Agneepath: Fires of Revenge

Much as with Hollywood, Bollywood too has been a bit obssessed with remakes in recent years, although not quite to the same degree. The underlying difference is that the typical stories are far too ingrained in the psyche of Bollywood filmmakers for them to really branch out and do something different, like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag or Peepli Live or what have you. But, we are getting there, slowly and surely. Regardless, a remake can be quite fun if it is executed properly, such as Karan Malhotra’s remake of the Amitabh Bacchan-starrer cult classic Agneepath, which failed at the box office on release, but since has really found a way into people’s hearts.

Now with a brand-new cast, and all top-notch talent involved no less, Karan Malhotra shows what that original movie could have been like. For the remake is all-around awesome, and I certainly enjoyed it more than the original. Here’s the review.

Digipack Final CC

Hrithik Roshan’s Agneepath is the remake of the Amitabh Bachhan-starrer of the same name from 1990 and, in a nutshell, it is just as fantastic a movie as the original. Commercially, it surpassed even the original, making one of the top Bollywood movies ever and has set an extremely high bar for all the movies that have yet to come out this year.

Remakes in Bollywood are not unheard of, especially when it comes to Amitabh Bachhan’s movies. His Sholay was remade by director Ram Gopal Verma as Ram Gopal Verma Ki Aag and the movie flopped terribly at the box office. Shah Rukh Khan and Farhan Akhtar remade Big B’s quintessential Don into Don and then, most recently, into Don 2, the latter of the two breaking the Rs. 100 crore mark and becoming a commercial blockbuster. In said context, Hrithik Roshan and Karan Malhotra’s Agneepath has a lot to live up to because Big B’s original is a cult classic and came at the absolute peak of his career. The obvious question that arises therefore is, does Bollywood’s best dancer-actor disappoint in an all-out action-drama film?

The answer to that is No. The Agneepath remake is an excellent film in almost all respects and just as good as the original. I would even say that it is better if you consider the film to be more of a tribute rather than a remake since the new film borrows only the setting and the characters and the general overall plot from the original rather than remaking it word for word.

On the acting side, the film is an absolute joy. Hrithik has delivered his best performance to date, which is saying something that this man has won numerous awards multiple times already in the Best Actor, Best Debut and Best Actor (critics) categories. He brings a very definite, very appropriate intensity to his role as Vijay Deenanath Chauhan and it is obvious from his very first scenes in the movie. Doing any direct comparison to Big B himself is selling both of them short because they have both performed incredibly in their respective Agneepath films. Hrithik’s acting in the movie also shows just how versatile an actor he is. He easily handles any role, whether it is action or drama or comedy or what have you. And he does it in his own litle style. I would prefer a cleaner look to his character but having seen his bearded look, I have to say that it suits his Vijay very much.

Priyanka Chopra is sort of an oddball here. She is a talented and successful actress of course, but I think that her role as Vijay’s romantic interest Kaali is one that does not suit her style. Her Kaali is a very, very different character than Madhavi’s Mary from the original movie, starkly different in fact and while Priyanka usually performs very well in roles like these, her potential is largely wasted here. And so is her character for the most part. The character is rather uninspired and seems to be there just for the filler need to have a romantic interest for the male lead Vijay. Nevertheless, she still plays her role well though it would have been nice to see a stronger character in the script.

Priyanka’s chemistry with Hrithik is never really touched upon outside of a few sparse romantic moments and a song or two but that is fine. Romance is not the focus of the film and nor should it have been. That the two actors complement each other very well is quite obvious from the get go, a relationship that is borne out from the fact that the two of them have starred together previously in a more romantic outing.

The real star of the movie, alongside Hrithik, is Sanjay Dutt’s villainous Kancha Cheena. Sanjay Dutt has successfully elevated himself above his recent flip flops and has delivered one of his strongest performances to date. I was quite reminded of his Ballu from Khal Nayak, which I hold as his absolute best performance to date although the younger Sanjay Dutt is quite different from the older, more mature Sanjay Dutt. However, his Kancha Cheena is one of the scariest villains ever in Bollywood and Dutt-saab appears to be very inspired in his acting. He captures the intrinsically evil nature of his character well and never lets it go. There is a particular line that he says throughout the film, one that is quite chilling in its original Hindi context:

Kya tum laye the, kya tum lekar jaoge, (what you have brought into this world, what you will take from it after death)

reh jayega sirf ek nam, sarvabuddhi, sarvashaktiman, (all that will remain is one name, the all-knowing, the all-powerful)

Kancha, Kancha! (Kancha, Kancha)

