Zanjeer turned the tables for Amitabh Bachchan who was struggling to strike gold at the box office at that time. The 1973 movie was also a stepping stone for Amitabh as he marched towards the pedestal of a superstar, apart form making him the “angry young man” that Bollywood was waiting for. But, Amitabh Bachchan was not the first choice for film.
Guess who was the first choice? Dharmendra…
Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra might have collaborated in several blockbusters. But, the later was also in a way responsible for Big B’s raise to fame. Interestingly, Dharmendra himself was keen on playing the lead role in Zanjeer. So, how did the tables turn?
As reported by Times of India, director Prakash Mehra’s son Puneet revealed that Dharmendra had the script of Zanjeer, and since his previous Samadhi (1972) with Prakash Mehra was a success, the actor offered Zanjeer to the director who instantly fell in love with the story, with Dharmendra playing the lead. The actor, however, was busy for a year. But, Prakash Mehra couldn’t wait and “bought the script from him for Rs 3,500,” Puneet said.
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Prakash Mehra first approached Raaj Kumar who wanted to shoot it in Hyderabad. Dev Anand wanted songs. On legendary actor Pran’s suggestion, the director watched Bombay to Goa. Puneet shared that his father “jumped in a certain scene”, paving way for Amitabh Bachchan’s casting. According to him, his father screamed “Mil gaya (I found him)!”
Though Prakash Mehra’s decision was panned by many who were doubtful of casting someone with no hits. Many even called him “senile”. But, Zanjeer was meant for Amitabh Bachchan.
The film, also starring Pran, Jaya Bhaduri, Om Prakash, Ajit Khan, Bindu and others, remains an iconic movie in Bollywood.