Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Hrithik Roshan, Priyanka Chopra
In the original Agneepath, Amitabh Bachchan is dining at a restaurant with his girlfriend when he realizes the other people eating there are staring at him and that his presence is making them uncomfortable. Amitabh Bachchan kicks the table and throws the food here and there and then knocks some more stuff over and shouts at the others, asking why they should feel awkward because he’s a criminal, and that he is paying for the food just like them. This unpredictable frustration and volatile behaviour is absent in the new Agneepath.
There are few things more gratifying than revenge sagas, and from a film industry which has thrown up countless such tales, the retelling of a story that bled emotions from the screen should gather plenty of interest. A story of a man who returns to his village to avenge his father’s lynching, the remake of Agneepath is special because it has been produced by the son of the man who produced the original. Yash Johar’s Agneepath (1990) was directed by Mukul Anand, garnered critical acclaim but flopped miserably. Over the years though, Agneepath became a cult classic and is also celebrated as one of Amitabh Bachchan’s best films, and has now been remade by Karan Johar. Director Karan Malhotra has completely repackaged the movie. Holding on to the premise, Malhotra spins the tale with the same names and adds new characters to this Agneepath.
Master Dinanath Chauhan, an honest schoolteacher in the village of Mandwa… you all know the story – and shame on you if you don’t – so let’s get on with what’s different in Agneepath (2012) and what’s good and bad about the remake.
Rishi Kapoor is a first-class actor, and it obviously pays to have his character Rauf Lala inserted in this. Rauf Lala is the monarch of Mumbai’s drug-trafficking business and takes great pride in selling young girls to old men. Priyanka Chopra looks great as Kaali, the owner of Jai Maa Kaali ‘Chinese Beauty Parlour’, and she has a small role which she acts out quite nicely.
Hrithik Roshan and Sanjay Dutt are good, no doubt – but Amitabh Bachchan and Danny Denzongpa they are not. It is the strong script which carries the two through their roles; Hrithik’s Vijay Dinanath Chauhan mumbles and mutters his lines, a far cry from the gruff vocal delivery of the original Vijay Dinanath Chauhan. ‘Gaon – Mandwa,’ he adds and stops at that, never stating his age or height. Sanjay Dutt’s Kancha Cheena has the look of a ghoul. Bald, in a black pathani, with kohl around the eyes, and that ghoulish smile – the setting is perfect for the new Kancha Cheena, but he’s not shrewd or smart or slick – this Kancha is a slimy creep. No problem, it’s a remake.
95% of the movie is different. 5% is the retention of important scenes: the killing of the father, the protagonist dining at his perpetually sullen mother’s house, and his interactions with the honest cop. But they didn’t redo the scenes that were meant to display the core being of the main characters.
The best thing about Agneepath is the dark tone that engulfs the horrifying scenes, especially during Kancha Cheena’s imposing presence. The scene which has the teacher being hanged on an old, dead tree by the ghoulish villain with the village folk gathered around holding torches (not the battery-operated ones, you fuckers) – fuck, man – that’s pure Gothic madness. Metalheads (real ones, not metalcore/deathcore fans) will find those scenes thrilling, and that beautiful darkness comes on many times in the movie.
What’s sorely lacking is the anger Amitabh Bachchan’s Vijay Dinanath Chauhan has. Hrithik’s VDJ flares his nostrils and his face trembles with rage, but you can’t feel his anger for even a second. It’s not there. You can’t feel the intensity that a man who lives to avenge his father’s death burns with.
Mukul Anand’s Agneepath is a cult classic and this is a worthy tribute. Worthy of one watch, before you go back to watching the original every damn time the movie channels show it.