This post was written on 22nd October, 2016. On an auto back from Bandra to Andheri. It is now 28 years since JJWS released. All of it is still true for me.
Today I went for an event (as part of the MAMI Film Festival) that brought together the cast and crew of Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. It was a session of great energy and fun as it was obvious the people were really happy to be back together.
While JJWS was very successful commercially and even won the Filmfare award for Best Film, I don't remember any craze or euphoria around the film. But over the years, it has become something of a classic - a delightful mix of college romance, sibling rivalry, great music and rushes of adrenaline that can only come from sports. It is one of those Hindi films that you can watch for any length of time, starting anywhere and walk away feeling happy. Unless of course, you are in the middle of the cycle race, then there's no walking away.
Even now, my fists clench when they shout “Veer bahadur ladke kaun…”. I get goosebumps when Ratan screams “Change the gear, Sanju, change the gear!” And I get a lump in my throat - lately - when the father sits at the table while his son lies in the ICU.
The team talked of some delightful anecdotes, recounted the massive chaos around the film's shooting and agreed that it was one film 'made for the times’. They talked about the realism of the two characters (especially Sanjay Lal Sharma) and how he 'connected’ despite being a 'hero’. What they didn't talk about is how well the father's character is written.
I remember watching the movie on TV one afternoon and my father was also in the same room. He observed Sanju’s antics with exasperation and sighed audibly as the wastrel gifted an expensive necklace to a 'gold digger'. Ultimately we got to the (not so remembered) scene where Ramlal asks Sanju what he had done with the money he hadn't deposited at the bank. Sanju responded petulantly, “Yeh main aapko bata nahin sakta lekin main poore paise waapas kar doonga.” Just as Kulbhushan Kharbanda landed a resounding slap on Aamir Khan, my father gave vent to his feelings and said “Theek korechhey!” (Rightly done!)
As a father, I now realise how real that response is… as a parent, you don't expect your children not to make mistakes. You just expect them to learn/own up. It is a fairly complex emotion but that's what snaps a circuit in a parent's brain. Today, I went back to that day in Calcutta when my dad and I were seemingly rooting for different characters (he for the father and I for the son) but what both of us really wanted was for the son to win.
At the end of the programme, the floor was opened for audience questions. I wanted to ask a question to Mansoor Khan about the father's character (as no one talked about him). But I wasn't sure that I would be able to do it with a lump in my throat.
I guess that's what makes the film a classic.
Here is an edited version of the reunion: