Zaalim released in the year 1994. I was barely 7 years old at that point of time and I can still clearly remember my elder brother taking me to see this film. In those days there was a much hyped rivalry between Akshay Kumar and Sunil Shetty for the top spot of the first major action hero of Bollywood of the 90s and this rivalry had made its way into my relationship with my brother. While he was an Akshay Kumar fan, I was up for Sunil Shetty. We often ran into heated arguments about the same. He made it a point to watch every Akshay Kumar film while ignoring the Sunil Shetty fare. I had the option of watching either the Akshay Kumar films or sit at home. I gave in. In the course of time I did develop a sort of a liking for Akshay Kumar and one of the major contributors to that feeling were two films “Sabse Bada Khiladi” and “Zaalim”.
Zaalim is a testimony of the age of ultra-violence in Bollywood before the Khans, YRF and the Johars wrapped it into a candy floss ball of mush for the next ten odd years. Zaalim relates the story of Ravi (Akshay Kumar) a mild mannered young man who wants to be happy in his life with his girlfriend and family. Life seems to be going well for him until he gets into a tangle with Vinod (Arjun), the son of a powerful gangster Jaikal (Mohan Joshi). After multiple provocations, Ravi beats up Vinod whose ego is hurt more than his body.
Vinod takes revenge on the family by raping Ravi’s sister and then all hell breaks loose. Ravi’s father, an honest judge decides to go after Jaikal and his son and the decision costs them their lives. Ravi’s sister is also killed in pursuit of justice and this shatters Ravi’s life completely. He decides to extract revenge on his wrong doers and goes all out after them. In doing so he strays away from the path of the righteous and into darkness. Does Ravi succeed in winning his war and does he become a Zaalim in pursuit if revenge is what is left to be seen.
Zaalim is by far one of the most outrageous films that you will see. The logic and continuity go for a toss every once in a while. The characters overact at many junctures and the setting is overtly melodramatic but it is a lot of fun. The primary reason for that is the breezy plot. The film’s story no matter how much ridiculous never stagnates. The plot points are reached one after the other and the story constantly keeps moving a breakneck speed. Even the romantic routines are done with such speed as though the characters are about to miss a train if they moved any slower.
The action takes a while to start and once it does, it doesn’t let go. The fights and chases are almost ceaseless adding a lot of fluidity to the narrative. Akshay Kumar is in top form as he fights like his life depended on it. He hadn’t got his acting quite right till that point of time but he had that charisma to hook the audiences. The initial beginning portrays him as a reserved and controlled individual but with the dead bodies piling up, he unleashes his bestiality on the perpetrators with such physicality that it is highly entertaining to watch. The many song and dance routines provide him an opportunity to flex his dancing feet well.
Zaalim tries everything in its capacity to entertain the audience and it succeeds for most of the part. It might not have been a hit but was surely a film to watch out for in 1994. Over the years it has achieved a cult status among cheap grind-house action fare fans in India because of its rather outrageous content. If you have a taste for such film, Zaalim is a worthy watch.