Look back and forward in anger…
Thirty-nine years after it turned Amitabh Bachchan into Bollywood’s angry young man, Zanjeer is getting ready to make a comeback, with Apoorva ‘Shootout’ Lakhia directing a remake for Prakash Mehra’s son Amit and Ram Charan Teja stepping into B’s Big shoes.bollywood Updated: Apr 29, 2012 13:46 IST
Thirty-nine years after it turned Amitabh Bachchan into Bollywood’s angry young man, Zanjeer is getting ready to make a comeback, with Apoorva ‘Shootout’ Lakhia directing a remake for Prakash Mehra’s son Amit and Ram Charan Teja stepping into B’s Big shoes. Arjun Rampal will do a Sher Khan, a la Pran, and Prakash Raj has been roped in to bring Ajeet’s ‘Lion’ back to reel life, with Mahie Gill as his ‘Mona Darrrling’. Now if only he can get his knife into Priyanka Chopra, Apu can look back… or maybe forward…in anger.
Zanjeer was Bachchan’s 13th release, and it broke the jinx of 12 consecutive debacles. It premiered in Kolkata on May 20, 1973. A huge crowd had gathered outside the theatre waiting for the ‘star’ to arrive. The tall, dark and brooding Vijay stepped out with Mehra…There was barely any flutter. It was Pran they wanted and when they realised that he wasn’t coming, the angry fans hollered, “Where is our hero?”
Quietly, Bachchan entered and exited the theatre. But in the two hours in between, something had changed. Years later, Pran put what that was into words, when he told me without a trace of envy, “Never again did anyone ask, ‘Where’s our hero?’ when Amitabh was around.”
The City of Joy welcomed Zanjeer but elsewhere in the country, the reception was muted. And convinced he had delivered another dud, Bachchan took to bed with fever. On the fourth day, Mehra, driving by a suburban theatre screening his film was surprised to see serpentine queues outside the advance booking window and blackmarketers doing brisk business. He rushed with the good news to his hero. With his temperature soaring to 104 degrees, Bachchan thought it was a delusion. It wasn’t, Vijay and Mala really scored big with this film!
Interestingly, neither Bachchan nor his demure lady love, Jaya Bhaduri, were the first choices for the film. Zanjeer had been announced with Dharmendra and Mumtaz in the lead. The former in fact was to co-produce the film with Mehra but by an unlucky coincidence, his brother launched his film at the same time that Zanjeer was to roll. Since the star had no dates to spare, Mehra had no choice but to take his film to Dev Anand.
Dharamendra was upset, Dev Anand was unimpressed with the offer. Reportedly, the evergreen star agreed to do the film only if he was allowed to wear his trademark snazzy scarves, sing three-four songs and make Zanjeer under the Navketan banner. But when I quizzed him on this, Dev saab insisted that he had only turned down the film because he didn’t “know” Mehra.
Gossip has it that Raaj Kumar who was approached next rejected Zanjeer because he didn’t like Mehra’s face. But apparently the real story is that he was busy with another Mumtaz starrer down South. And the only way he could accommodate Zanjeer was if Mehra shot his film on an adjoining floor in the same studio where the other film was being shot. Since Prakashji couldn’t imagine transporting Mumbai to Chennai, it was goodbye to Jaani.
It was Pran who then recommended an actor-friend of his son. And after seeing him in the just-released Bombay To Goa, Mehra was keen to give Bachchan a narration. The actor who was a no-no after a dozen debacles, immediately hopped on board, no conditions attached. But his entry resulted in Mumtaz’s exit.
Mehra’s financiers were threatening to back out too when Jaya Bhaduri bailed him out by agreeing to partner Bachchan on screen. The reason was emotional: She was dating him! Two weeks after Zanjeer released, on June 3, Vijay and Mala tied the knot for real.
Mehra had once discussed a sequel to Zanjeer with me… He had hoped to bring Mr and Mrs Bachchan back on screen as grown old Vijay and Mala, along with their actor-son Abhishek. Zanjeer 2 remained a dream but Zanjeer could return 40 years later with Chiranjeevi’s son!