I dont like your face.......
These are the words uttered by the eccentric Jaani of bollywood, Raaj Kumar, to Prakash Mehra, upon being asked to do the role of Vijay in Mehra's upcoming movie Zanjeer. I am a big fan of Raaj Kumar, but I guess he was a little too eccentric to turn down a role which offered so much scope for performance. Maybe its just as well, because this role in effect gave birth to and unleashed the wave, the craze called Amitabh Bachchan, undoubtedly one of the best if not the best actors of bollywood history. Interesting then, that he had taken this role which was rejected by so many established names. Anyhow lady luck smiled and Bachchan took his opportunity with both hands, and as the cliche goes, the rest, is history. Anyhow enough of the backstory, lets get on to the review.
'Zanjeer' or chain, in this context probably means the chains which have bound us to anger, guilt and grief, which are like a snake coiled around our being, never for a minute letting us go. These demons are what haunt Vijay, a young boy, who witnesses the murder of his parents by an unknown assailant. Vijay only remembers that the murderer had a bracelet on his wrist from which a horse hung suspended. Having grown up into a passionate youth, Vijay(Amitabh Bachchan) becomes a hotheaded police officer, who has scarcely any control over his emotions when it comes to treating criminals.
Another psychological effect of the murder, thereby a profound reference to the grip on his mind and soul, due to the grief that he has. When transferred to Bombay city, he now comes across Mala(Jaya Bhaduri), a knife sharpener and a witness to a murder, who upon his awakening of her conscience, identifies the hoods who had earlier paid her off to keep her mouth shut. Unfortunately, she is in danger from the said hoodlums and finds protection with Vijay. Sher Khan(Pran) is a ''dada''(street don) with a conscience who befriends Vijay, and reforms. As life continues Vijay traces the source of those hoodlums who turns out to be Teja (Ajit in one of his landmark performances). Upon tangling with him, Vijay is jailed upon charges of bribery, and locked up behind bars. Swearing vengeance when released, while crusading against Teja, he finds a clue which could lay to rest his demons, thus breaking the Zanjeer binding him. For what happens after this, and how he unravels the mess, is what forms the remainder of the story.
The story was quite well written and gave enough detail into the well etched characterizations to engross the viewer in the movie and be attentive to the goings on. This only enhanced the performances, and of course the production values and camerawork was more than adequate for that time.
A few noteworthy sequences:
Vijay lambasting Mala for not cooperating in the enquiries and showing her the dead bodies of the innocent students killed.
The first confrontation between Sher Khan and Vijay.
The beatdown of Vijay on the bridge.
Vijay:''Kya tumhaara naam Sher Khan hai?''
Sher Khan:''LAgta hai is ilaakay mein naye ho, warna Sher Khan Ko Kaun nahi jaanta, khair ab mulaqat hogayee''
Vijay(kicking Sher Khan's chair as he goes to sit):''Jab tak behtne ko na kaha jaaye chup chaap khade raho, yeh police station hai tumhaare baap ka ghr nahi.''
The entire dialog delivery and lines of Ajit.
Direction and Performances:
Prakash Mehra in his days was one of the premier filmmakers and one frequent collaborator of Amitabh. His work here is quite good, with the pacing quite slick and no unnecessary subplots or comedic sequences there. He also managed to integrate the songs into the movie quite seamlessly with none of them standing like sore thumbs. I liked the way he placed the romantic song while Vijay and Mala were drinking tea in the morning, not breaking the character of Vijay who was intense and would not seem to be the type who sings. But of course the best song in the enterprise in terms of picturisation and sheer enthusiasm, would be ''Yaari hai imaan mera''. Pran excelled in his performances here, Manna Day suited him to the T.
Moving on like any good director, Mehra was able to deliver good performances from his principal cast, which are as follows.
Amitabh Bachchan As Vijay: Probably one of his most intense roles and his first defining moment in cinema, Amitabh burst on to the screen with his controlled portrayal of a man constantly fighting his own demons, injecting it with the right amount of anger, vulnerability and frustration, not to mention sensitivity to others. Truly one of his landmark performances, but I personally thought he was much more dynamic and mindblowing in Deewaar, that could be due to characterisation.
Jaya Bhaduri As Mala: She didnt have a very pivotal role here but endeared herself suitably to the audience with her more than capable acting abilities, and did well with what she was given.
Ajit As Teja: Probably one of the most flamboyant and stylish villains of all time, this was the beginning of Ajit's new career as villain from a strong supporting actor and lead. The fact that his dialogs and mannerisms are aped today speaks volumes for this actor who performed with a class which could have become ridiculous in the hands of a less competent actor. A very menacing yet understated and stylish performance.
Pran As Sher Khan: I always thought Pran was a mindblowing actor in whichever characterisation presented to him. Although he was a highly efficient villain, I preferred him much more in these strong supporting turns which later became his staple. Indeed in a few sequences he stole the thunder from the lead himself, and made the song ''yaari hai'' his own.. An excellent performance by this underappreciated actor. I recommend watching Majboor to see Pran at his scene stealing best against Amitabh.
I couldnt really think of much wrong over here, except that Amitabh's violent outbursts against other criminals may have been overdone, yet I believe there are some crimes and situations which make us lose all sane thought so that might be justified in presentation.
Conclusively I believe that this movie is definitely worth watching, for its bravura performances, and of course for its good storyline which depicts how one sudden event can lead to a lifetime of anger and sadness. Most of all, for historical reasons this movie will be remembered as having heralded the arrival of the new phenomenon who rages on even today.
If you have incurred the wrath of a headache by reading this, kindly trouble yourself a little more and leave your comments and rating.
As always honesty in criticism or praise is always welcome
Till next time