Apoorva Lakhia’s redundant remake of Prakash Mehra’s Zanjeer seems to have been commissioned with the sole purpose of launching Telugu actor Ram Charan’s career in Hindi cinema. There’s little reason otherwise to retool the ordinary 1973 cop drama, which has been accorded the status of a classic only because it transformed Amitabh Bachchan from a struggling actor into a star.
Ram Charan, a hunk of epilated flesh with scant acting skills, steps into Bachchan’s boots as the police officer who is plagued by dreams of the murder of his parents at the hands of a man with a horse tattooed on his wrist. Ram Charan’s Vijay is not so much an angry young man as a grumpy young man who is forever in trouble with his bosses because he prefers to slap first and ask questions later. Vijay goes about smashing an oil mafia run by campy gangster Teja (Prakash Raj) with some help from Pathan don Sher Khan, played by an exhausted-looking Sanjay Dutt who struggles to move, let alone fit into Pran’s very large shoes. The Jaya Bachchan role is performed by Priyanka Chopra as an overgrown adolescent who witnesses an oil scam-related crime and moves into Vijay’s home and bedroom when Teja starts gunning for her.
Prakash Raj, who has been humiliated by a series of beefcake heroes in recent years, from Suriya in Tamil cinema to Salman Khan in Hindi, gamely tries to channel Ajit’s campy villain from the original movie. Mahie Gill, her mouth as open as her cleavage, vamps it up in the Bindu part, and there’s even a scene in which don and moll watch a scene from the original Zanjeer together, but there is never any danger of confusing 1973 for 2013. There is gender parity in a movie that introduces Chopra through an item song—Gill shows as much skin as Ram Charan, whose permanently open top shirt button must surely violate police service rules. The movie’s biggest embarrassment isn’t the square-jawed Ram Charan, or Dutt, who turns up in a series of fluorescent coloured salwar suits, or air-headed Chopra, or even Prakash Raj, who is less villain than comic relief and whose sartorial sense goes from colourful to lurid as Vijay starts to get the better of his character. It’s Gill, who is capable of better stuff but who seems bent on continuing the panting and simpering she displayed in the Saheb Biwi aur Gangster films.
At least Gill fares better than Atul Kulkarni, who reprises the investigative journalist role he played in Page 3. Kulkarni’s Jaydev is modelled on Mumbai journalist Jyotirmoy Dey, who was shot dead in 2011, and whose killing was linked to an investigation he was conducting into an oil mafia in Maharashtra. It’s almost touching that Lakhia and co-writer Suresh Nair want to draw attention to Dey’s shocking murder, but cynicism, rather than homage, is the order of the day in this yawn-inducing 137-minute movie, which assembles the usual dose of slow-motion fight sequences, songs and flat comic sequences between the first frame and the last.