One of the surprises of the film, in terms of acting, is Rishi Kapoor’s Rauf Lala, the gang-lord who controls the Mumbai underworld. Rishi Kapoor is another great Indian actor, a veteran of dozens of Bollywood films and one of Big B’s younger contemporaries. His Rauf Lala is another inspired performance with Rishiji totally getting in his character’s skin and playing it with confidence and aloofness that is sorely lacking in many of the current crop of villains of modern Indian cinema. Rauf Lala by needs must play second fiddle to the big villain of Kancha Cheena but by no means is he left to the side lines. With Rishiji at the helm, Rauf Lala is a bad guy to cheer for even when you utterly hate him and what he stands for. Appearing very regal and magnanimous in one scene and then ruthless and bloodthirsty in the next, Rishiji mixes his performance with just the right touch of charisma. His best appearance in the film is during the song Shah Ka Ruthba where he is very much the benevolent and regal gang-lord. That this scene sequence is followed soon after by a no-holds-barred fist-fight between him and Hrithik, in which he gives as good as he gets, shows off his versatility to great effect. He may be old, but he is still a force to be reckoned with as an actor.

Om Puri, as Commissioner Gaitonde, is not really that impactful really. His character and his performance are rather standard-fare unfortunately but he still manages to deliver well enough. As expected, nothing more. Shout-outs however go to Chetan Pandit as Vijay’s father Master Deenanath Chauhan, Arish Bhiwandiwala as the young Vijay and Kanika Tiwari as Vijay’s younger sister Shiksha Chauhan. Chetan, in my opinion, does not get enough credit as an actor and has been largely relegated to the sidelines for most of his career. He played an experienced politician in Rajneeti, one of his best performances and he continues that here as well in the opening parts of the film. The scenes between him and Arish’s young Vijay are one of the highlights of the film, especially the ones where they recite the poem Agneepath together. It is the sort of scene that makes you want to just cheer and punch the air. Arish himself, and Kanika, deliver another round of decent performances, with the former reflecting the intensity of Hrithik’s performance very well in his early scenes and the latter being a very good complement to the older Vijay who has been separated from her since her birth.

And that’s that for all the acting performances. The other characters don’t really merit a mention, except for Deven Bhojani’s mentally challenged Azhar, Rauf Lala’s younger son. The character I think was a complete waste of script because he never really does anything of note and is just a completely filler character to move along a few scenes, and that too, rather unconvincingly.

The pacing of the film is superb. It starts on an exhilarating high from the first scene on and it maintains that high-octane tension for throughout the entire film. It also peaks very well in the climax, culminating in an explosive fight between Kancha Cheena and Vijay Chauhan. The new Agneepath is a film that all the current crop of filmmakers should learn from because it shows just how the story should be handled, how the direction should be handled and so on. Most of the current films are extremely lackluster with wide, gaping plotholes you can drive a Hummer through and most of the plot points are all gratuitous that add nothing at all to the concept of the story itself. There are no lows at all in the movie and it is just building on itself as it progresses until it goes to the climax and all the tension that has been built up explodes. You just are never bored with it.

In that same vein, the best thing about Agneepath is that it takes the viewer back to the 80s and 90s when a good storyline and good acting were what absolutely made or broke a film. Most of the popcorn movies of today throw in gratuitous swearing, a ridiculous item song or two (Agneepath does have one of these though), and some rather inane, low-brow humour in an effort to sell themselves. They are also, the majority of them at any rate, just caricatures of themselves, and they reward the viewer for being dumb and clueless. In Agneepath, content reigns supreme and the acting is really stellar. I fully expect both Hrithik and Dutt-saab to get at least a nomination each for their performances and for Agneepath to be nominated in several categories as well, not the least of which is for Best Film and Best Director. Under the auspices of Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, whose father produced the original Agneepath, Karan Malhotra definitely delivers on a masterpiece that is quite a tribute to the glory days of Bollywood.

Agneepath Stills 001

The film’s songs fall somewhere between excellent and average. Chikni Chameli, Gun gun gunare and Shah Ka Ruthba are my favourites, particularly because they are definitely very forceful dance tracks, although Shah Ka Ruthba is a far more sedate and regal song than the others. The choreography, courtesy , is decent enough with a particular shout-out for Chikni Chameli which is done in the traditional lavni style, a fast-paced style that is quite difficult to dance to but has been ably performed by Katrina Kaif and has garnered both her and choreographer a lot of praise, and rightly so.

The Karan-duo’s Agneepath is definitely a well-put together film and the incredible hard-work that has gone into the film is redeemed in spades by the final product, given its critical and commercial success. A truly star cast, a great script that reestablishes the prominence of good content, great soundtrack plus a dark and brutal grittiness all combines to make Agneepath a serious contender for movie of the year.

Posted on February 14, 2014, in Movie Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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