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Zanjeer review: All things crass & junk

Movie:
Zanjeer
Director:
Apoorva Lakhia
Cast:
Ram Charan, Priyanka Chopra, Sanjay Dutt, Prakash Raj, Mahie Gill, Atul Kulkarni
Avg user rating:

The item number comes in uninvited as we are served the dancer’s anatomy part-by-part. The mind races back to the original – the voice of the film, the easy chemistry between the lead pair, unforgettable characters, and an effortless subtlety.

For the uninitiated, this film is a remake of one of the most iconic films of the 70s— Zanjeer, written by Salim-Javed and starring the cream of the industry led by Amitabh Bachchan.

I revisited Zanjeer original only yesterday, and I suggest you don’t try watching the original and remake too close to each other as that will lead to a staggering disappointment, not easy to wipe off.

As if remakes were not bad enough— we do expect more from the current gen of filmmakers— there has to be an underlying effort to attempt to be as good as the original, if not better. Here, no one’s even trying. In a hurry to follow the remake formula and a blatant eagerness to enter the 100-crore club, the film is an assembly-line soul-less remake of an iconic film.

The original plot of honest cop Vijay defeating spurious medicine and liquor baron Teja is converted to a plot about the oil mafia.

Zanjeer was such a good watch because the film was replete with interesting characters, other than the hero. Jaya Badhuri’s street-smart Mala was as likeable a character as the central one of the honest cop.

And Ajit as Teja was often the scene-stealer. Without raising his voice, reducing the character to a bumbling caricature, or resorting to exaggerated theatrics, the character continued to be enigmatic and menacing. And what to say of Pran’s Sher Khan, the adorable gangster turned friend, who’s got Vijay’s back in his quest to destroy Teja.

The problem with the new Zanjeer is that no one seems to be playing a character. So Bollywood’s latest go-to villain Prakash Raj is more Prakash Raj than Teja. His quasi-comical rendering, wearing a garish blue silk shirt with a pink scarf, is exactly what you’ve seen in several films of late. One suspects that the fault lies with the filmmakers who coerce actors into repeating themselves when one of their performances strikes a chord.

Again, Sanjay Dutt plays Sanjay Dutt in the film, not Sher Khan. And no one seems to mind if Dutt’s angel tattoo pops out from under Sher Khan’s pathani kurta!

Priyanka Chopra, (the director has managed to extract spectacularly atrocious performances from otherwise good actors) is seen in her career-worst role. As an air-headed NRI who falls for Vijay before he can say ‘wassup’ (he finally tells her ‘please stop behaving like my wife!’), Priyanka is insufferable.

Think of a bratty child, if you please. And put that annoying kid in Priyanka’s constantly shrinking body (she’s a twig compared to her Fashion days). Constantly talking over the phone to her “pappa”, she says gems like, ‘Since morning eating apples, I am going bananas.’ She had come to attend a Facebook friend’s wedding in India, saw a murder, stayed back as witness, and fell for ACP Vijay. Now she spends time stalking him, sobbing, making him dinners, and playing with his gun as if it were a toy.

The Vijay of this film is not a patch on the original. There’s a difference between being the restless ‘Angry Young Man’ and a fight-happy ACP who could do with anger-management classes. As for Ram Charan, you wish his striking eyes held more expressions than the consistent vacant one. Having proved his mettle in several films in the South, one wonders what went wrong here.

Director Apoorva Lakhia (Shootout At Lokhandwala) references the original film several times. He makes the knife reference as Priyanka mistakes Vijay’s identity when they first meet (don’t ask). And you have Prakash Raj and Mahie Gill (Mona, fabulously wicked) watch a clip of the original.

Gaurang Soni’s background score is as unsubtle as the film. For perplexing reasons, it plays ‘Raghupati Raghav’ each time Vijay gets into a fight, which is (very) often. Sher Khan’s entry is marked with Arabic music (because, you know, he is a pathan). At other times, it is overenthusiastic, and often more lively than the scene it’s attempting to enhance. And it plays non-stop.

And do we have crass dialogue for you. Note the one where at dinner (the film tries to portray the lavishness of the dinner table by showing us close-ups of every greasy dish), Teja says, ‘chicken aur chicks—no one can say who satisfies more.’ And this is the same character that tells Mona, ‘apna muh ek hi cheez ke liya khola karo please.’ How you yearn for the effortless sophistication of Ajit’s Teja.

Otherwise, the dialogue has vapid stuff like Vijay saying ‘just shut up’ several times. And also telling Priyanka, ‘I thought being a woman, you would have a heart’, which is baffling on so many levels.

This is an uninspired piece of filmmaking, where the makers aren’t even trying. It’s a ready book of formula, where you pick an iconic film, crucify it by 'crassifying' it, and sell the junk to the masses. And unless the audience demands something better, they’ll be fed the same junk. The film is clearly hoping to bank on the stars, glitzy action, some item songs, and a general dumbing down of the original. It might still be entertaining to a section of the audience. Let your sensibility decide.

Rating: One and a half stars

 

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