Saturday, March 13, 2010

if you like Zanjeer...

...check out 2 other Amitabh films I've watched recently. Yes, this is a lazy way to review something, but I don't want to keep the Bollywood coverage going on for too too long.

The first is 1978's Don.

A ruthless gangster named Don is killed during a scuffle with the police. Since only DSP DeSilva knows of this incident, he recruits another person named Vijay who is a spitting image of Don. Vijay is planted in Don's place in Don's gang and DeSilva has a plan to nab the entire gang in this way. But when DeSilva dies during a raid, the secret that Vijay is not Don is also buried with him. Now Vijay is on the run - from the police and the criminal gang - and has to find the last piece of evidence to prove his real identity before it is too late.

I didn't like this movie as much as I liked Zanjeer when I first saw it, and I believe that is because the length of this one really got to me. Having just watched the two and a half hour Zanjeer the day before, perhaps I just needed something a bit tighter. By the time a guy starts to tightrope walk (in a tragic fucking green screen display) I had lost patience.

So why am I recommending it? Well, I do believe that viewed out of my context, this film could hold up better. It is highly regarded in Amitabh's resume, and is a different twist on the actiony crime flick. Plus, Amitabh's performance as both the Don and Vijay, the man who pretends to be the Don, is damn good stuff.

He's at one point a ruthless bastard, then the next a singing, dancing, betel leaf chewing dude who instantly feels over his head. If it weren't for the side story with a couple kids' real father, I think this would be better.

I read that this story was inspiration for Infernal Affairs (which in turn inspired Scorsese's The Departed), but I'm not sure this is true. The stories are similar in structure however with the straight man being placed in a group of organized criminals to obtain information.

Score: 5.75 / 10

The other is 1975's Sholay

After his family is murdered by a notorious and ruthless bandit, a former police officer enlists the services of two outlaws to capture him.

Before I get to anything else, I have to say that it is criminal that a better release of this film is not available. Being the first 70mm film ever to come out of India and essentially the highest grossing Hindi film of all time, the fact that the only DVD releases are cropped to full frame and the prints are dirty and damaged is just plain wrong.

Anyway, I'm sure I am not going to say anything here that hasn't been said before. I think for fans of genre cinema, particularly Westerns and Spaghetti Westerns, who aren't familiar with Hindi cinema, this may be the place to start. Yes, it goes on longer than a Peter North facial, (188 minutes!) but the slower style of filmmaking works here. The subplots that can weigh a lot of Bollywood films down all contribute well to the overall story.

The performances are universally strong... Amitabh is a cool motherfucker as usual.

I really do think that fans of cinema owe it to themselves to at least see this one Bollywood in their lifetime if no others. It's not perfect, you've probably seen the story in The Magnificent Seven or whatever, and the humor that is there can be broad (particularly the Hitler warden in the prison... ugh...) but it's a good damn movie that I am glad I finally sat down and finished.

Sorry... that 3+ hours can really be a hurdle! 

Score: 8.5 / 10

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