Directed by: Salim-Javed
Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bhaduri, Pran, Om Prakash
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing
The only good thing about all the sequels and remakes that are slowly becoming more common than new, original films in Bollywood today, is, that I have an excuse to actually find some time in my schedule and watch the prequels/originals and thus also increase level of Bollywood in my life that I need to survive. Zanjeer has been on my radar for quite a while anyway.
The iconic story is actually very simple. Once upon a time a man decides to leave the underworld for teh sake of his wife, son and good conscience. However the former boss doesn´t trust him not to tell anything to the police, and so, during a loud Diwali night, he himself comes into his former employee´s house and shoot him and his wife dead, unaware the child he just made an orphan is hiding in a closet. The child sees everything, and especially is fixated on an elegant bracelet of the killer – with a pendant in the shape of a horse. The kid is later adopted by a policeman, and grows up to be tall and dashing Amitabh Bachchan (sporting a name Vijay in the film), forever haunted by a nightmare of an evil horse rider.
Vijay becomes a policeman – honest yet impulsive and, well, angry 90% of the time. He becomes best friends with Sher Khan (Pran in an AWESOME red-haired get up and sporting ONE outfit the whole film), former criminal reformed by being beaten up by him, and he also takes in a street performer Mala (Jaya), who has made the mistake of identifying a member of crime gang. You guessed it – they fall in love, but without the usual frolicking on the meadows or even saying it. Zanjeer is not a romantic film after all. Picking up loose ends of various strings Vijay ultimately uncovers the man behind all the evil doings we witness in the film as well as getting revenge for his parents.
After an era dominated mostly by Rajesh Khanna and his romancing, Zanjeer started the fashion of action flicks as well as imprinted the „angry young man“ image to Amitabh Bachchan, who then made it his trademark. And indeed Amitabh Bachchan is the life and soul of Zanjeer, with his intense stares, dominating body language and the impeccable dialogue delivery. Both his anger and helplessness are best represented ina scene when he is mocking Mala´s plans of settling their own home, to which he had previously agreed, giving a promise to pretty much stay blind to the injustice in the world around for the sake of her happiness.
Young Jaya Bachchan doesn´t irk me at all, much unlike the Jaya Bachchan from the 80s forward, yet I still cannot count myself among the admirers of her acting. She seems bland, uninteresting. Even Bindu, in her small and plain role of the villain´s girlfriend, is more fun to watch. Pran, on the other hand, is excellent, a quality you associate with him. The film made me wonder if Om Prakash has ever done a role where he isn´t/doesn´t look like a drunkard.
Zanjeer is a movie that one has to talk about with a certain amount of respect simply because it was a trend-changer and trend-setter. That aside it had been surpassed in all the departments since its release. It´s like with the Beatles. There has been loads of better music than theirs. But they were pretty much the first, having new ideas and rebuilding the way music industry functioned, and for that they can only be respected and loved. Zanjeer as a film left me rather bored, I found it difficult to concentrate on the storyline. I kept having a feeling this is one of those films that had to be watched at the time of their release, but will no longer charm the audience today. Is Zanjeer iconic? Yes. Is it timeless? No.