Yeh police station hai, dimaag ka dahi bhi
Director: Apurva Lakhia
Actors: Ram Charan Teja, Priyanka Chopra
By Mayank Shekhar
You have to give it to the filmmakers. It takes balls of steel as strong as heavy zanjeers (shackles) are made of to take the mickey out of a killer, calm movie that most people rightly believe redefined the course of Bombay films in the 70th year of the 100 years so far. If this film was a popat comic strip, we could have appreciated it even more. Surely the intention couldn’t have been to ridicule the original, but this is an official remake of Prakash Mehra’s Zanjeer (1973). We know this because all the characters here have the same names. All possible parodies hence are put on parade for our personal pleasures for two hours plus. It’s only fair that we tick off, one by one.
Priyanka Chopra plays a yappy, imbecile kind of pretty young thing who’s in Mumbai from New York to attend her “Facebook friend’s” wedding. She gets to do an item number in the shaadi — one among over half a dozen thopoed (pasted) into the picture. Priyanka’s called Mala, which is the realistic, roadside, gritty character that Jaya Bachchan (then Bhaduri) had instantly delighted audiences with, much as the film she starred in.
The Mala here obviously needs help — some mental help to start with, but physical protection thereafter — because she has seen a murder take place, identified the killer. The mafia behind that crime is after her now. She finds safe haven in the Assistant Commissioner’s house, which makes for a unique witness protection programme. His kitchen space gives her enough room again to bring on another item song while she carries for him raw anda (egg) and kanda (onion) to his workplace that is the “Yellow Stone Police Station”— possibly named after the American national park, which is fair. I can see a serious wildlife sanctuary of sorts around.
Mala hasn’t been to India but she could be a tourist guide, since she has seen a lot of Indian movies, she says. She couldn’t have seen this movie while she said that, because it was only being made. But if she does only know India through the films, most of it from the ‘80s hopefully, she might be in a better position to tell us what’s going on here than most others.
The villain runs an oil mafia, whose job is to adulterate gasoline before it hits local pumps. This is a Rs 1,000 crore worth business. We find this fellow on the cover of both Time magazine and Forbes placed behind his study. He wears white, silken smoke jacket of the ‘70s, wines and dines in a long table with other minions, hosts parties in his ayaashi ka den, where his moll Mona darling (Mahie Gill) does the cabaret. This man is Teja, which was Ajit’s role in the original. Now people who’ve watched Ajit on screen will know that he was a pretty convincing actor. Prakash Raj plays up his part as if he was basically telling us an “Ajit joke”.
I would have loved to laugh, could hear giggles at unintended moments from the backseats, though a few people left at the interval in the press show. One should ideally see a film for its own sake, which in this case would be a mad action southern remake type — a current blockbuster trend that started with Aamir Khan’s Ghajini, followed by Salman’s Wanted, taken forward by God knows how many Akshay, Salman, Ajay Devgn flicks since. Nobody’s aiming for posterity here. Some second-rate entertainment will do.
It’s hard though when you’re constantly made aware that these loose, sometimes fully disjointed pieces of a zanjeer (series of events) – with several unexplained and missing scenes — is the reinterpretation of the 1973 classic, where you see the hero’s best friend Sher Khan (Sanjay Dutt in the brilliant Pran’s character) in a couple of sequences and a song, and wonder if he’s gone off to jail (in real life, that is). You watch the hero kicking the chair as he tells Sher Khan, “Yeh police station hai, tumhare baap ka ghar nahin,” shaking and pointing his finger, blabbering away this precious line, bumbling through an iconic moment.
Telugu actor Ram Charan Teja plays ACP Vijay Khanna in this bilingual, who will never be confused with Amitabh Bachchan in the same role. Zanjeer established Bachchan as the proverbial “angry young man”: studiedly silent, subtly suave. The fellow before us is a one-man army, only a bazooka is missing. He’s suspended from service over a custodial death. He drives a vehicle right through a slum and burns down a whole mini village. Nobody cares. Salim-Javed, the actual screenwriters, might. They had appropriately asked for a compensation of Rs 6 crore for murdering their script. Remakes have existed since the birth of films. There is nothing new about that.
We see a lot more remakes of ‘70s (Golmaal, Sholay etc) and ‘80s (Himmatwala type) movies now because many of the current filmmakers (directors, producers, financiers) grew up in those decades. The director of this film (Apurva Lakhia) says in an interview that Zanjeer was one of the films that made him become a filmmaker. His movies include Ek Ajnabee, Shootout At Lokhandwala, Mission Istanbul. Why blame Zanjeer.