Courtesy: Taran Adarsh, IndiaFM
Sanjay Gupta, one of the brightest names on film firmament, is back with his new outing Zinda. Like his previous efforts, the one aspect that stands out in a Gupta film is that it offers a catch-you-unaware story to Indian moviegoers.
In the past, Gupta borrowed stories from the West. This time, for Zinda, he looks at the East for inspiration. Based on acclaimed director Park Chan-Wook's Korean classic Oldboy , what sets apart Zinda from films of its ilk is its interesting premise.
Besides a story that is indeed a novel experience for Indian moviegoers, Zinda is embellished with several twists and turns in the tale that come as a complete shocker. For those who haven't watched the original, Zinda will take you by complete surprise.
Also, the look and tone of the film is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Like Gupta's last effort [Musafir], Zinda is provocative and graphic and frankly, you ought to have a strong stomach to absorb the film.
Now the flipside...
If the aforementioned reasons are its USPs, they're also the factors that may prove dampeners, stumbling blocks. Why, did you ask? Here's why...
Let's begin with two phrases: Jaisa des, waisa bhes [in Hindi] and When in Rome, do as the Romans do [in English]. Even though the premise of Zinda is refreshingly different, it's not the type that would appeal to Indian moviegoers. The story -- a revenge saga -- is too dark and gruesome for an average Indian moviegoer to stomach.
Even if the story may've appealed to Gupta and his team, it may not find complete acceptance from Indian moviegoers who fancy light entertainers or swear by sunshine cinema. Also, Zinda comes across as too western a flick for the Indian audiences. The violent sequences, for instance, are highly gruesome and would only put off a big section of the paying public, especially ladies/families.
To sum up, Zinda strays into a hitherto unknown alley, which is indeed commendable, but the content has its limitations. A concept like Zinda is too ahead of its times for the aam junta. Bollywood cinema has matured, but not to this extent!
Bala [Sanjay Dutt], a software engineer, arrives in Bangkok with his wife Nisha [Celina Jaitley]. However, one fine day, he is abducted by someone for mysterious reasons. When Bala wakes up, he finds himself in a locked room, with the only human contact being a faceless person who delivers his meals.
His only window to the outside world is the television in his room and from it, Bala learns that his wife Nisha [Celina Jaitley] has been murdered and he is the prime suspect. Days become weeks, weeks become months, and months turn into years as Bala remains locked up, with the television bringing images of a changing world [WTC bombings, Tsunami].
Then, inexplicably, Bala is released after spending fourteen years locked away. However, he quickly learns that his ordeal is far from over, as he is handed some money and a cell phone, triggering the next stage of the twisted game that is being directed by Bala's still-unknown tormentor.
Bala starts his hunt for the unknown enemy. Circumstances bring him close to Jenny [Lara Dutta], a cabbie, who gets to know his ordeal. With Jenny and his friend's [Mahesh Manjrekar] help, Bala pieces together clues that eventually lead him to the person responsible for his imprisonment -- a businessman named Rohit Chopra [John Abraham].
And in finding the answers to the two burning questions -- why was he imprisoned in the first place and why was he released fourteen years later -- Bala uncovers more than a few shocking revelations.
Like Gupta's earlier ventures, especially Kaante and Musafir, the tone of Zinda is dark. It's not one of those revenge stories that starts with light moments, gets tense in between, but ends on a positive note. Gupta presents the stark realities without concealing the rawness. Be it Sanju using a drilling machine on a gangster's shoulder or a hammer to extract Raj Zutshi's teeth or Sanju's hands being stitched up, the sequences are hair-raising and, frankly speaking, quite offputting.
The first hour of the film keeps you on tenterhooks. The mystery deepens as Sanju is abducted and confined to solitary imprisonment by a faceless enemy. The various sequences in the room when Sanju pleads helplessness and then comes to terms with destiny are master strokes. You can't help but marvel at the execution of those sequences!
The intermission point is where the mystery deepens further. With John Abraham surfacing on the screen, you realize that the fight has just begun. But the post-interval portions aren't as engaging. The first question that crosses your mind is, Why didn't John eliminate Sanju while he was being held captive? Why let him free in the first place? It's a gaping flaw in the screenplay. Perhaps, John wanted Sanju to feel the pain by revealing the truth about his [Sanju] 14-year-old daughter, but the end seems quite abrupt. How does the daughter call him up? How does she know him in the first place? How is she sitting safely at home? Wasn't she being auctioned in the flesh market? No answers are offered!
There's no denying that Gupta is one of the most stylish film-makers this side of the Atlantic and with ZINDA he proves that he dares to tread the untrodden path vis-À-vis the content, but the story isn't the type that would meet with wholehearted approval. Those with an appetite for violent and dark films may go for it, but the faint-hearted will choose to stay away.
There's no place for music in the film and the two numbers that play in the background are appropriate. Sanjay F. Gupta's cinematography is outstanding, but why use brown and blue tint throughout? It may appear very stylish, but it just doesn't work with the hoi polloi. Dialogues are up to the mark. Stunts are realistic to the core.
It's difficult to think of anyone other than Sanjay Dutt for the role of the protagonist. The actor is stupendous and the cold look he carries right through the film is what makes the character so believable. An award worthy performance indeed!
Sanju's nemesis, John Abraham, is an odd casting decision. While he certainly exudes the cold and calculated malevolence of a man with nothing but revenge on his mind, he seems a little on the young side for the role in question. He is first-rate nevertheless. Lara Dutta is passable. She doesn't get much scope in the film. Celina Jaitley is hardly there. Mahesh Manjrekar is routine. His death sequence is well executed though.
On the whole, Zinda is an interesting story told in a stylish format. Unfortunately, a theme like this has its limitations: The dry, dark and gruesome film will appeal to the guys [youth] more than the fairer sex, but it's definitely not for the ladies/families. At the box-office, therefore, the film should find patronage at metros mainly.