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Zanjeer review: Priyanka, Ram Charan murder Amitabh-Jaya's classic

I generally try to avoid feeling depressed while writing about a movie, especially when it's a brainless and un-classy one that stars not only the thoroughly-unthreatening Prakash Raj as a villain but also has him seducing Mahie Gill by scratching his chest and murmuring "Meeowww Meeeoowww".

Why classic films like Zanjeer get remade into such trash is an inexplicable phenomenon, much like alchemy – except in this case gold becomes trash instead of the other way round. To those who counter Zanjeer's lack of intelligence with the ready advice of, "Hey it’s a masala movie so turn off your brain and enjoy", I don’t have a switch to just turn my brain off. If I did, maybe I’d be make a film like Zanjeer instead of writing about it.

Zanjeer is not just a bad film, it is proof of a filmmaker who is barely even trying. To say this remake defecates upon the legacy of the original film would be giving it too much credit.

A still from a song on Zanjeer. IBN Live.

A still from a song on Zanjeer. IBN Live.

The film doesn’t waste any time in establishing its terribleness – while the 1973 original opened with a gritty scene at a police station, Lakhia’s remake opens with a wannabe James Bond number with females clad in S&M costumes, lasciviously touching chains (to modernise the Zanjeer innuendo) and writhing in orgasmic pleasure. In the original Amitabh Bachchan makes a low key entry as he wakes up from a nightmare (he probably dreamed about Priyanka Chopra in the remake, but more on that later). In this film, our hero Ram Charan makes an entry with a large establishing shot of his dad Chiranjeevi and beats up gundas as 'Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram' blares in the background. People look on, nodding their heads to the rhythm and applauding. Yeah, real subtle.

Lakhia isn’t interested respecting Prakash Mehra; he is just hell bent on assaulting the audience with an endless array of cheap jokes, gratuitous violence, generic item songs, unpleasant characters in garish costumes and a deluge of bad acting. In one scene, Prakash Raj licks his lips and says "Chicken and chicks are the two meows of life". In another, a little boy at a hospital asks a policeman, "Uncle mere daddy kahan gaye?", despite his daddy lying next to him, burnt to char. This film is not merely cacophonous; it is spiteful, as if Lakhia wants to lace the cartoonish 'Simbly South' style of Rohit Shetty with the smutty Mumbaiyya masala of Sanjay Gupta. As a result, the tone of Zanjeer wavers from dreadfully unimaginative to smugly lazy.

When the director makes no effort to make an interesting movie, one relies on the actors to compensate. Sadly the talent on that front is equally abysmal. Ram Charan, a superstar in the South, achieves the impossible feat of being even more wooden than John Abraham. The guy’s facial muscles are so tightly attached, his eyelids would close if he scratched his cheek.

If you thought Priyanka Chopra couldn’t do anything more embarrassing than Exotic, you’re in for a real surprise. She plays a rich NRI who flies to India to attend a Facebook friend’s wedding, does an item number at said wedding and becomes the surrogate wife of a police officer she meets a day later. She does bubbly, she does Pinky, she does slapstick, she does quirky and she does cute, all at once. Maybe her character is a parable of the human condition, or an allegory of psychic intervention, or social commentary regarding the existence of bipolar serial killers breeding in our midst. I have no idea.

What is most annoying about Zanjeer is that it's an extremely bad movie that simply uses the rights it owns and absolutely desecrates the sanctity of the original. Lakhia goes so far as to use the late journalist J Dey as a character and caricaturises him. Because that’s what a crime journalist who chronicled the underworld and eventually paid for with his life deserves – a mockery of his life's work, Bollywood-style.