayad main ye zimmewari achchi tarah se nibha na saku” Commissioner implores Ravi to take the case.
|Ravi chases a kid thief, shoots in the leg and he feels guity of that.|
Goes to Chander’s house with some food and all. Tells that he shot Chander. Chander’s mom blasts the cop. Typical shoot the messenger.
Father is polite. Ravi touches his feet. This incident makes him decide to take the case.
|Vijay buys the building where his mom worked||Classic case of “high” before the low! – Second false victory for Vijay|
|Ravi and Vijay have a face-off in front of their mother. Ravi asks him to surrender and asks for the sign of brother. The iconic bhai tum sign karoge ya nahi.|
The word Deewaar is introduced for the first time.
They fight over Maa but Maa decides to leave with Ravi
Vijay says I did all this for you. Maa responds “you have become the saudagar but dont try to buy your own mother”.
|Ravi tears the papers and goes back to Anita. See’s her saaree. She says its her maa ka sapna to see her married.|
|Ravi says that I will take you back to Vijay. Mom tells Ravi that she loves Vijay more.|
|An informer tells Ravi that godown has some police ka maal. Ravi tries to stop a truck while he is unarmed. He dupes the goons and says they are surrounded by cops. The goons are convinced, as he is able to nab the goons.|
|Dawar’s gang members get together and discuss that Ravi has cracked 5 raids in 2 months. They discuss that they would kill Ravi. Jaichand proposes that Ravi be killed. Vijay admits that Ravi is his brother.|
|The two brothers meet at the bridge where they grew up. Vijay asks Ravi to back out from the case – arguing that because of his work, he has everything in his life. Ravi refuses, saying mere pass maa hai!||Refusal to return||Vijay has a chance to surrender still, but he refuses to give away everything he’s earned in the new world to go back to the old one. He is refusing to go to his original world.|
|Anand babu is found dead in a train. Ravi realizes it is their father when someone comes to report. They find a picture of family being held hostage.|
Ravi stops mother from putting sindoor. Such amazing symbolism!
|Fire to the pyre as Vijay looks from a distance|
|Vijay and Anita discuss how Vijay’s father died 20 years ago.|
|On a call recording, Ravi finds about a meeting where Jaichand is present and leaves right away! He gets him to confess.|
Ravi arrests Jaichand, and Jaichand gives the name of Dawar and Vijay.
Ravi arrests Dawar. Vijay manages to runs away and goes into hiding.
|Noticing the increased police attention, Samant says he is the one who would kill Vijay first|
|Vijay gets to know that maa is unwell and decides that he will go to meet the mother. He goes in an ambulance but he can’t enter the hospital as there is a lot of police.|
Vijay is lost and doesn’t know what to do.
He goes to the one place which he never would have – the temple his mother frequented. The dialogue – “aaj khush toh bohot hoge tum…”
Maa gets better. Mom says she wants to go to the temple. Pandit says that your son was at the temple.
|Atonement||Vijay realizes that he has dragged himself too deep into this new world and escaping is impossible now.|
But he does want his mother to be well. Entering the temple is his atonement.
Note – in the actual Hero’s journey, atonement happens before the refusal to return. We see the sequence slightly altered, but the concept holds.
|Vijay gets to know that Maa is better now and is at home. Anita says she’s pregnant. Vijay says that he wants to get married and he will surrender. Decides to go to the temple and get married.|
Vijay tells mom that he’s going to the temple and she should meet him there.
|Crossing of the return threshold||Because of Anita, he has a reason to give up everything and go back to the original world. His decision to go back is crossing of the return threshold.|
|Anita gets kidnapped.|
|Vijay is being told of a plan to escape. He tells his gang that he would not go along with them.|
|Vijay finds Anita is hurt. She dies in his arms. Vijay spots a cigar butt and know that it was done by Samant|
Vijay storms into Samant’s hideout and kills all his men. However Samant is not there.
|Ravi gets to know that Vijay is on his way to kill Samant. They surround the building. However Vijay is able to kill Samant by throwing him off the top of the building.|
|Vijay runs away. Ravi chases him.|
Vijay’s 786 billa falls away. As he tries to retrieve it, Ravi comes in close and shoots.
He gets in a car and drives the car into the temple and dies in his mother’s arms
|Master of the two worlds||At this point, Vijay has conquered the two worlds – he has realized that his path of gaining “respect” was not right. Even though short-lived (since he died right after), he is briefly able to get his mother’s respect too.|
|Back to the opening scene where Ravi is getting an award. Applause.|
Like we saw in the case of Munna Bhai MBBS, not all stages of a journey are followed in Deewaar. However, you see a clear arc of how Vijay moves from one world to another and struggles to come back.
Please do let us know what you think about this – if you have a different interpretation, we would love to discuss. If you disagree, all the more reason to discuss with us! The primary reason for breaking down the Hero’s journey is to improve our understanding of the concept.
Drop me a note at email@example.com to discuss.