Zanjeer, remade by Apoorva Lakhia, which is set to release on September 6, is shorter than Prakash Mehra’s original 1973 cult film. The characters have the same names and there are common dialogues too, but it has been made to suit today’s times. The film has been simultaneously shot in two languages — Hindi (Zanjeer) and Telugu (Thoofan). We spoke to Telugu superstar Ram Charan (he is Chiranjeevi’s son) about fitting into the shoes of the legendary Amitabh Bachchan. Excerpts from an interview...
How was the experience of shooting in two languages simultaneously?
I did not see much of a difference except that it took a little extra time for Priyanka to repeat her dialogues in Telugu and for me in Hindi. Financially, it makes sense for Reliance to make the film in both languages, but the journey and the effort was the same. This is the first movie for which I have shot simultaneously in two languages, but thanks to Apoorva Lakhia, he wrapped up the shoot so quickly, it seemed like a cakewalk.
Between Priyanka and you, who adapted better to the other language?
The best part was that she would mug up her Telugu and get it perfectly right, whereas I would miss my Telugu lines thinking, ‘Yeh toh ghar ki murgi hai’, and she would pull my leg. Also, vice-versa, Priyanka would mess up her Hindi scenes, whereas I would get it right. Only thing is, I would often mix up Inspector Vijay Khanna (my character’s name in the film) with Rajesh Khanna.
In the past, you have refused Hindi film offers from reputed filmmakers like Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Farhan Akhtar. What made you agree to do this film?
I got excited by the script when Apoorva narrated it to me. But the fact that it was Zanjeer being remade freaked me out and I backed off for three months. I don’t know how to say no and that’s a weakness. I was dodging and was scared to get into the large shoes of Mr Bachchan, as everyone has seen the original film. I did not want to invite
extra pressure. After three months, I told dad about my dilemma and he enlightened me by saying, ‘If you don’t like the script, director or production, say no. But don’t say no because you’re scared of it’. I read the script again and felt that I would lose a good subject if I said no. Also, I am secure in my space in the industry and was not scared of attempting something because it was a higher ground. So, here I am playing Inspector Vijay Khanna.
Have you met Mr Bachchan?
I saw Zanjeer after I signed the film and was blown by it and by the way Mr Bachchan carried his entry and his powerful character. I have met him a couple of times earlier with my father, but as luck had it, on my first day of shooting in Mumbai, we learnt Mr Bachchan was shooting next door. We requested to meet him and he immediately agreed. He said to me, ‘I have heard the script and was scared who would pick it up, but I am happy it is in good hands’. It’s the best beginning I could have asked for. He is extremely warm and encouraging.
Weren’t you tempted to ask him for some tips to play Vijay Khanna?
No, I was too scared. I just wanted to seek his blessings and get out. I don’t think I would be able to stand in front of him for more than 10 minutes. It’s like going to a temple. You may have permission to stand longer, but you get claustrophobic and want to get out.
PRIYANKA CHOPRA BEAT RAM CHARAN HANDS DOWN IN REMEMBERING HER TELUGU LINES
Since Zanjeer was shot as a bilingual, both PC and Ram Charan had to speak their lines in Hindi and Telugu. They would often place bets on whether PC would speak Telugu better or Ram, Hindi. But every time, PC won hands down. Both Priyanka and Ram are extremely bright people. PC would write her lines in English and Hindi and learn them by heart. Seeing her speak Telugu so well, there were times when even Ram would forget his lines in Telugu. For one of the Hindi dialgoues, ‘Chaakoo neeche rakho — yeh America nahi hai’, Ram said, ‘Chaakoo neeche rakho — yeh Hyderabad nahi hai’, and PC won the 20,000 bet against him.
WHAT MADE APOORVA LAKHIA CAST RAM CHARAN FOR AMITABH BACHCHAN’S CHARACTER?
Ihad seen Ram Charan in Magadheera and had taken up Zanjeer on the condition that I’d work with him. I did not want to take anyone from the Hindi film industry. It would be too much pressure for the actor, as his work would be compared to Mr Bachchan’s. Ram took a year to say yes to me and was clear that he was doing a film just for the kick of it and that he was a superstar in Telugu cinema, whose flop also made 48 crore. We did not realize his star power while shooting with him in Mumbai, but when we saw over a lakh people outside his shoot in Hyderabad, we knew there was a superstar in the film.