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  Zanjeer Cop A Load Of This
Year: 1973
Director: Prakash Mehra
Stars: Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bhaduri, Pran, Om Prakash, Ajit, Bindu, Iftekhar, Keshto Mukherjee, Randhir, Gulshan Bawra, Ram Mohan, Yunus Parvez, B.B. Bhalla, Sanjana, Purmina, M. Rajan, Goga Kapoor
Genre: Musical, Thriller, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Twenty years ago, police inspector Vijay Khanna (Amitabh Bachchan) suffered a terrible trauma. When he was a young child, his father had just emerged from prison for dealing medicines which were fake and caused injury and even death in the users, but he refused to let on who his bosses were. However, when the father returned home he was greeted with the tragic news that one of his children had been treated with the fake produce and died as a result. He was grief-stricken and vowed to tell all to the authorities...

Which was why he and Vijay's mother were gunned down in their home by the gangsters in front of him while he hid in a cupboard, and that incident made him the angry young man he is now. Not only that, it made Bachchan a superstar in that very role, the aggressive and capable protagonist which Bollywood cinema wanted for his era, all that in spite of many expressing surprise that he was so right for the part back then, which in light of his subsequent stratospheric success appears rather absurd. But if Zanjeer was an undoubted trendsetter, did it stand up as entertainment after decades of imitators?

After all, the seventies was the time of such maverick characters, and the leading men were lining up to prove themselves in such roles, not only in India but across the world. The idea of the rogue cop who didn't always play by the rules yet always saw justice done is now a hoary old cliché, but that hasn't stopped variations of that theme being released every year since, and plenty of them, which was why their popularity with the public has hardly waned at all. Therefore looking back to where they all really grabbed the attention of moviegoers in efforts such as this, the style may have dated but the plots remained something which was as relevant as ever; such was the case here.

All Vijay recalls from his trauma is a recurring nightmare about a white horse, which will be explained at the very end, but rather than concentrate on him seeking out the killer of his parents for a couple of hours, what we got was how that experience shaped him for our storyline. So he bows to no criminal, which gets him admonished by his superiors, leading to him making an unlikely friend for life in gang boss Sher Khan (Pran) who he persuades with his fists and feet to give up his shady life and go straight. This character will become a useful ally, but there's someone else who is if anything more important, and she is the knife sharpener Mala (Jaya Bhaduri, later Mrs Bachchan), who crosses paths with Vijay when she witnesses a fatal accident.

Vijay has been getting tips from a mystery man about where to intercept the gangsters' goods, but after a car chase with one of those vans results in the deaths of schoolchildren (still a hardhitting sequence) it makes up his mind to be even more hardline with the wrongdoers, which naturally brings him to their would-be murderous attention. As Mala decides to tell all and bring the baddies to justice, she becomes a target as well and Vijay shelters her at his home, taking this rather uncouth young woman and shaping her into someone more valued in society. Unlike many a Bollywood movie, there's not quite enough plot here for the full running time, and the songs are more generic than boundary-pushing which is unfortunate considering their setting, but Bachchan inhabited his grim-faced persona with ease; you can see why he would be such an arrresting (no pun intended) presence to audiences way back when, making for a solid thriller of heightened emotions. Music by Anandi and Kalyanji.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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