Apoorva Lakhia's ticket to fame has to be his ensemble Shootout at Lokhandwala, his only relatively strong film till date. Of his repertoire, he also has an entertaining-yet-unoriginal Ek Ajnabee and a tragic excuse of a film in the form of Mission Istanbul. And now, as he makes his step with his re-interpretation of the iconic 70s film Zanjeer, the World knows it's an inevitably dangerous gamble. Ram Gopal Verma's public dissection with his highly denigrating adaptation of Sholay in the form of Ram Gopal Verma Ki Aag is a famous example. Lakhia's doubtful filmmaking credibility is coupled with an unimpressive promotional lineup doesn't give the potential viewer too much to drag him to the screen. The content of Prakash Mehra's original source material, however, holds enough curiosity level to bring a couple of people to check it out. Once in, however, the viewer will soon begin to realize its a trap. Worse, they will wonder if they're really watching a remake of the Bachchan original, or a stop-gap Tamil/Telugu movie.
Not too much need be known for hardcore Hindi film buffs. For those who don't, we've got an overly upright police officer fighting his demons and the system side by side. His 17th transfer takes him to Mumbai where he locks horns with a hotshot criminal who has an undeniable fascination for the linguistic tendencies of the feline living. Throw in some fights, some item songs, some cheesy dialogues and female props, and the movie is complete.
Now allow this writer to give credit where it's due. The original Zanjeer had powerful execution and a particularly impressive treatment to what was then a pretty novel concept. This is mainly because writers Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar were quite well-versed with the intricacies of film grammar. Viewers were provided an enlightening prologue, and three solid acts of build-up, conflict, and problem solving respectively. Powerful characterizing allowed Amitabh Bachchan to break his then bad spell to emerge the "Angry Young Man" of Hindi cinema, a tag he is still given sometimes. Ajit’s Teja, till date, accounts for one of Hindi cinema’s notable antagonists, while Sher Khan is undoubtedly Pran’s most iconic role after Don’s Jasjit. This, honestly, is where things end.
For reasons abound, Lakhia has skillfully managed to suck out every remaining droplet of credibility it’s content has to provide any shred of even the most average entertainment one could find. Ram Charan Teja handles a now one-dimensional character with whatever he can get. The truth, however, remains: the character is very poorly re-written. It’s quite a shame that after an applause-worthy performance in Barfi!, one gets to something quite atrocious from Priyanka Chopra. She seems to be in pre-Fashion and Dostana mode here; truckloads of giggling artifice and the likes. Lakhia’s version of the Prakash Raj helmed Teja’s regular catchphrase goes, “Meow, meow!” The audience is bound to throw up in disgust. Mahie Gill’s Mona Darling, is, till date, her most appalling role. Quite a turn-off, to be honest, considering her repertoire of acclaimed performances. Sanjay Dutt joins Ram Charan in the let’s-have-one-expression-throughout-the-whole-film gang, misfiring Sher Khan quite badly in the process. Watch out for the last scene before the credits roll. The sudden change of dubbing artist does a poor Munnabhai for those two minutes, giving the audience more entertainment than the whole film could.
Technical aspects aren’t so much to be spoken about. Cinematography and editing-wise, the whole film is made to look like it is your average South actioner. The action choreography is unimpressive. What further adds to the pain of watching an action set-piece is the ear-splitting background score. Quite a few sequences reminded me of the action of A Good Day to Die Hard. A particular shootout-combat sequence is conveniently taken off the 2000 action-comedy Gun Shy. Not surprising, considering the countless action references Lakhia ripped off for Mission Istanbul. The music is a royal pain, with every track appearing into the film like it’s their duty to speed-break through and through.
What should, however, be spoken about is Prakash Mehra Productions’ audacity to rip their own film apart into shreds of nothingness, in search of a good business deal. What they have no idea about is how careful one should be in the process of reinterpreting a classic. Shining examples of the same are Don and Agneepath - both Amitabh Bachchan films - remade by competent writers and directors to further explore the cinematic atmosphere of the story. This film, however, stands right beside the viewers’ other favorite punching bag in the world of remakes - Ram Gopal Verma ki Aag. Fortunately for Verma, if he watched this film, he wouldn’t now feel so bad about remaking Sholay himself.
Lakhia should have done something way different with the content he was provided at hand, if only to get out of the “shackles” of his resultant image with his last film. What Zanjeer, unfortunately, successfully does, is to insult the memory of a classic that reinvented the failing image of an actor who went on to become the superstar he is known by today.
PS: The writer of this article hears this version of Zanjeer has been dubbed in Chinese, and sincerely prays for the lives of the people entering the cinema expecting a good film.