REVIEW: ‘Zanjeer’ Cuts Like A Knife

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Writers of the original 1970s film, Salim-Javed, recently received a monetary settlement for the reworking of their script that resulted in the 2013 version. They also have a story credit in the Bond-styled opening titles. But after watching version 2.0, they might well want to ask to have their names removed from the film.

Vijay Khanna (Ram Charan Teja) is a policeman with a short fuse (first seen beating up some demonstrators against the backdrop of a giant poster of his real life father, Chiranjeevi). In five years he has been transferred more than a dozen times. Now in Mumbai, he takes on the might of the oil mafia after Mala (Priyanka Chopra) witnesses a murder by one of the Mafioso. To the background music of Raghupati Raghav (a season favourite in Bollywood at the moment), he beats up criminals and even befriends them after a thrashing, as in the case of Sher Khan (Sanjay Dutt). Sher Khan reforms after a fight with Vijay (no idea why) and they become allies. Dutt is puffy and disinterested and his last scene so obviously played by a body double and dubbing artist.

Also assisting Vijay are two other local cops who are portrayed as buffoons in an effort at some comic relief. An NRI whose life is under threat, Mala hides out in Vijay’s house and immediately becomes the desi nari in a sari playing Mrs Khanna. God knows when and how love happened!

Somewhere in Mumbai is an upright journalist who declares ‘We print stories, we don’t cook them’. He bobs up and down during Ganpati processions, waxes eloquent on the flavouring of some shrimps and stares lecherously at the front page of his newspaper. His pursuit of the oil mafia leads to his shooting as he rides home on his motorbike. It’s seems to be no coincidence that Atul Kulkarni’s Jaydev is inspired by assassinated journalist J Dey.

Ram Charan Teja, with his waxed chest, glow in the dark, and perfect white teeth is not a worthy ACP Vijay Khanna. Not a muscle twitches in his bronzed face making the only moving part of his face – his lips – look computer generated! At some point, as he stonily stares off the screen with the top three buttons of his shirt distractingly open. You wonder if he is happy, sad, angry, crying or all of the above. And during scenes where he plays house-house with witness-to-murder Mala (Priyanka Chopra), and baddie Teja’s (Prakash Raj, over the top) sleazy (cheap) repartee with Mona (Mahie Gill, disastrous), you wonder if Apoorva Lakhia’s Zanjeer is actually meant to be a spoof.

The remake retains some classic dialogues like ‘Yeh police station hai, tumhara ghar nahin’ and ‘Kanoon ke haath lambe hote hain…’ etc. but these are offset by cringe-worthy lines such as ‘Bharat mein sher aur dost ki kami hai. Ek doctor kum ho gaya toh farak nahin padta’ and ‘Aakhri hansee uski nahin honi chahiye’ which is clearly a direct translation of ‘he should not have the last laugh’!

The film starts off with a sharp style, diving straight into characters and narrative. Once Mala, with her caffeine-overdose verbosity, enters, the film begins to fracture. Thereafter the only scenes that keep you riveted are the action scenes in particular the car barreling through a slum. This is an anomaly in an otherwise poorly crafted, shoddily adapted film that is high on testosterone and low on logic and intellect.
Rating: *1/2