About the story: After having lost his left arm in a military action, Captain Jaswant Kumar (Jeetendra) abandons the army, settles down in Shanti Nagar in the periphery of Bombay and opens a garage. Soon he gets attendance by the "protection committee" Raksha Mandal which firmly controls the whole of Shanti Nagar. Jaswant, however, refuses to pay protection money. When he therefore gets brutally attacked by the gang and its keeper Peter Gonsalves (Sharat Saxena), no one of Shanti Nagar’s inhabitants dares to support him as they all are in terrible fear for themselves and their families. Only taxi driver Raju (Chunky Pandey) and journalist Razdan (Shafi Inamdar) are impressed by Jaswant’s courage and henceforth support his resistance. Fearing to lose his grip on Shanti Nagar, the protection committee’s don Taneja (Kiran Kumar) orders his assistant, Jaichand Khurana (Sudhir), to send his best and most ruthless man against the Shanti Nagar rebels: Raka (Sanjay Dutt). But even Raka has a tough time of it with Jaswant’s and Raju’s determination – and subsequently changes his tactics...
Zahreelay is a movie appealing to muster up the courage to resist extortion as well as one’s own fear and cowardness in view of seemingly overpowering opponents. According to this, the fronts are clearly divided up: Jeetendra, Chunky, Shafi & Co. are the good guys, and Kiran, Sharat, Sudhir & Co. are the bad guys. The only one evading this kind of black-and-white rating once again is, with his usual aplomb, Sanjay. His role may not be as extended as Jeetendra’s or Chunky’s (in fact, it takes about 50 minutes until he enters the story at all), but it is without doubts the most multifaceted one. With his perfidious game of doubles, this Raka is pretty much the meanest son of a bitch Sanjay ever played on screen, and also the greatest loser – Sanju probably never ever in his career had to accept this amount of thrashing and defeat. Against Jeetendra's and Chunky's roles, he fought a losing battle – not only concerning screentime. But in compensation, his role psychologically is the most interesting one as Raka doesn’t remain the same character till the end, but developes and changes, and the final scene at the latest leaves no doubts about who is the film’s real hero. Sanju played this enthralling character with loads of emotions and also with distinctive coolness (partially you watch kind of preliminary Musafir studies), and once again he looked simply mind-blowing (I just remember the scene where he "patches up" his wounds...).
Especially by direct comparison with Sanjay’s interpretation of this complex character, you realize all the more how fatal it is for the nominal heroes of a movie when they are shaped as stereotypes, perfect and therefore boring. Jeetendra became victim of this kind of role politics; his Jaswant has nothing else to do than to fight one-armedly and, with a gloomy and determined glance, to utter either heroic-awakening or sententious-fatherly paroles. Chunky Pandey got the slightly better deal, especially as he alongsides with his charming and with life brimming partner Juhi Chawla as Chamki also is responsible for the film’s entertainment factor. His best scene, however, is the one when Raju, inebriated, expresses his self contempt about having cowardly watched Jaswant’s thrashing by the Raksha Mandal gangsters.
Besides twirly Juhi, even Sanjay’s partner Vineeta as Raka’s girlfriend Shabnam recommended herself for further tasks – obviously in vain, as her filmography shows. Bhanupriya as Raju’s widowed sister silently attaching herself to Jaswant remains pale. And the squad of villains is nearly a complete failure: Kiran Kumar hardly ever appears, and the other ones attract more attention with their ghastly wigs than with their acting. Thus the whole resistance plot lacks a bit of suspense. Had there not been Sanjay with his shifty character who with unscrupulous egoism poaches in both camps, I’m afraid that my interest in this film would have kept within limits. So, however, once more Sanjay's performance alone is enough for a recommendation. At least for his fans.
By the way, those who have seen Jeena Marna Tere Sang and, like me, with horror remember the partially unnerving trash scenes caused by the monkey Ramu, probably get their toes curled at Sanju’s entry in Zahreelay, for even Raka owns a monkey, named Raja. But fortunately my fears were in vain, so I give the all-clear signal right here: Raja is okay.
Produced and directed by Jyotin Goel
157 Min.; DVD: Bollywood Films, English Subtitles (not for the songs)