January 17, 2006


ZINDA was 2 hours of a high school production of OLDBOY ZINDA, for those of you who just tuned in, is Bollywood's remake of Korea's OLDBOY that stars Sanjay Dutt and has the critics panting and the original producers of OLDBOY seeing red. The producers say they are pursuing their legal options, the critics say ZINDA is stylish and powerful, but what is ZINDA really? Don't get up - I've already seen it for you.

It's not like Bollywood remakes are ever as good as the originals so what did I expect? But feel a little sorry for me when I tell you that sitting through ZINDA was sufficient punishment for any sins I may have committed in a previous life. ZINDA was 2 hours of a high school production of OLDBOY, and not the high school production done by the talented and exciting kids at Phillips Exeter Academy, but more like the one done by these kids up  there on the right. It was shoddy, dispiriting and dismal.

Shot-for-shot this was an inferior remake of OLDBOY with every bit of conviction, story-telling brio, heart or soul scrubbed away and nothing but soulless hucksterism left in its place. Sanjay Gupta directs with the committment and attention to detail of a man who has a cab waiting for him downstairs and who still hasn't taken a shower and needed to be at the airport five minutes ago. Bringing all of his sub-hack skills to the table, Gupta manages to tell the entire story of OLDBOY but miss the point entirely. I'm not a big fan of OLDBOY in the first place, so for me this was like having rabid weasels stuffed down my shirt: painful and irritating.

So what are the differences? First of all, Gupta seemed to feel that samurai sword fighting was an essential piece of the movie that Park Chan-Wook had missed. I have mixed feelings about this. Maybe it could work - SAMURAI OLDBOY? - but since ZINDA featured actors who wielded samurai swords the way bored 8 year olds on Halloween wield their lightsabers after an exhausting night out dressed as Anakin Skywalker I guess the jury is still out on that one. On the other hand, the scene of Sanjay Dutt teaching himself samurai skills off the television made me laugh, and laugh, and I still smile a little on the inside when I think about it.

The abduction of Sanjay is handled very differently from OLDBOY. Gupta feels it's important to start off with Sanjay drunk, like Choi Min-Shik in OLDBOY, but then he needs to show us that actually Sanjay, for complicated reasons we never really learn, is merely pretending to be drunk. To me this made him even more obnoxious and gives drunk people a bad name. Then, after some truly excruciating scenes with Sanjay's best pal, Sanjay is abducted (we later learn that he is knocked unconscious after being shot with a crossbow by a guy in a party boat) but he is abducted in true Bollywood style. No subtlety here: his wife is running out to the dock where Sanjay is painting to tell him that she's pregnant when suddenly...he's gone. She has taken her eyes off of him for exactly 3 seconds of screen time but poof! He's gone. Vanished. Truly, Sanjay Dutt is the ninja.

Sanjay Dutt's wig at a young ageAnother change that baffled me was that the hatch in Sanjay's door where he's imprisoned is larger than it was in OLDBOY. Did Gupta feel that we needed to see more of Sanjay's face? Maybe he's right, but I'd like to weigh in right now with a hearty: no. In fact, I feel like a step in the right direction might have been to see less of Sanjay in ZINDA. Sanjay sleepwalks through this movie with all the intensity of a man who was just awakened rudely from a particularly satisfying nap. His kung fu fighting skills are out of the Chuck Norris School of Hitting and the poor guy can barely lift his leg above his knee when he delivers a devastating karate kick. Putting him in an action movie at this age was an act of extreme perversity (he visibly gets exhausted during the one-take hammer fight in the hallway - which lacks the point of the original) and as if that wasn't bad enough he's saddled with a wig that looks like it might wake up at any moment and scamper off into the woods.

All of the sexual content of OLDBOY is missing which largely robs the movie of its purpose and ZINDA has, of course, a happy ending. OLDBOY had a happy ending too...for pervs, but ZINDA comes to a genuinely happy conclusion. However, the most painful facet of the multi-faceted torture that is ZINDA (and trust me, it was hard to pick just one) is the cinematography. In a misguided attempt to give the movie style everything was shot in a blue haze that looks like a film printing accident. If the movie was art directed well, or lit well maybe this blue haze would look sharp and exciting, but as it is it just starves your eyes. By the second hour I was feeling like Sanjay Dutt: forced to wear a silly wig and live for 14 years on fried shrimp dumplings.

Zinda comes back from the lab To lower the lights and bring out the emotion stool, like Judy Garland at a concert in Las Vegas, ZINDA does make me very, very sad. Bollywood has always made its fair share of garbage like this, make no mistake about it. But rarely has the junk gotten this much praise. Is Bollywood abandoning what made it special (gorgeous musical numbers, a gift for family melodrama, huge rambling movies that allows epic stories plenty of time to unfold) in order to churn out soulless knock-offs from overseas? Everyone who's praising ZINDA is parading their ignorance on an international stage. It's only because India is such an insular film community (which is mostly a good thing) that a movie this bad, and this obviously a rip-off from another country, could garner any attention at all.

