Satya and Vaastav would always be two of my favorite gangster movies. Raw, hard hitting, intensely violent. Vaastav for me contained one of Sanjay Dutt’s best performances. Sanju was touted as the succesor to Amitabh Bachan, but his wild ways, his rank bad choice of movies, his trysts with the law would prove to be his undoing. He had everything to be the next Amitabh. The tall lanky frame, the voice, the intensity but he choose to mess it up in a host of indifferent movies. But quite too often, he would be given a role like in Vaastav, and then he would make you wonder, why the heck, does he waste such a wonderful talent.
Vaastav is the story of Raghu, a lower middle class guy, who gets sucked into the underworld, and becomes a dreaded cocaine snorting gangster. In many ways, Vaastav, derived inspiration from Scarface. The foul language, Raghu becomming a drug addict and his violent hot headed nature. The scene where Raghu picks up a fight with a goon, who refuses to pay for the vada paav, again had its genesis in a similar scene in Scarface, where Pacino and his friend, get into a fight with a hoodlum, who refuses to pay up for their fast food stall.
But more than anything, it is Vaastav’s powerful climax, that just hits you, on your face. You come away from the movie, not able to forget that scene. To call it hard hitting would be a misnomer. It is gut wrenching and intense. Raghu( Sanjay Dutt) is on the run, from the cops, his buddies have been killed, and he is wanted for the murder of the Home Minister, Babban Rao Kadam( Mohan Joshi),who has used Raghu for his own selfish ends. His life in a total shambles, Raghu escapes from the cops, into his home.
He breaks down like a child in front of his mother, goes totally crazy. He bawls, begs his mother “Maa mujhe shaanti chahiye”. Watch Sanju’s expressions in the scene, totally rivetting. In a Bollywood, where the hero is usually projected as a superman, here we see a normal human being breaking down, behaving like a lunatic. Till some time back, he was a dreaded gangster, whose name would strike fear into the hearts of his rivals, now he is a lonely,insecure, confused individual. Not too often, you get to see the downfall of a human being so shockingly real, at least in Bollywood.
His mother( Reema Lagoo), looks on helplessly at her son. She knows that he has gone beyond to a stage, from where he can never come back. This is not Raghu, the dreaded gangster. It’s Raghu, her own confused vulnerable son, who is now seeking her warmth like a child. She picks up the gun, and holding back her tears, she shoots him dead. Her husband( Shivaji Satam) and Raghu’s wife Sonu( Namrata Shirodkar) come rushing into the room. As her husband looks at her shocked she replies ” Is ko shanti chahiye tha, mainne isse dilaya”. That one line sums it up all, Raghu, found that inner peace in his death, the peace which was elusive all his life. Reema Lagoo, a talented actress, but often wasted in mama roles, is just brilliant in this scene too.
Sadly in a way, it would also prove to be a burden too heavy for Mahesh Manjrekar and Sanjay Dutt. Post Vaastav, Mahesh, is yet to come up with another outstanding flick, barring Astitva. And Sanju was typecast in gangster roles, all similar to each other, that you could switch one for another, and it would make no difference. It was Munnabhai MBBS which again gave Sanju a new lease of life to his career.