Breaking Away, the 1979 Oscar winner for Best Screenplay that inspired Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikanker, pivots on more than just its climactic cycle race. Dave, a cycling enthusiast, suffers from a quirky form of adolescent rebellion: he aspires to be Italian. He pores over Italian phrasebooks, renames his cat Fellini and adulates an Italian cycling team. It’s a proclivity, that along with his refusal to do anything but spin around on his cycle, has his father exasperated. In this coming-of-age set-up Dave has company.
Three other local lads are equally fraught by the growing up process. Mike (an angry, young Dennis Quaid) is in eternal throwback mode to the time he was his school’s ace quarterback, glory he will never be able to recapture because of his indifference towards attending college. For Moocher, growing up is literally a worry, as he routinely gets picked on for his height. The whimsical Cyrical makes up the fourth member.
Diving into the pool in the former quarry, racing around in their beat up car, getting into little scrapes, director Peter Yates captures the essence of the small town experience well. It’s equally permeated by the old town-versus-gown conflict: the local lads routinely brush up against the privileged college boys at the University of Indiana. It all comes to a head after a restaurant brawl between the groups leads the dean of the university to invite them to a more civilised form of competition: the annual cycle race.
If in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, cross country was the weapon of the class war battle, in Breaking Away, it’s the humble little bicycle. A delight from start to finish.