Zinda (2006)


Zinda (2006)
Cast: Sanjay Dutt, John Abraham, Lara Dutta, Mahesh Manjrekar
Director: Sanjay Gupta
Music Director: Vishal Shekhar, Strings-
Nutshell: Excessively violent but stylish copy of Korean Film Oldboy


Zinda opens with camera panning down the streets of Bangkok as a dishevelled and bloodied man, turns from the side of the frame and comes into view, a voice over taking us into the past. A threesome (Dutt, Manjrekar and Jaitley) argue over choice of restaurant. Next scene has wifey Nisha (Celina Jaitley) finding out that she is pregnant and glancing out at her hubby, Balajit (Dutt), painting at the end of the jetty, she dashes out to tell him the good news..only to find no one there.

Next scene, Balajit Roy is seen banged up inside a dark blackened cell begging for his freedom. Where is he and why is he there, no one knows, least of all Balajit Roy who spends the next fourteen years banged up in this cell, time shown as passing by through images of history gone by over the years. . A valium gas is introduced into the cell to knock him out whilst the cell is cleaned, he is shaved and his cell cleaned. For meals, he is only fed fried wantons and nothing else, day in and day out. If ever there is a nightmare, Balajit is living it now..

He discovers through the TV that his wife Nisha has been murdered and that he has been framed for the murder. His incarceration a seemingly endless ordeal. Then one fine day, Balajit is released, in new clothes, money in his pocket and with a mobile phone. Where does he go, what does he do? How does he make sense of the last 14 years? He receives a phone call which starts off a cat and mouse game.

Flagging down cabbie Jenny Singh (Lara Dutta), Balajit goes around Bangkok , to every single restaurant that serves wantons and tastes each one of them until he finally hits the one which served him wantons in his cell. From here on starts Balajit’s journey to find the truth eventually leading him to Rohit Chopra (John Abraham) who has been behind his incarceration. Death, extreme violence and a completely over the top then races away to an even more preposterous finale. Is this Gupta’s version of going to hell and back. No sir, indeed not. If anything, it has nothing at all to do with Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay Gupta claims that this was a most difficult film to make. In fact, it must have been the easiest ride for him because he has lifted almost every scene from the original Korean film Old Boy and claimed that this was his original work. This is simply the worst kind of plagiarism and one that makes the film utterly reprehensible. Whilst viewing the film, what struck me was the stunning manner in which the film had been shot, the use of colour and images and its technical expertise. Al of this was immediately washed away when I realised that there was not an iota of originality in what Gupta did, that much if not all of it, from the most basic scenes had been lifted from OLDBOY. Whilst we are all used to “inspirations” or “adaptations” without due credit being given to the original work (save for Ram Gopal Verma in Sarkar), this is not inspired or adapted. This is merely copied scene to scene with Indian faces as opposed to Korean. Lets not argue that Jenny is a cab driver and that the lady in Oldboy was a chef…this are merely artificial changes which do not detract from the fact that Gupta is a thief. As I understand it, the only main change from the original film is that the incest angle has been removed from Zinda.

Sanjay Dutt is Balajit Roy and makes his character as believable as he can. However, the plot is simply so outrageous that audiences in India will not take kindly to him or the film. A hammer is used to extract teeth, other forms of extreme violence self-mutilation are depicted, making this generally one of the most unpleasant experiences as far as Bollywood is concerned. Lara Dutta has a side role and is by and large just an appendage. John Abraham has developed a magnetic screen presence and is menacing to some extent. But its all very designer chic and quite clearly lifted from the original film.

The only saving grace, the only original thing about Zinda is a superb track by Strings.

This is really not a pleasant experience in any sense of the word.