It's a sad day for Bollywood, and I'm going to have to go watch TEESRI MANZIL again to make myself feel better. You can let yourself out, can't you? And shut the lights off, too. It's over.

Don't forget Lara Dutta's in Zinda too!

January 17, 2006 at 09:56 AM in Reviews | Permalink


Umm... how does this set it apart from Bollywood movies in general...?

Posted by: Adam | Jan 17, 2006 5:47:17 PM

Bollywood has been on a remake kick for a while now, but if you think Bollywood is junk then I heartily recommend you go out right now and rent:


Any or all of these are movies that have given me a huge amount of pleasure and they're all Bollywood productions (well, MUTHU is more of a South Indian movie but I'm keeping it on my list). If you've got doubts about Bollywood check them out and let me know what you think.

Posted by: Grady Hendrix | Jan 18, 2006 7:32:19 AM

that was hilarious!

Posted by: Jeet | Jan 20, 2006 12:51:27 AM

It's film reviewers like you that give bollywood films a bad name.

what need did you have to piss on sanjay dutt's geriatric blueberry pie? were you drunk or merely pretending to be?

The oldboy's probably sufferring an aneurism, even as we speak, and it's all your fault.

I know plenty of old people that peered through their fingers whenever someone took a hammer to someone else's teeth.

um...thank you...?

Posted by: cdrake | Jan 21, 2006 10:04:48 AM

Truly Old boy is far better than Zinda. It is also true that bollywood had a bit of filmy style in them. But credits must be given for the attempt made in remaking a different film. We must understand that we simply cannot use incest as a story line for the indian crowd as they did for the korean films. What did tick me off was that they should have shot the film in an indian location like they did in oldboy. the essence is lost in making a film where people such as the road side thugs cannot speak the language the movie is made in. What I truly was dissapointed was not the movie but simply the ending. What oldboy had was the truth that when a man is pushed to the limit, he doesnt care about his life. Very trivial things like cutting his tongue off or acting like an actual dog seem to some how correct the mistakes he has commited. Yet it does hold weightage in the movie. This is what i truly missed. Call me a sadist or some disgusting freak, sanjay dutt should have cut his tongue off in the movie. It would have truly shown his "desperation" to satisfy the sadistic "Rohit Chopra". As for John Abraham, he did act well but the director made it more of a Baljit Roy film. They truly should have shown Rohit Chopra's sadistic nature to grip the story line. A good effort but wee short of the original.

Posted by: carpediem | Jan 22, 2006 10:59:44 AM

Well, I haven't seen Oldboy and sure - would probably like to think about the whole concept of ''remakes'' that somehow need to be ''original'' (how???) sometime, but good god what about Lara Dutta?!
That stellar performance in a Basanti-meets-Liz Hurley role! The dialogues, the similies (what was it about kela and musibatein?) - all delivered with perfect deadpan expressions, matched only in absurdity by John Abraham's reassuring ''Patience'' that still has me and my friends cracking up.
The title song was pretty awesome though...

Posted by: Joy | Jan 25, 2006 4:21:59 AM

I'm a huge, but woefully underinformed, Bollywood fan and to me ZINDA was just such a slap in the face. Looking back on some of Bollywood's major achievements and even some of its failed experiments (I'll take YUVA or MAST, despite their glaring faults, over ZINDA any day) made me just hate this movie and the hype it got. Even fluff like MAIN HOON NA has more substance than ZINDA which was all style and no substance...and it was someone else's style to boot.

Posted by: Grady Hendrix | Jan 25, 2006 1:51:07 PM

I have not seen Zinda....but coz of the dirty bits in it (which is atypical of Bollywood movies, they r getting more like Hollywood ones thes days and losing their originalty and culturalism, with far too much touchy-feely)i think it will be a disaster...well, the pervs might just go to the cinema to watch the dirty parts...but hey...if u r after a good theme, then its a bad thing to 'ruin the flow' of the movie by putting in a dirty scene....if its a porn movie, fair enough....but stuff like this in action movies...no way amigo...........John Abraham is a good looking guy, no doubt...but the roles they make him do r so downgrading....suppose he refuses to do em????? ah well....ppl do anything 4 money these days........

Oh and another thing.......I love the Har Saans mambo mix...it seems a good reflection of myself vs this cruel world............

Posted by: mohd | Jan 29, 2006 5:46:08 AM

How could anyone even attempt to remake OLDBOY! The director of Oldboy is a genius and the film's cinematography was amazing. The fact that Zinda is a complete rip off of the story line shows that Gupta has no talent and the fact that the camera shots are copied shows such a lack of imagination. i hope Park Chan-Wook sues.

Posted by: syrra | Jan 31, 2006 12:15:05 PM

great review and well said esp "rarely has the junk gotten this much praise"

Posted by: naval | Feb 6, 2006 2:15:51 AM

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