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Updated on: Saturday, July 31, 2021, 10:28 PM IST

CinemaScope: Zanjeer... defining friendships on and off the screen

Zanjeer laid the foundation of one of the most potent actor-director combinations of Prakash Mehra and Amitabh Bachchan, coming up with entertaining gems for the masses
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Prakash Mehra’s Zanjeer not only introduced the concept of ‘angry young man’ in Hindi cinema, but also redefined the concept of ‘friends forever’ both on and off the screen as a worthy classic. It presented the noble thought on screen through one of the most famous, cult tracks, Yaari hai imaan mera, yaar meri zindagi. And proved the same behind the screen, resulting in long-lasting relationships creating many more classics together.

Zanjeer laid the foundation of one of the most potent actor-director combinations of Prakash Mehra and Amitabh Bachchan, coming up with entertaining gems for the masses as Hera Pheri, Khoon Pasina (as a producer), Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Laawaris, Namak Halaal and Sharaabi (excluding Jaadugar). These films contributed a lot to the unprecedented success of Bachchan in his career in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Besides, the major success of Zanjeer also became a key factor in the life of both Amitabh and Jaya as a couple.

It’s not any rare fact that Salim-Javed, the two writer friends, actually arrived and established their reign in the industry post Zanjeer and Yaadon Ki Baaraat in the year 1973. Amusingly, both these films were in reality derived from the same source and had a similar plot too, with the major changes made in their characterisations. The duo later also worked with Mehra in Haath Ki Safai.

With Zanjeer, the producer-director also established a strong bond with the music director duo Kalyanji-Anandji. Their association creating hit songs continued for more than ten films, for the next 16 years till Jaadugar (1989).

Revealing the lesser-known friendship behind the screen, Zanjeer became the reason for the fond relationship between Mehra and Ram Sethi — the actor accompanying Amitabh in many of the famous, hilarious scenes in the hit films mentioned. To help you recall, he played Pyarelal in Muqaddar Ka Sikandar and was the photographer friend of Amitabh in Namak Halaal, who takes him to the five-star hotel, before the popular song, Pag ghunghroo bandh Meera naachi thi. Becoming an integral part of Mehra’s team, Sethi not only played small enjoyable characters in almost every film of the director post-Zanjeer, but also worked as his assistant director behind the camera for many of the major ventures. Such was the friendly bond between the two that Mehra also gave Sethi the opportunity to direct his production, Ghunghroo, in 1983 that unfortunately couldn’t create any ripples at the box office.

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Though both Prakash Mehra and Pran had worked together in a couple of films in the past, it was Zanjeer (as Mehra’s first production) that laid the foundation of their new relationship continuing for the next two decades till Jaadugar. In fact, Pran enacted one of the most appreciated characters of his career as Sher Khan and impressed everyone in the industry and the audience, dancing to the beats of the song, Yaari hai imaan mera, penned by Gulshan Bawra and choreographed by Satyanarayan.

Sharing the instance pointing towards professional ethics between friends, Pran had a very loving relationship with Manoj Kumar, the man who transformed his image through the character of Malang Chacha in Upkar. Coincidentally, Kumar offered a similar role of a Pathan to Pran (in his film Shor) when the veteran actor had already given his consent to Prakash Mehra for Zanjeer. Conveying the same, Pran humbly asked the writer-director if they could change the character of Pathan to someone else, as he had already committed to Mehra.

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To this Kumar replied, “Pran saab, I appreciate your commitment. You are committed to Prakash Mehra, and I am committed to my script. I cannot change it. So, no ill feelings.”

As mentioned in the biography by Bunny Reuben, Kumar further informed, “We took Prem Nathji instead. This made people think that something has gone wrong between Pran and Manoj Kumar. But it was not like that. The very third day, he was sitting at my house and hearing the story of Dus Numbri.”

That is how ethics and friendships can be maintained without getting offended, responding sportingly. Coming back to the song, Yaari hai imaan mera, though its execution is known for the excellence achieved, it was surprisingly the first sequence shot by Pran for the film in the get-up of Sher Khan. Have a great friendship day, but celebrate it safely, wearing your masks taking all the precautions.

(The writer is a critic-columnist, an explorer of cinema and author of ‘Did You Know’ series on Hindi films also active at bobbytalkscinema.com)

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Published on: Sunday, August 01, 2021, 07:00 AM IST
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