Saturday, April 2, 2016

Wazir—Of Queen, and Kismat

Bejoy Nambiar's Wazir is quite an interesting film. Initially titled as The Fifth Move, the film was supposed to be a Hollywood project, starring Dustin Hoffman. However, due to the death of the producer, the project never saw light of the day. When Bejoy met Vidhu Vinod Chopra, he chose the script, and Wazir was finally made, but this time in Hindi. 

Wazir is the story of Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) officer, Daanish Ali (Farhan Akhtar). In a freak encounter, his daughter gets killed, and he blames himself for it. He is on the verge of killing himself, but he meets a wheelchair-bound chess grand-master, Pandit Omkar Nath Dhar (Amitabh Bachchan), who has lost his own daughter, in what seem to be questionable circumstances. Both men, bound together by loss and grief, develop an unlikely friendship. However, there lurks a mysterious enemy who is threatening to harm them, and they both need each other's help to fight this demon.

I am familiar with chess, and used to play it as a kid. When I first saw the trailer of Wazir, I was a bit surprised to see that the title of the film is wazir, but the poster of the film, has a queen in it. I thought that, perhaps, this is some clue to the mystery in the film, as the characters of the film could be like the different pieces of chess. When I used to play chess, the bishop was called as the wazir. In fact, almost all reviews of the film have called wazir to be a bishop (link and link). I think this is part of some misunderstanding by everyone. A wazir is not a bishop. In Shatranj, the queen is called wazir. Even in Hindi, it is called wazir, while the bishop is called uth. The queen has different names in various languages—Arabic (wäziir, firzān), Russian (ferz'), Farsi (vazir, farzin), Uzbek (farzin), Hindi (farzī, wazīr) and Turkish (vezir). It is a European invention to call wazir as the queen, while all other languages have the same etymological root wazir that is gender-neutral, and means a minister. After watching the film, it becomes clear as to why there was a queen in the poster of the film, that is because in the film, wazir means the queen. In fact, at one point, during the scene with wazir (Neil Nitin Mukesh), the subtitle called it the queen. In the final scene, Omkar Nath gives a pen drive to Pammi and asks her to give the wazir to Daanish when he comes looking for it. The pen drive was in the form of wazir, and it is again the queen piece. 
It is in the final scenes of the film, the above meaning becomes even more clear. In the recording, Omkar Nath called himself as the pawn, a weak man, who can only take one step at a time. But slowly and slowly, he played his moves, and eventually reached the final square on the other end to become a wazir. In chess, a pawn can reach the other side and is, then, promoted. When a pawn reaches the position of the opposite side's queen, the player gets an opportunity to get a queen piece, while the pawn is removed. It is in this context that Omkar Nath became the all powerful wazir (queen) from a pawn. He sacrificed himself to play an elaborate game in which he used the powers of queen to checkmate his opponent. A wazir (queen/minister) is indeed the most powerful piece in chess, even stronger than the king, and the number of ways it can move is much higher than any other chess piece. In this game that he played, Daanish was the rook, the elephant. He used Daanish's anger and power to target Yazaad Qureshi. It was also worth noting that Daanish always attacked his opponents from the front, as the rook that can go only straight. Perhaps, people already knew that wazir is called a queen, but I thought a wazir is a bishop, and it is this confusion that needs to be removed. I should find as to when and why the wazir became a bishop.

We see that Omkar Nath keeps listening to Aao Huzoor Tumko that was his wife's favorite song. The song Aao Huzoor Tumko is from Manmohan Desai's Kismat (1968). I watched that film if there is any connection to that film. Kismat is also a thriller in which the police is trying to find a group of criminals involved in sabotage. The film stars Biswajeet as Vicky, and Babita as Roma. In the final scenes of the film, the mastermind is found to be none other than Roma's own father. His face mask literally breaks to reveal his face, while in Wazir, the twist involves breaking of the mask of another father when his reality is revealed to everyone. There are some laugh-out-sequences in Kismat that show the ultimate coolness of the movies of the sixties; from magical cars, to flying balloons, to revolving beds, to a band called The Monkees, it has everything. 
My favorite part in Wazir was when Daanish was about to kill himself in front of the grave of his daughter, a light is thrown on him. And, he stops. It is as if this was a message to him to see the light. Later, Daanish visits Pandit ji, whose house has a bell that is seen in the temples. Daanish has a Sikh friend Saartaaj, whose house is lined with the pictures of the Golden Temple. Daanish has a friend in SP, that is all we know about him but is played by John Abraham, a Christian. Perhaps that is the larger point that these extraneous labels don't mean much but what matters is the human bond, joined by the shared feelings of love, happiness, and loss. Like the very unlikely friendship of Pandit Ji and Daanish, sharing the same feelings of loss of a child, ans helping each other in every way possible. Yeh ladaai aapki thi. Ab hamaari hai.

Dialogue of the Day:
"Is game me haarne vale ki jeet hoti hai."
—Pandit Ji, Wazir


  1. excellent stuff... loved both the movie and your post.. i really cant watch that old film ...i liked all songs in the film..

  2. It was a beautiful Script, glad it was made into a movie. I really like such intrigue thrillers, just got done with watching the movie & came running to read your review on it. Nice post Dost, as usual You are the one I come to for final closure of a Smart Movie! Keep them coming!


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