January 12, 2006 15:34 IST
Cinema of the new millennium is dangerous, honest. And, best of all, it doesn't hold back. Whether it is for the better or worse depends on your individual capacity to accept and appreciate.
The new trend in movies, for which South East Asian filmmakers are largely responsible, is being very dark, brilliantly violent and characteristically unapologetic.
Now Hindi films too are increasingly being 'inspired' by the brute-force bandwagon. Hence, The Eye and Dark Water became Naina; Acacia; Ju-On: The Grudge became Vaastu Shastra. And Oldboy becomes Zinda [Images].
A profusely bleeding guy walks through the crowded streets of Bangkok. Screen fades.
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A happy troika of man, woman and best friend share life and laughter. Screen fades.
A delighted wife rushes through a wooden boardwalk to give her other half some good news. Screen fades.
A man begs for his freedom. Desperation reaches its peak as he abuses and apologises in turns. Screen fades.
Locked up in solitude, without any explanation whatsoever, life becomes unbearable for software engineer Balajeet Roy (Sanjay Dutt [Images]). Reflecting the mood and the murkiness to the viewer, everything visible wears a shade of black. The walls, the bed sheet, the pillow cover, the crockery and even Bala's confinement uniform. The same monotony is maintained in his meal too -- fried wantons, fried wantons, more fried wantons and still more. Framed of murdering his wife Nisha, Bala's only touch with the outside world is a television set which reports tragedies through the years, from Princess Diana's death, the Kargil War, 9/11, America's war on Iraq, Saddam Hussain's capture, the tsunami and other natural disasters.
Bottomline: Bala has completed 14 years in the black hole.
One fine day of the 14th year, Bala is let loose. And a seething Bala wants to hunt down the man responsible for his ruin and ask him the million-dollar question: 'Why?'
He makes a deal with cabbie Jenny Singh (Lara Dutta [Images]) to show him around Bangkok and every single restaurant that serves wantons. Wantons are his only link to the unknown enemy. Every person Bala lays his hands on finds himself either drilled, maybe axed, or toothless -- but mostly dead. The nameless and faceless tormentor finally reveals himself to Bala. What roused a filthy rich business baron like Rohit Chopra (John Abraham [Images]) to take upon himself to send Bala to hell and back? That's what the second half of the film deals with.
Director Sanjay Gupta dubs Zinda as a homage to every Korean film he has ever seen. But that would mean he has only seen Oldboy.
Zinda is pretty much an identical twin of Oldboy. Some of the dialogues carry the same punch too. Even the weapons, Dutt's hairstyle and mannerisms of Abraham's character are lifted from the Korean film.
What Gupta has changed is the motive. The original, directed by Park Chanwook, involves incest. Perhaps he thought that would make Zinda, which is already high on aggression, impossible for the orthodox moviegoer to digest?
It is usually not very easy to like a reproduction of an acclaimed original. But to its credit, Zinda keeps you involved. All credit goes to Sanjay Dutt. Take him out of the movie and you are left with below-average actors, uninspired dialogue and a crippled plot twist.
Dutt, however, makes it all plausible. He superbly conveys the inner suffering and the outward anguish. He shows his range going from a pitiful prisoner to a ruthless survivor. His body language screams with manic urgency as he goes on a killing spree -- hurting and getting hurt. He is particularly impressive in the sequences that show him silently breaking down into moments of tender vulnerability. The rest of the cast crumbles in Dutt's ferocious presence. Lara Dutta is reduced to a glamorous prop. Celina Jaitley [Images] makes a two-minute, lifeless (literally) appearance. Mahesh Manjrekar sticks to being loud. John Abraham has the I-just-got-into-my-Calvin-Klein-suit appeal about him. But the smug attitude does not compliment his sincere efforts at appearing vicious as the revenge-thirsty tycoon.
His co-stars may be of no help, but Dutt gets able support from the music of Strings and Shibani Kashyap. Both the signature Zinda tunes -- Yeh hai meri kahani and Zinda hoon mein -- add to the haunting nature and blood-curdling tempo of the subject.
And thumbs up to cinematographer Sanjay F Gupta and editor Bunty Nagi. The choice of setting the story in Bangkok works in Zinda's favour. The raw, exposed and sinister side of the city is inventively captured through its dingy by lanes and intimidating skyscrapers. Sure, there is ample of cussing, but a story of this magnitude cries for hard-hitting exchange in conversation. Zinda succeeds it in conveying visually, but not in voice.
The butchering is severe. Heads and hands get chopped off intermittently. There is no dearth of blood, gore or lovemaking. It is not a movie for those who get rattled easily.
Truth be told, you have to be angry, demented, numb, a Sanjay Dutt fan or a movie reviewer to be able to enjoy Zinda.