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Hathyar - Rediscovering a lost treasure of 35 years

" Hathyar" (1989), directed by JP Dutta, is a compelling action drama set in Bombay, exploring themes of violence, crime, and fami...

"Hathyar" (1989), directed by JP Dutta, is a compelling action drama set in Bombay, exploring themes of violence, crime, and family dynamics. With a star-studded cast, including Dharmendra, Rishi Kapoor, Asha Parekh, Sanjay Dutt, Amrita Singh, Sangeeta Bijlani, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, and Paresh Rawal, the film intricately weaves the stories of multiple characters caught in the web of urban crime.

The narrative of "Hathyar" centres around a young man, Avinash (Sanjay Dutt), whose life is shaped by his father's (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) decision to leave their violent ancestral home in the village for a peaceful existence in the city. However, Avinash's fiery temperament and involvement in urban crime contrast sharply with his father's pacifism, highlighting the generational and ideological conflicts within families affected by violence.

The film also delves into the dynamics between Avinash and the local don (Dharmendra), who sees potential in him, and the don's estranged younger brother (Rishi Kapoor), who becomes Avinash's neighbour. This intricate setup allows Dutta to explore the themes of loyalty, betrayal, and the cyclical nature of violence, as the characters navigate their interconnected lives in the crime-ridden city.

JP Dutta's direction in "Hathyar" is marked by its gritty realism and attention to detail. The film's portrayal of Bombay's underworld is unflinching and authentic, capturing the chaos and brutality of urban crime. Dutta's use of location, lighting, and sound design enhances the film's immersive quality, making the city itself a character in the story. Ishwar Bidri’s (a constant for Dutta in most of his films) camera captures the grim underbelly of Bombay with near-perfect cinematic brilliance. 

Dutta's ability to elicit strong performances from his cast is another standout aspect of the film. His direction ensures that each character, regardless of their screen time, leaves a lasting impression. The complex relationships and moral ambiguities faced by the characters are handled with nuance, adding depth to the tight narrative. 

Dharmendra, as the don, brings a commanding presence to the screen, embodying both the ruthlessness and the paternalistic aspects of his character. Rishi Kapoor, playing the don's younger brother, offers a contrasting portrayal of alienation and moral dilemma, adding layers to the familial conflict at the heart of the story.

The supporting cast, including Asha Parekh, Amrita Singh, Sangeeta Bijlani, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, and Paresh Rawal, also contribute significantly to the film's emotional and narrative weight. Each actor brings depth and authenticity to their roles, enriching the film's tapestry of interconnected lives.

But ultimately, "Hathyar" belongs to Sanjay Dutt. In one of his career-defining roles, he delivers a standout performance as Avinash, capturing the character's internal conflict and descent into violence with intensity and subtlety. His portrayal of a young man torn between his father's ideals and the harsh realities of his environment is compelling and multifaceted. Dutt strikes a perfect balance between his vulnerability as a lost, misguided, young man and his exploding anger at his personal frustrations and inabilities. This role arguably solidified his reputation as a formidable actor in the industry.

Despite its artistic strengths, "Hathyar" did not perform well at the box office, a fact that remains puzzling given the quality of the film. Several factors could have contributed to its lacklustre commercial performance, including its bleak and violent subject matter, which may have been a deterrent for the general audience. The absence of light moments almost altogether, from the film could have made it too much of a heavy viewing. Additionally, the film's release timing and competition from other films might have affected its reception.

In retrospect, "Hathyar" is appreciated for its bold storytelling and powerful performances. It stands as one of JP Dutta's most ambitious and well-crafted films, offering a raw and unfiltered look at the impact of violence on individuals and families. The film's exploration of crime and morality remains relevant, and its critical acclaim has grown over time, earning it a place among the noteworthy entries in Indian cinema.

"Hathyar" which hit the screens in March 1989 is a testament to JP Dutta's directorial prowess and his ability to tackle complex, socially relevant themes through cinema. The film's failure at the box office does not diminish its artistic achievements. Instead, it underscores the sometimes unpredictable nature of film reception and the enduring value of well-crafted storytelling. With exceptional performances, especially by Sanjay Dutt, and a gritty, realistic portrayal of Bombay's underworld, "Hathyar" deserves recognition as one of Dutta's finest works.

By Pratik Majumdar 

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