Keeping up with Bollywood’s latest trend of remaking Hindi classics of the years gone by, director Apoorva Lakhia decides to revisit an Amitabh Bachchan cult movie and make it his own. Only, his adaptation isn’t as commanding as the 1973 original.While the first movie had created history of sorts and had magnanimously recreated Bachchan’s screen image, the latest version just hold enough promise to be that promising a game-changer. What it does do, instead, is piggyback on the 70s’ magnetism.
Considering comparisons with the original are inevitable, the latest version will only expose Bollywood’s inability to fine-tune or even, convincingly rehash a story that had once thrilled the audience.
From Salim-Javed’s legendary one-liners to Amitabh’s “angry young man” persona, Lakhia has retained much of the flavour, even paying an ode to the original by allowing his villain to witness the menacing powers of the original baddie through a TV screen.
However, writer Chintan Gandhi is unable to match what the legends had once penned, and in turn, resorts to elementary school rhymes to cash in on the chuckles and giggles. It had worked back then, but clearly Lakhia forgot to update that tactic with current sensibilities. This despite, the new villain lecturing an unsuspecting criminal about how Bollywood ideas and trends have changed since the 1970s.
Alas, Lakhia and writer Suresh Nair are unable to adapt their own theory on paper. And, it’s this oversight that damages the movie immensely. Zooming on images of lions to announce the arrival of the baddie is a trick used a great deal in the 70s, that Lakhia readily borrows even in. He tweaks the narrative just a little bit, and textures some of the action sequences with aplomb, but leaves much of the revenge-saga untouched.
Angry young cop Vijay Khanna is unable to contain his anger at the deteriorating system, and flexes his muscle to bring about a change. It doesn’t hold him in good stead, and gets him 17 transfers in 5 years. But, undeterred by his botched career, Vijay races ahead and goes about doing things his way. His lonely life is only rarely shaken by a recurring nightmare that flashes images of his parent’s murderers.
A recent move to Mumbai finds him locking horns with the don of the oil mafia, and in turn, wins him a pretty witness who is key to his gruesome activities. Telegu star-kid Ram Charan bursts on the screen as the macho cop, flaunting his ribbed abs and muscles with immense flamboyance. The staple aviators, gruff voice and broody expressions complete the look. Bu, it remains constant, never allowing us to experience Ram’s versatility.
That aside, his Hindi diction, chiseled body and action drills are top-notch, but just not enough to match Bachchan’s iconic screen image. Expecting a debutant to fit into Bachchan’s shoes is way too ambitious, and any slip-up is easily forgiven. Ram flashes a smile, only rarely, during his hasty romance with the dainty Priyanka Chopra, who takes on Jaya Bachchan’s Mala armed with nothing more than a toned body and luscious eyelashes. For an actress of her caliber, you’d expect her to do a lot more than just shake a leg and look glam.
Priyanka, however, doesn’t spring any surprises. Prakash Raj and Mahie Gill play out the Teja-Mona-darling chit-chat impressively, but even they can’t save the movie from turning into a slog. Apart from the retro costumes, that indicate where his character evolved from, to his menacing laugh, Raj nails Teja’s madness, but he has embarked on similar journeys before to merit any applause.
If there’s anyone worthy of mention it is Sanjay Dutt, who effectively takes on Pran’s khol-smeared Sher Khan with gusto. Even Atul Kulkarni is robust as an earnest journalist, but limited screen time doesn’t allow him much scope to flaunt his talent.
While it’d be unfair to bracket ‘Zanjeer’ along with director Ram Gopal Verma’s infamous take on the iconic ‘Sholay’ or Karan Malhotra’s bearable, yet mediocre adaptation of ‘Agneepath’, Lakhia’s fractured and glossy attempt just doesn’t make the cut.