From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
There is a theory that is said about writing that there are only six plots in fiction. That always seemed like a very general statement, but it is one of the quotes you keep hearing when someone that copied or put it mildly, paid homage to other things. When it comes to getting inspired, the Hindi film industry gets a lot of flack for creating copies with a definite Bollywood twist. There never seemed to be a song, movie, or book that wouldn't serve as an inspiration. And this was also way before the time when official remakes became the norm. Now that is not a very kind assessment, but it is a reputation that Hindi cinema has got over the years.
That is why a movie like The Brothers comes as a surprise as not only is it a remake of Deewar; it is also a reasonably faithful adaptation. It also replicates several iconic scenes from Deewar to varying degrees of success. What is even more impressive is that the Shaw Brothers, a major movie studio in Hong Kong, had produced it. They are more known for their wuxia and martial arts movies, including The 36th Chamber of Shaolin trilogy and Five Deadly Venoms among many others. But as one of their few films set in the modern age during the '70s, it is an entertaining movie even if it doesn't touch the heights of the classics mentioned above.
The plot of Deewar needs no explanation, and the basic story is still fresh in the minds of generations since its release. It makes perfect sense that it inspired The Brothers as the story of two brothers on the opposite sides of the law is as universal a theme as it can get.
So we can first focus on the differences. For one, the movie is much shorter and almost plays like a highlight reel version of the original. The lack of songs and the absence of several dramatic sequences can do that. As if they had to reverse engineer Deewar down to its bare essence. But the primary meat of the story is still intact, including classic scenes like the mother scene and the confronting god at the temple scene. Even the 786 badge is there with some variation. It is also incredible that the Shaw Brothers managed to shift the story from the Bombay docks to the Chinese Triads without making it seem jarring.
As far as the performances go, there is no way to discuss it without comparing it to the cast of Deewar. No one would disagree that the angry young man persona that Amitabh Bachan builds on after Zanjeer here is one of his best performances. There is also no way of thinking of Shashi Kapoor without the mere pass ma hai scene. And Nirupa Roy is still considered the definitive mother of Hindi cinema for many.
But Tony Liu does an impressive job in the gangster's role. Though it is hard to fill Amitabh Bachan's shoes, as he portrays the pain of being the wronged brother and son pretty well. Danny Lee (from The Killer, a classic of the HK heroic bloodshed genre) is also decent as the younger brother. But as the romantic subplot and the unemployment issues he faces in Deewar are missing, his character feels a little underdeveloped.
The thing is Shashi Kapoor's natural charm, and restraint played a significant part in elevating Ravi in Deewar. He gave what amounted to a thankless role with some much-needed personality. An example of this would be the iconic mother scene. The way it plays out has a lot to do with Amitabh Bachan's and Sashi Kapoor's performances. Here the anti-climatic way in which Danny Lee says the line and walks away weakens the impact of that scene. Still, to see Deewar in such an alien setting is almost surreal.
The Brothers also made a definite impact on John Woo. Years later, he made A Better Tomorrow, now considered an iconic movie in Hong Kong action cinema, and you can see see the influence that The Brothers had on the former. It also earned the same reverence and importance over there that Deewar had in the Hindi cinema. A Better Tomorrow and it's sequel also kick-started the heroic bloodshed genre in Hong Kong, which is oft-imitated not only in Hong Kong but across the world. The influences of the heroic bloodshed genre are also apparent in popular Hollywood movies like The Matrix and John Wick.
The thing about influences and inspiration is that it can work in strange ways. Aatish, made by Sanjay Gupta (famous for his many remakes), was a rip off of A Better Tomorrow. Which was in part inspired by The Brothers. Which was a remake of Deewar. Which, in turn, was inspired by Mother India. Which was a remake of another movie called, well, Mother India. Which came about in part as a direct rebuttal for a much-reviled book of the same name. We can go on playing the game of six degrees of separation. Or we can just celebrate a classic of Indian cinema and how it indirectly helped create an entire genre in another part of the world.