Those critical of me remaking ‘Zanjeer’ will go to see how badly I’ve messed it up, quips Apoorva Lakhia

Apoorva Lakhia has spent the last couple of days clearing the air on the release date of his ambitious project, Zanjeer (Thoofan in Telugu). “We are releasing on September 6 as planned,” he says, dismissing rumours of pushing back the release following the postponement of Ram Charan’s Yevadu to August 21. “We are not losing sleep over two of Charan’s films releasing within a short time,” he insists.

Drama and comedy

Expect marked differences between Zanjeer and Thoofan. “We made changes in the script keeping regional sensibilities in mind. The Hindi version will not have a dramatic introduction scene for Charan. This will work in Telugu but Hindi cinema has moved out of that zone long ago. Thoofan will also have comedy sequences,” he says.

Both the versions were shot in 71 days and Apoorva credits this to meticulous planning. His team had scripts written in English, Hindi and Telugu to help Apoorva and Priyanka Chopra. “I had the help of a superb assistant director, Kamalakar, and another Hyderabad-based director Yogi who helped me with the Telugu lines. I needed help for punctuations, the right pauses and where to say ‘cut’. I observed that certain lines can be quickly conveyed in a sentence in Hindi while the same thing takes three lines in Telugu. The language nuances were different.”

The director started Zanjeer on a sticky wicket, facing stiff opposition to the idea of remaking the iconic 1970s film starring Amitabh Bachchan. “You can’t be a filmmaker if you’re scared. However, I am sure those who were critical of me making this film will go watch Zanjeer at least to see how badly I messed it up,” he quips, adding that initially he, too, was sceptical. “When the producers approached me with the idea, I was hesitant. For six months, I didn’t get back to them. I was disappointed over the failure of Mission Istanbul and was on a break to re-evaluate my work. Later, I happened to watch Magadheera and was taken in by Ram Charan’s performance. I felt he had the potential to be the new angry young man. In Telugu, he has a huge fan base that would help commercially and in Hindi, being a newcomer, he wouldn’t have the pressure of having to live up to Amitabh Bachchan.”

Draft no. 23

The first draft of the screenplay took Apoorva’s team over one year to write. “At the time of shooting, we were working with the 23rd draft,” he says. The screenplay had to be updated to make the action drama contextual to present times, with references to oil mafia and a character modelled on slain journalist J Dey (played by Atul Kulkarni).

The highlight of Zanjeer, according to Apoorva, is the action sequences. “It’s a step higher from my previous films Mission Istanbul and Shootout at Lokhandwala. The set pieces are expensive. We constructed a slum set and blew it up; it cost us Rs. 2 crore. We’ve set the bar high for action,” he says.