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One cop, many inspirations

Nihalani's Dev is perhaps the only film from the current lot about the police force that evolves a fictional storyline.

india Updated: Jul 22, 2003 19:53 IST

The supercharged drama of a crime buster's career has been regular narrative fodder for popular Hindi cinema ever since Prakash Mehra's vengeance drama Zanjeer heralded the arrival of the angry cop on the silver screen in the early 1970s. But never before has a single cop inspired as many films on his well publicized professional exploits as Mumbai Police sub-inspector Daya Nayak.

Probably none of the cop films that are currently under production is a re-enactment of the life of Nayak in its entirety. He has reportedly gunned down over 80 hardened criminals, including a few Kashmiri militants, and nabbed more than 250. But all of them are in one way or another indebted to the remarkable Mumbai lawman.

Govind Nihalani's Dev, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Om Puri as a cop and a mafia don respectively, is perhaps the only film from the current lot of movies about the police force that has evolved a completely fictional storyline. "The film is 25 per cent complete and I hope to wrap up the production by the end of the year," says Nihalani, who is now preparing for another long shooting schedule of the film on a special set erected in a Mumbai studio.

N. Chandra's Kagaar, featuring newcomer Amitabh Dayal as a no-nonsense policeman and Nandita Das as his wife, is ready for release. It is avowedly based on the life of Daya Nayak. Says the director: "My intention is to show the world how tough a cop's life really is, how many sacrifices he has to make to ensure peace for common citizens."

Rajkumar Santoshi's Khakee, which stars Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgan, Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai, is the biggest of the current crop of cop dramas.

Madhur Bhandarkar's Aan, which had the Big B in its cast until Shatrughan Sinha walked in to replace him, and a Ramgopal Varma production, Ab Tak Chappan, are the other major under-production films that owe their origin to the unstoppable Nayak's daily acts of courage. Aan even has a character named after the real-life policeman - Anna Nayak - and action man Sunil Shetty plays the part.

The low-budget Encounter - The Killing, directed by Ajay Phansekar, went largely unnoticed when it was released a few months back, but it did provide an interesting variation on the "encounter specialist" theme. While the film's aspirations - it attempts to achieve the gritty realism of Ramgopal Varma's stark Satya - remained unrealized, lead actor Naseeruddin Shah etched out a believable character.

The film saw him playing Inspector Sam Bharucha, who kills a young sharpshooter to save a colleague and then goes all out to locate the dead boy's parents. The mission turns out to be far more difficult than the tough, respected, upright cop had bargained for, but the film lacks the power to prevent the audience's interest from flagging after the halfway mark.

That is the worry that must be dogging distributors. Can so many films inspired by one man be good for the box-office their prospects? The memories of the fate that befell the spate of Shaheed Bhagat Singh films last year are still fresh in their minds.