Recalling the initial phase of Zanjeer Sethi recalled, “Salim-Javed had sold the script of Zanjeer to Dharmendra. But the script was lying there because Dharmendra was not able to make it. So, they shared the script with Prakash Mehra, who liked it and decided to make it. They were waiting for Dharmendra’s dates but he was super busy those days.”
There were many senior stars who were approached for the film. Sethi revealed, “Prakash Mehra then went to Dev Anand who said, ‘This script is good but there are no songs in it’. Mehra said that songs won’t look good on this hero because of the way his character is.” After Dev Anand, it was another charismatic star who turned the Zanjeer script down. Sethi recalled, “Then Mehra went to Raajkumar who listened to the script and observed that the role eventually played by Pran saab was stretched too far. Mehra realised that Raajkumar won’t do the film.”
With so many senior stars passing the opportunity to feature in the movie, Prakash Mehra changed his strategy. Sethi said, “Then they scouted for more actors and eventually someone suggested that they take a newcomer, Amitabh Bachchan. There was a Mehmood film (Bombay To Goa) in which Amitabh had given a good performance. Mehra watched that film and liked Amitabh. That’s how Zanjeer started.”
Sethi recalled that a lot of people asked Prakash Mehra why he was starting his own banner’s first film with a newcomer? But Mehra was convinced about his hero, Amitabh Bachchan.
Sethi revealed that first edit of Zanjeer was far from perfect. In fact, it was almost a non-starter. He said, “After the film was completed, during trials they realised that the film was dragging. Mehra was worried. Rakesh Kumar used to be Mehra’s Chief Assistant Director. Rakesh asked Mehra to give him a free hand to edit the film and show him a new version. Mehra was helpless, so he agreed.”
Sethi, who spent a good part of 20 years assisting Prakash Mehra recalled that it took a bit of random magic to make the classic movie. He said, “Rakesh Kumar took editor R Mahadik and reedited Zanjeer. In the trial that followed everyone praised the film.”