Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and a good story is a good story. While Indian cinema reflects multiple styles, cultures, and languages, the rapid changes in film styles and stories over the years have opened the door for successful films from the past to be remade to suite modern sensibilities.
Here is a look at an original and the remake.
English Translation: "Shackles" or "Chains"
Release Date: 11 May 1973
Director: Prakash Mehra
Written by: Salim-Javed
Music by: Kalyanji-Anandji
Description: "The Chain. It is unbreakable and very old - 20 years old - and each day, each night and every minute of Vijay's life become its links. These links encircle his brain like the grip of a snake." Young Vijay is traumatized when he witnesses the murder of his parents. Adopted by a policeman, Vijay grows up (as Amitabh Bachchan) to become a police inspector. He is honest but his tactics cause him to be transferred from station to station on a regular basis. In a new district, he befriends the notorious Sher Khan (Pran) and protects Mala (Jaya Bhaduri), a witness to a murder. When his dedication to duty interferes with the plans of crime boss Teja (Ajit Khan), Vijay is framed and sent to jail. When Vijay is freed, he seeks to take down Teja and his criminal empire built on selling counterfeit medicine and toxic liquor.
Why I Love This Film: This film is a bit dated in cinematography, sound and action, but the performances of Amitabh Bachchan, Pran, and Jaya Bhaduri (now Jaya Bachchan) are what make this story work more than four decades later. The film was made at a time in India's history when there was a lot of frustration with the system due to corruption and low economic growth. Amitabh became the "Angry Young Man" for a generation - a hero with moral values who would fight against the system and win. Forty years later, the film offers a cathartic release for today's common man - the 99% - who feels the frustration of just trying to make ends meet in a world run by those with power and money. In a 2011 BollyHungama interview, Amitabh Bachchan talked about playing this character type:
"There's always this feeling toward the underdog and a person of lesser means and how he fights agains the system or society and comes up and achieves something. So, there's a great identification. It also gives a lot of hope to the man on the street."
Release Date: 6 September 2013
Written and Directed by: Apoorva Lakhia
Description: This Zanjeer updates elements of the 40-year-old original story for current times. It is not so much a remake as a re-envisioning. Instead of focusing on a criminal underground pushing tainted alcohol and fake medicine, this version's premise is ripped from current headlines and focuses on the Mumbai oil mafia. This real-world news is brought further into focus by introducing the character Jay Dev (Atul Kulkarni), a reporter with the Times of India, who explains "we print stories, we don't cook them."
Why I Love This Film: In his Bollywood debut, Teluga film superstar Ram Charan successfully takes on the mantle of "angry young man" for a new generation. Priyanka Chopra's bubbly Mala is refreshing and helps to break through Vijay's brooding disposition to make him more likeable. Prakash Raj's Teja is a powerful (and entertaining) opponent to the flawed but driven Vijay. As Sher Khan, Sanjay Dutt looks great and performs well as both foe and friend. The closing of the film also leaves open the opportunity for a sequel.
The opening credits of this film feature a very bond-esque performance in song and style - the film does contain a few scenes where Ram Charan's performance takes on a James Bond quality. The action sequences are high-powered and well executed. One memorable scene shows Vijay driving an SUV down the hillside through a village, setting off explosions as illegal oil containers are tossed and splash into cooking fires.
Though viewers familiar with Ram Charan's work may desire to see more of his mad skills in choreographed performance, his action sequences more than make up for the deficit in dance. At the same time, the closing credits features our hero performing the musical number "Mumbai Ke Hero" which goes a long way toward satisfying our appetite for the Charan dance style. This song also cleverly incorporates several dialogues of Amitabh Bachchan from the original film.
There are other direct references to the original version - including when Teja watches the 1973 version on television and compares himself to the character on the screen - which makes the film even more entertaining.
The following playlist features trailers for the Zanjeer films.
Footnote: Zanjeer Saved Lives in Mumbai
Mumbai's most famous dog was a Labrador Retriever named Zanjeer who served as a bomb sniffing detection dog with the Mumbai Police. He had impeccable service, especially during the serial bomb blasts in March 1993 which left 257 dead and 713 injured. Zanjeer saved thousands of lives by detecting more than 3,329 kilograms of RDX, 600 detonators, 249 hand grenades and 6406 rounds of live ammunition. When he died of bone cancer on 17 November 2000, he was honoured with a full state funeral which was attended by senior police officials.
If you liked this, check out our other Bollywood Remakes posts.