When I watched the original 1990 version of Agneepath, I had decided by the first half of the movie that I wouldn’t like it, the reasons are many but key ones include :-
1. As things stand now, we usually love movies that focus less on style and more on content. Director Mukul Anand, the Guru of visual style that he was, may have just focused too less on the content of the film.
2. The story was simple, but the structure far too convoluted to take the basic premise forward and ridden with unnecessary subplots and characters.
3. Vijay Dinanath Chauhan’s burning desire for revenge got lost midway; and
4. Somewhere in the middle, the antagonist Kancha Cheena didn’t get through my throat to digest completely.
Brickbats will come this way and maybe that’s how the 90s were (or so some people would tell me), but one thing about revenge dramas in that period is that, despite being stylish depending on the genre and the locale it was trying to cover, it was always true to its roots. Watch Baazigar and you’ll know. A remake of Agneepath on that basis, sounds unnecessary at best. Why make a convoluted, confusing story all over again with only one character (Vijay Dinanath Chauhan) to boast of? Moreover, why pitch in Hrithik Roshan to put himself in the shoes of Mr. Amitabh Bachchan? Risky idea…or is it?
Starting off in Mandwa, off the coast of Mumbai, the movie brings to surface schoolmaster Dinanath Chauhan, whose upright nature irks a lot of people, one of them being the power-hungry Kancha Cheena, who – Gita in hand – chants its holy verses in an almost satanic tone to abolish whatsoever he hates. Implicating him in a false case of rape, Cheena hangs Dinanath Chauhan in front of a horde of villagers, forcing his pregnant wife, Suhasini, and child, Vijay, to flee Mandwa. Landing in Mumbai, Vijay sees nothing but violence all around him. Still seething with the rage of his father’s murder, Vijay decides to play his own game of revenge, where life later comes full circle.
Karan Malhotra looks like he knows his stuff really well. Some of the scenes are really well-directed, and it shows – as an example, we’ve got Vijay’s face-off with his mother Suhasini who reluctantly invites him over to dinner, and then asks him to get out. Vijay angrily takes the food to his plate and storms outside. As Kaali comes beside him to comfort him, all he does is point toward the plate, and tell her that that is what he’s been waiting for years. This scene reminded me of Hrithik Roshan in Lakshya and made me wonder – this guy has improved drastically! This director is a guy to watch out for and he’s got it in him to excel further if he makes all the right decisions in the future.
Technically the movie has been made on an expansive scale, and the results are right there for us to see. Made in the 90s fashion, the camerawork, art direction and music give us a feeling we’re watching something absolutely grand. The editing is something that should have been a lot more crisper, as I guess the director and the producer must have been so over-indulgent that they didn’t want any scene to be deleted perhaps.
Cinematography elevated the smooth camerawork to the next level. Costume design fits in well with the genre and the period of the film. Music by Ajay-Atul consists of some lovely numbers which include ”Abhi Mujh Mein Kaheen” and “O Saiyyan” which appear at proper junctures (though I’m sure I will see a whole lot of people about to complain about a very short version of the latter in the film). “Chikni Chameli” acts as a speed-breaker in the feverish proceedings of the movie’s narrative, and “Shah Ka Rutba” plays wonderfully well throughout the end of the pre-intermission reels. The background score is powerful, and “Deva Shree Ganesha” has been well-used as a part of the score to elevate some absolutely intense and dramatic scenes.
Performance-wise, if you’re not interested to watch anything in the movie, grab a ticket for the earnest performances in the film. Hrithik Roshan takes the cake as the protagonist, and the surprisingly good factor is that he has only himself to compete with, and at the end of the day all you find is himself bettering his previous acts by many notches. Sanjay Dutt and Rishi Kapoor as the antagonists are powerful and chomp each of the frames off. Priyanka Chopra’s given a role that’s put her here on the backburner, but she still does well, what with all the spunk she’s put in. Zarina Wahab is very good. In fact, she does justice to Suhasini Chauhan in a way even Hattangadi wouldn’t, though I think it’s the writers of the original that took her character too far. Ashish Bhiwandiwala plays the young Vijay to the hilt. Om Puri is super-efficient. Sachin Khedekar does alright. Deven Bhojani is adorable. Others are efficient.
Overall, Agneepath is not just a remake…It’s a TRIBUTE – and such that most of the blemishes of the previous are removed to give the audience of today something crisper, slightly more logical, and more real. Kudos to the team at Dharma for giving us a re-interpretation that still has the soul of the original to a large extent, only this time more clear in its intentions. Also, the fact that the makers didn’t force modernization to cater to the needs of the current generation has struck gold because despite some obvious flaws, we’re provided with unadulterated, unabashed, unapologetic entertainment in its true sense of the word. In a world of South remakes comes a re-interpretation that should be watched at all costs! Go grab your tickets right away!