ZINDA: THE INDIAN OLD BOY
WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the movie Oldboy
So presumably by now, everyone has seen the trailer for the remake of Oldboy, the latest Spike Lee joint? If you have, you’ll be certain of two things – 1) 56 year old Lee still calling his films ‘joints’ is like the whole My Little Pony cult of Bronies. It’s embarrassing and needs to be stopped for the very good of mankind. 2) The fabric of the internet is being put under colossal strain by so many fans of the original Oldboy crying out that Hollywood has become a utopia to the unoriginal.
But before people distribute the pitchforks and storm the bastille, it’s not like this the first time Oldboy was remade. Released three years after, there was the Indian unofficial remake, Zinda.
How unofficial was it?
Well, let’s put it this way – Director Sanjay Gupta wasn’t going to let a little thing like, I don’t know, owning the rights to Oldboy get in the way of making his film. This is after all the man who brought us Kaante – A *cough* homage *cough* to Reservoir Dogs that Tarantino described as ‘fabulous’. Not that the King of the Homage would say anything bad, considering the huge similarities between his Reservoir Dogs and the 1987 Hong Kong action, City on Fire. C’mon Tarantino! You know it! I know it! We all know it! I’m drifting…
Back to Zinda…
Oldboy’s producers, Show East, weren’t as understanding as the big chinned director. After seeing the original trailer and unable to find the receipt that showed Gupta buying the rights to the film – not even down the back of the couch which is where everything normally is – they distributed a press release saying that ‘if we find out there’s indeed a strong similarity between the two, it looks like we’ll have to talk with our lawyers.’ Which is industry talk for ‘Oh it’s so fucking on.’ Unfortunately, for Show East, they shut down before any lawsuit could be tailored.
But what grounds would they have for legal action? How much like Oldboy is Zinda really? Well, I can clear this up right now.
In Oldboy, Oh Dae-Su is kidnapped and locked in a room for 15 years without knowing his captor’s motives. He is released and encouraged to find the man who put him in confinement. However in Zinda, Balajit Roy is kidnapped and locked in a room for 14 years without knowing his captor’s motives. He is released and encouraged to find the man who put him in confinement.
See, 14 years… 15 years… Totally different. Ahem.
Gupta’s screenplay doesn’t help matters. It does more copy-and-pasting than a kid in front of Wikipedia the night before an essay is due in. After their incarceration, both Oh Dae-Su and Balajit wake up on a rooftop, thirsting for revenge. They both meet up with a young woman who helps them on their quest. It’s as dissimilar as two peas in a pod. Hell, he even steals THAT iconic fight scene.
Zinda Fight scene.
As you can see, there’s no denying Gupta’s direction is bold and confronting, but then why not? He’s aping the original direction of Park Chan-wook. Any praise I have Zinda, Chan-wook got it first. However, there is one major difference that sets Oldboy from it’s clone – The ending.
It’s impossible to write about either without giving away the endings of both, so now is a good time to bail if you’ve seen neither film. Seriously go. We’ve got some great articles on here you can read instead. Hell, go and watch Zinda and Old boy. Go on, I’ll wait.
Are we good? Right, Zinda removes a lot of the taboo of Oldboy. In fact, by doing so, Zinda’s dénouement becomes totally underwhelming and, in a way, confusing.
Both Balajit and Oh Dae-su have been incarcerated by an school friend who blames them for the death of his sister. Oh Dae-su discovers that the young lover he has been with since he started his journey of revenge is in fact his own daughter. Both having been hypnotized to fall in love with each other. Despite being filled with rage, Oh Dae-su is ultimately broken by the revelations and literally falls to his knees begging his captor not to let his daughter the truth. Even offering to cut out his own tongue as a peace offering.
Balajit meanwhile doesn’t suffer any hard-core Jerry Springer shenanigans. Sort of.
His captor tells him that for the last 14 years, he has been raising Balajit’s daughter as his own…. Dun Dun DUUUUUNNN! Enrolling her in the best schools! Dun Dun DUUUUUUUUUN! And now he’s put her virginity on the black market and making Balajit watch the auction on TV! Dun dun DUUUUU- Okay, wait. That’s a bit grim. But you see, Balajit’s captor has no intention of going through with the auction. Yeah, this has all been an elaborate – like REALLY elaborate – set up to make Balajit feel a bit bad. Okay, his captor did kill Balajit’s wife as well, but raising his daughter nicely and doing a slightly Jackass prank is hardly equal to making a man do the nasty with his own child.
Whilst Oldboy ends with a man ruminating on his transformation into a monster and the soul crushing reasoning that he can never go back, Zinda seems to end with a feeling of ‘Well no harm done. Everyone’s learnt a lesson. What’s for tea, Dad?’
Unsurprisingly, Zinda has had mixed to negative reviews. Even those who applaud Gupta for taking a chance in Bollywood have wagged a finger at the bootleg quality of its originality. Hopefully, as we approach the release date of Spike Lee’s Oldboy we can take solace that maybe he took time out to watch Zinda so he could make a list of things NOT to do.