Dir. Yash Chopra
Salim-Javed movies nearly always hang their dense weave of masala entertainment on a sturdy frame of social issues. Trishul's truss includes social class and social mobility, common themes of the era and still of tremendous relevance. More particular to Trishul is its industrial backdrop. Where Kaala patthar set its social commentary in the allegorical depths of a coal mine, Trishul points its lens at the high-stakes, high-class battleground of Delhi real-estate development.
While watching Trishul, I kept being reminded of Vijay Anand's Tere ghar ke samne, another film that uses the construction of rich, modern New Delhi as its canvas. In both films, the totemic sights of Delhi can be spotted in the background even of indoor scenes, framed in office windows. And while Trishul does not offer as delightful a Delhi tourism advertisment as Dev Anand and Nutan's jaunt up and down Qutub Minar in "Dil ka bhanwar kare pukar", it does give us young lovers romping past the Sultanate tombs of Lodhi Garden in "Gapuchi gapuchi gum gum."
Anand's film has some social resonance, too, but remains light and playful in tone all the way through, while Trishul resounds with all the gravity of any Salim-Javed script with a Vijay at its heart. In Tere ghar ke samne, the glamour of New Delhi and of the wealthy people who build homes in it provides escapist shine, alluring to most of its audience precisely because of its remove from their own experience. But in Trishul there is something more primal at play. Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan; does that even need to be said?) enters the development business not out of a desire for wealth or social prominence, but purely for revenge, to exact the everyman's price for being screwed over by the rich and powerful.
Vijay is the illegitimate child of construction magnate R.K. Gupta (Sanjeev Kumar). As a young man, Gupta was to marry his love, Shanti (Waheeda Rehman). But Gupta's boss offered him a feudal sort of quid pro quo that he could not refuse: Marry my daughter, become a full partner in our firm. Gupta makes the mercenary choice. As he signs the papers that make him a very rich man, Shanti offers him her sad congratulations and the startling news, famously delivered, that "main tumhare bacche ki maa bannewali hoon." Gupta offers Shanti some money, but Shanti, ever proud, refuses. She gives birth to Vijay and moves away.
Years later Vijay returns to Delhi with both the expertise and the backing to enter the competitive market for lucrative construction tenders. It would seem that his whole life has been spent preparing for this particular form of revenge against Gupta; hit him squarely on the one thing valued more than Shanti, his business. Vijay is still the classic masala hero who does bad things for good reaasons, but trail of moral reasoning is too convoluted for anyone who is not a masala hero to understand. He is not above bribing Gupta's employees to commit corporate espionage, but he uses the insider info to beat Gupta's bids on multi-crore construction projects by a single rupee; this Vijay is not motivated by profit, but by a slow burn, long-view brand of revenge. When Gupta wrongly accuses his loyal assistant, Geeta (Rakhee) of being the mole, Vijay's sense of justice won't stand for it. He will cheat to advance his own agenda, but he won't let an innocent take the fall. He helps Gupta's young daughter Kusum (Poonam Dhillon), Vijay's own half-sister, elope with her love - maybe because Vijay believes in the truth of love, and maybe also because he knows it will get up Gupta's nose. Vijay's belief in love and brotherhood is less evident when he attempts to sabotage the relationship between Gupta's other son, Shekhar (Shashi Kapoor) with Sheetal (Hema Malini). If there is a method to Vijay's moral madness, it is not as easy to discern as that of, say, Deewaar's Vijay.
Fortunately for us, Trishul's masala feast is as rich as Vijay's logic is complicated. Shekhar and Sheetal's romance is satisfying and sweet; one of the best comic moments in the film comes when Shekhar, in full-throttle flirt mode, learns that Sheetal is the business manager of a large construction firm. He sputters and regroups and tries to look nonchalant and progressive; he's adorable as he tries to adjust to the information. And if it's a little weird for Shashi Kapoor to play Amitabh's younger brother, or Waheeda Rehman to play Amitabh's mother, at least the latter affords an opportunity for the lovely "Tu mere saath rahega munne". And if you like masala, how can help but love a movie in which Amitabh makes first appearance emerging from an explosion in white pants?