Sunday, December 20, 2009

Zanjeer: Chain of Fools

Because Myrna_Nora just watched this and reminded me how awesome PRAN was in it... a repost for late Sunday afternoon...

The more I watch Amitabh Bachchan's Angry Young Man avatar, the less I like him. That doesn't mean, however, that I didn't like Zanjeer. No, I enjoyed the film quite a bit, but that was mostly for the wonderful secondary characters than Amitabh Bachchan's performance. Zanjeer is a story in two parts. In the first, we meet Vijay as a young child whose parents are brutally murdered in front of him by a man wearing a zanjeer on his wrist. Vijay is adopted by a policeman and grows up to become Amitabh Bachchan. Vijay has no memory of his parents' murder but is obsessed with law and order and has nightmares about a white horse - the exact charm on the zanjeer!!!


Through no actions of his own, Vijay is adopted by Mala (a spunky knife-sharpening woman played by Jaya) and Sher Khan (a red-bearded Pathan played with great panache by Pran). Mala and Sher Khan become Vijay's own zanjeer - tieing him to life. He'll need it, too, because at the end of the first act, Vijay is sent to prison on false charges!!!


See, the thing is that Vijay had been receiving secret messages from Om Prakash (although Vijay doesn't know that they're from Om Prakash) tipping him off to SECRET LIQUOR SHIPMENTS!! Vijay will not stand for law-breaking and immediately shuts down every SECRET LIQUOR STASH he finds. This doesn't sit well with one Mr. Teja (played by that classic filmi heavy: Ajit). Teja gets Vijay sent to prison AND makes him lose his job as a police man. What is Vijay to do?

These actions set up the second half, which is concerned with Vijay's revenge. However, before Vijay can dishoom-dishoom some thugs, he has to make sure his zanjeer - Mala and Sher Khan - are okay with it. This is where I found Zanjeer very different from other Bachchan AYM stories. Zanjeer's Vijay is angry, yes, but he's not self-destructive. He's not on a suicide mission - he's taking revenge so that he can live peacefully.



Mala tries to talk him out of anger with a little domestication, but it doesn't work. He turns all passive-agressive about it.


Sher Khan tries to talk him out of anger with a song about friendship. That doesn't work either.

So, Mala and Sher Khan join together to help Vijay take on Teja and set his life to rights. And, much to my glee, Mala actually helps in the fight! She doesn't dishoom-dishoom, but instead uses her AWESOME KNIFE SKILLS to totally save everybody's butts!

The final shot of the film is Vijay and his posse driving off into the future. No self-sacrificing here, folks!

While Zanjeer is best known as the film that created Amitabh's Angry Young Man avatar, Amitabh was the least compelling thing about it. His anger seemed petty and childish. Instead of the hardened and world-weary Angry Young Man of Deewar or the cold and love-starved Angry Young Man of Trishul, this Vijay is a petulant teenager - and the other characters treat him as such.

Some points of note include:

* Mala and Vijay's relationship


We may as well call this subplot The Domestication of the Wild Mala. No woman could be that sassy and live to see the end of a film (See Caravan -- Aruna Irani for further information.) Under the knife-wielding exterior of any heroine lies a woman who just wants to pick out curtains.


When we first meet Mala, she sleeps on the floor because she doesn't know any better. After exposure to Vijay's Bhabi, she grows into a more feminine woman - although still one with knife skillz and far from a doormat.


So, when Vijay pulls passive-agressive nonsense as illustrated in the above screen-cap, Mala rightly calls him on his bullshit and tells him to sort out his issues before beginning a life with her. I was torn between hating that she had been caged in Vijay's house and loving that even as a Bollywood wife, she wasn't really a typical self-sacrificing Bollywood wife.


In fact, one of the most touching scenes in the entire film is when Mala offers her entire savings to get Vijay out of jail - an act I would have certainly found obnoxious in a more traditional heroine who was raised to give everything for her man. Mala is different, though. She has no family, no brothers to sacrifice for. In this context, the gender roles take a backseat to a family-less woman taking an interest in somebody other than herself. It's a very sweet scene.

* Bindu: The home-grown vamp!


She didn't really have much to do, but I thought I would point out that the party that she and Amitabh are attending seems to be taking place on the "Piya Tu Ab To Aja" set.

* Om Prakash made me cry


Although he had very little screentime, Om Prakash was the emotional center. I was really blown away by how much I cared about his character. I may have to open a branch of the Pran Club devoted to Om Prakash after this.

As a side note, I loved the Bolly-religion stuck in here. Bollywood misunderstandings of Christianity always interest me. In this case, I think they wanted to tie Vijay up with self-sacrificing Jesus Christ, but Jesus would not have busted up a villain's lair with Pran and some dishoom-dishoom. Okay, maybe Sarah Palin's Jesus would have done that. Still, I enjoyed Om Prakash's humble Christian father...

* The Zanjeer


Being the nerdy viewer that I am, I kept trying to tie the "White Horse" into some sort of drug metaphor. Nothing came to me. Unless Zanjeer was putting forth that vengence can be like a drug addiction, turning even the most forthright citizen into a revenge-junkie. Better to cut it off at the source...

Finally, I'll leave you all with this screencap of masala-excellence:

3 comments:

Rum said...

I don't know what to feel about this movie, its a classic because it introduces the angry young man in Amitabh, but his reasons are very confused for me! Couldn't he just ask the reliable Masala Pradesh appointed police-chief Iftikar to help out? No he took it in his own hands, which at some points I enjoyed!
LOL i'm as confused as him but I think i like the Angry young man, but not his reasoning! Totally loved Jaya in this, i was more struck that she got domesticated to be a voice of logical reason but AB doesn't listen to her so her role is a bit scrambled in the second half!
You definitely need to open a Om Prakash club!
BTW did u see the pictures of AKKi carrying the olympic torch in ...TORONTO! GRRRRR Vancouver is where he needs to be, to run to me and run with the torch in the place where the Olympics are DUHHH!

myrna-nora said...

Zanjeer!!! I think I'll watch Deewaar next --mostly because I want to see Shashi.

eliza bennet said...

The three things I liked about this film are (and in that order)

AB
Pran
The chemistry between AB and Jaya

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