The ApunKaChoice movie review of Agneepath. The new Agneepath by debutant director Karan Malhotra is decidedly powerful but could have done better with some editing.
Hell, Fire, and Brimstone. All three are invoked in Agneepath. There’s the hell-raiser Kancha Cheena, more beastly a villain than ever seen in Hindi cinema. There’s the smouldering Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, a dormant volcano spewing fire and slyly annihilating a ganglord in his quest for power and, thereafter, revenge. And there’s brimstone and brawns aplenty, as this David versus Goliath battle climaxes in an explosive showdown. Topping it is the awesome poem by the late Harivansh Rai Bachchan, every word of which stabs your heart as it plays in the backdrop:
Ye mahan drishya hai,
Chal raha manushya hai,
Ashru, shwet, rakta se lathpath lathpath lathpath...
Agneepath, Agneepath, Agneepath.
Take a bow, Karan Johar and Karan Malhotra for a compelling retelling of a revenge saga that the fans of Hindi films, and particularly of Amitabh Bachchan, know better than the back of their hands. Expectedly, one thing this remake does is to establish that Amitabh Bachchan is beyond compare and without a peer. It’s for his own good that Hrithik Roshan doesn’t try to match the stalwart, and gives a new interpretation to the character. But, confession be made, one can’t help yenning for the seething Vijay Dinanath Chauhan as immortalized by a feral Bachchan in the 1990 movie by Mukul Anand, as one sees Hrithik Rohan -- may he be praised for daring the Herculean task of stepping into Big B’s shoes -- go through the motions, preferring silence over speech, and slyness over brash bravado. If the Vijay Dinanath Chauhan of the 1990 movie proffered his chest to be pumped by the bullets of his enemies, this Vijay is a smooth operator who double crosses his own boss to rise to a pedestal from where he can take on his bête noire, Kancha Cheena. In short, this Vijay is high on revenge and low on compunction. All the better for Hrithik for he doesn’t have to mouth the unforgettable dialogues like “Maut ke saath appointment” and “Main goonda nahin hai” and therefore spared of any comparison on that count, at least. In fact, the most popular dialogue of the original, “Pura naam Vijay Dinanath Chauhan”, is spoken just once by Hrithik and that too at the fag end. That goes to show how different this Agneepath is from Mukul Anand’s.
I am not going to spell out the story, but rest assured that this Agneepath has some interesting plot departures from the previous one, even though the outline of the story remains the same. The character of Krishnan Aiyyar (Mithun Chakraborty in the original) is chucked out and we have a new character in the bulky form of Rauf Lala (Rishi Kapoor), a crimelord in Mumbai running a drug racket and sex trade. Priyanka Chopra is a chirpy Mumbai girl Kaali living in the same chawl as Vijay. And Kancha Cheena is not the dapperly, goggled don, but a bald, black-clad monster that claims to be without ‘moh-maya’ and mouths philosophy like “Atma marti nahin” almost as if it was a satanic verse.
Which brings us to Sanjay Dutt. I hope his little ones don’t see the movie in their growing-up years, lest they begin to fear their doting papa. As the bald, menacing, deadly Cheena, Dutt strikes fear into the heart of the mortals. His loony grins, piercing gaze and that big burly bod make him the best khalnayak we have seen in years, if not ever. Dutt brings a psycho streak into Kancha Cheena, and it’s not without a pinch of salt will the audience stomach the climax when Hrithik, consummately pummelled by Dutt, makes the last gasp turnaround to overpower him.
An equally stellar performance comes from Rishi Kapoor as the mobster who keeps young girls locked like they were chickens and auctions them off to the best bidder. Priyanka Chopra doesn’t get much footage and plays the bubbly love interest of the protagonist, while Hrithik Roshan does justice to his role without ever delivering anything in Bachchan’s league. He can’t not be encumbered with comparison.
Director Karan Malhotra has made an impressive film for a first-timer, but stretches the story which he has adapted along with Ila Bedi Datta more than needed for the benefit of our bums. Sitting in the theatres for three hours watching this powerful firestorm wreak havoc, with all that sound and fury and a token ‘Chikni Chameli’ item to boot, can be a tiresome exercise. Save for a qawwali, the songs needed to have been dropped, so that we could have enjoyed this revenge drama without having to look at our watches repeatedly.