I picked this film today out of my big stack of yet to see films almost with a sense of duty. You see, my movie watching was censored by my parents in the seventies and violent films like this never made the list. My own leanings also kept me away from this genre. ‘My’ Amitabh Bachchan was the Amitabh of Anand, Abhiman, Silsila, Chupke Chupke and Mili. Realising that I had quite missed the whole ‘Angry Young Man’ phase, I picked up a DVD with three of Amitabh’s action films. Today I come to the first of these, to a film which was a super-hit and propelled Amitabh to the top tier of Bollywood stardom.
A little boy watches his parents being murdered, traumatised and scarred for life. Vijay grows up to be police officer, an officer who doesn’t hesitate to go out of established procedures and boundaries to deal with criminals. In short, he has the personality of a vigilante in the garb of a policeman, not a man I could like at all. But I have to say that Amitabh does this ‘brooding, suppressed violence’ personality very well.
Sher Khan (Pran), who runs gambling dens, comes to Vijay’s attention and he takes him on. In a very unconvincing episode, Vijay challenges Sher Khan to a fist fight, after which Sher Khan magically reforms! He also gives his hand in friendship to Vijay. Pran as the Pathan is very well cast and does an impressive job as Sher Khan. Mala (Jaya Bhaduri) is a knife sharpener+ street performer who also comes in contact with Vijay. The gentrified Mala from the later part of the film is more suited to Jaya rather than the loud and rough-edged Mala at the start.
The Big Bad Man in his locality, Teja, who coincidentally happens to be the man who killed his parents, is the next one Vijay unknowingly takes on. In one of the episodes, Mala comes to risk and Vijay invites her to stay with his brother and sis-in-law for safety. They develop a rapport and an understanding. Again, I find this relationship unconvincing. How did they breach the divide of the classes so easily? How did a rough, uneducated woman become so easily gentrified? Its telling that the sis-in-law calls Mala’s clothes as ‘fancy dress’ when she first meets her. The chasm between the educated middle-class and the uneducated low-income workers is real; intimate relationships cannot be built that easily.
Teja manoeuvres Vijay into being convicted of taking bribery and he is jailed for six months. When he comes out of jail, he is an embittered man. Mala convinces him to give up revenge, which he tries but Teja still comes after him. With Mala’s permission Vijay returns to the fray and the ending is satisfyingly predictable.
The film is well-paced with good performances not only by the leads but also by the supporting cast. The script, with coincidences galore, stretches one’s credulity but no more than other Bollywood films of that era. I dislike revenge as a theme; I consider it to be one of the baser instincts of mankind, why celebrate it? I neither admired nor respected the protagonist, so I could not quite like the film. But I am in the minority evidently, this film enjoyed a huge success.
Coming to the music by Kalyanji-Anandji, I can only call it average+. The lyrics are by Gulshan Bawra; there is some decent poetry in places.
Chakku Chhuriyan – Asha Bhonsle. A pedestrian song. Asha’s high pitched vocals do not suit Jaya at all.
Dil Jalon Ka – Asha Bhonsle. This is a club number with Bindu shimmying and wriggling to this song. I like this better than the previous Asha solo, still it is not something I am going to pick out to listen.
Diwane Hain Diwanon Ko – Mohammad Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar. A nice song with good harmonium interludes.
Bana Ke Kyon Bigade Re – Lata Mangeshkar. Well written lyrics and a beautiful melody, sung well by Lata.
Yari Hai Iman Mera – Manna Dey. Undoubtedly the most celebrated song from this film, it is the ultimate ‘bromance’ song. Memorable words. Listen to this :
जान भी जाए अगर, यारी में यारों ग़म नहीं
अपने होते यार हो ग़मगीन, मतलब हम नहीं
हम जहाँ हैं उस जगह, झूमेगी नाचेगी ख़ुशी
Such a positive spirit !! And then there is this :
तेरा ममनून हूँ, तूने निभाया याराना
तेरी हँसी है आज सबसे बड़ा नज़राना
यार के हँसते ही, महफ़िल पे जवानी आ गई, आ गई
What a lovely sentiment!
The music director has delivered the spirit of the words. It is an excellent composition with a lovely melody and interesting changes in tempo. Add to it Manna’s impeccable singing, Pran’s naturalness, Amitabh’s brooding intensity ..and you have a truly memorable song.
My choice for today must be evident by now, enjoy!!
7 responses to “Listening to : Zanjeer (1973)”
Great review as always, Suja. I wish you had mentioned that this film in many ways marked Ajit’s debut as a suave villain … some truly amusing Ajit jokes would eventually follow. Incidentally the song lyrics were by Gulshan Bawra (who paired more often with RDB later) and Gulshan himself plays a bit role as the singer of deewaane hai deewano ko.
You are right, I should have…I remember thinking how well he was doing his role, skipped my mind when I was writing the review. Now what are these Ajit jokes? I’m all agog!
Oh, you did mention that GB wrote the lyrics!
When i saw the movie at that time(in my late twenties) i was bold over by Amitab intense acting. I become a die hard fan of him. Not only that it showd the way for My own Rajani how to act as an angery young man. He imitated in many fims his style of anger. Pran is always my fav actor. I regard it as a cult movie.
I dont see much Tamil films, so you think Rajani picked up some of Amitabh’s charecteristics? Interesting! Zanjeer set the path for a new type of film and as such, it is indeed noteworthy. I agree with you about Pran, I admire him greatly, escpecially in his later films when he was used as more than just the villain.
Movie – No; Songs yes. Your choice was the only real good song in the movie.
Now when does Deewar and Sholay come …….
Maybe you should also picture the nice new shiny laptop you now have 🙂
‘ Movie-No, Songs-Yes’ – You cleverly summed up my review in 4 words, so why did I bother writing so many? hehehehe 🙂 Sholay was already done a long time back – Deewar, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar etc will see get a chance on day, but I can take these films only in small doses at a time, so it wont be very soon!
My shiny, new laptop has been ordered and now I have a horrid wait of nearly one month before I can get it! Thats the problem with wanting the latest stuff..so its from the desktop for the moment. Here’s my choice for my new laptop : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0OLEgCbmVc