I am a bad audience of dialogues in a movie. There have been very few which I remember or perhaps carry with me for a long period. I agree that dialogues are the real punch of the movie, but blame my love for the visual that precedes cinematography over words; bitter irony for someone like me, who otherwise prefers writing. Yet that is how it is. But then again, there are scenes of movies that have had the twin effect of registering a commanding visual along with an equally powerful dialogue. Vijay Dinanath Chauhan introducing himself to the inspector in the earlier Agneepath is such an epochal memory. Discounting the number of times the dialogue has been spoofed and narrated across different mediums by different actors, it is one scene that will remain synonymous with Amitabh Bachan’s career. That is what made Agneepath special when Mukul Anand directed it. He took out careful time to etch out each character of the movie, so much so that long after the movie bombed at the box office, it got its due to become a classic and the characters became legends.
With such a history, Karan Malhotra had a daunting task in choosing to remake Agneepath. Obviously the story could not just be a screen adaptation of the earlier. In the present times one had to concentrate on a larger canvas, without failing to focus on the micro details of each colour that would go on to adorn the canvas. Thankfully, he does. Not in an epic manner but one can feel the genuineness in his attempt which makes up for everything else. Besides, like I said, I am biased towards the visual and Kiran Deohans and Ravi Chandran does not disappoint. Be it, the landscape of Mandwa before and after the entry of Kancha or the Chawl’s of Mumbai where Vijay Dinanath Chauhan will grow and plot the revenge of his father’s death, the film has unlimited shares of visual delights. One particular scene that I would mention to support my case is the panoramic shot across Mandwa when Kancha makes his entry. Along with a long shot of the dark clouds that occupy the sky, symbolically signalling the ominous that is to come, there is the towering presence of Sanjay Dutt, his menacing tattoos and his black ensemble of a dhoti and kurta, a stark departure from the suave suit clad Danny as Kancha in the earlier Agneepath. This is Karan’s Kancha and when I say that the canvas needed to be larger it also meant that the characters had to be larger and more striking. In this Agneepath Malhotra does manage to create such striking characters.
Hrithik Roshan as the brooding Vijay Dinanath Chauhan comes off almost as convincing as Amitabh was in his role. However, the pinch of salt will be that Amitabh played the role when he was in his mid forties and obviously was more seasoned as an actor than Hrithik is now. Amitabh created an identity of Vijay in the earlier Agneepath, whereas Hrithik only manages to give a splendid performance in the remake as much the role demanded. His Vijay Dinanath Chauhan will not be someone you will remember when someone takes the name. Having said so, one cannot take away anything from Hrithik who performs beautifully speaking with his eyes and expressions to the last shot – as a son, brother, friend, lover and even a devious scheming character.
There are no villains in modern cinema, only negative characters. In this Agneepath the audience will experience not one but two such characters, each played to perfection by two very seasoned actors – Sanjay Dutt and Rishi Kapoor. While Sanjay Dutt goes on to re-script Kancha Cheena (someone who will be remembered for the character, as Amitabh will be for Vijay) it is Rishi Kapoor as Rauf Lala, the local Mumbai don, drug lord, human trafficker and an arch business nemesis of Kancha who emerges as a pick among the actors for me. In this new character introduced by Karan, there is enough meat to make it a memorable one. Sinister, scheming and sentimental, his role is not just about the alliterations; his character is shaped to make up for the absence of one played by Mithun Chakravorty in the earlier version. He is nothing near to good but will be instrumental for Vijay to achieve the objective of killing Kancha and avenging his father’s murder. That Ranbir Kapoor has good genes of acting is evident in the ease with which Rishi Kapoor essays this role. He commands screen presence and regales you with the performance. A scene that you might pay special interest to is in the climax of conflict between Rauf and Vijay. I can easily see Rishi Kapoor in 2012’s nominations across movie awards as a best supporting actor or even in a negative role.
Kancha Cheena - Like I said earlier, the character will be remembered for Sanjay Dutt, even though there was nothing less that Danny had put in his performance earlier in the same role. It is just about how the character has been written and played that makes all the difference. Harbouring a bitter memory of his ugliness, Kancha in this movie believes that being ugly is synonymous with being evil and so leaves no stones unturned in his mission of becoming a producer of cocaine within the fortress that he creates out of Mandwa. The beauty of the characterisation is that like many other such characters, one such seen in Rakeysh Mehra’s Aks played by Manoj Bajpai, Kancha has a penchant of quoting from the Gita, of course tweaking the meaning to fulfil his own objective – “Kya leke aaye the, Kya leke jaoge” being one such quote, before murdering anyone. Taran Adarsh mentions in his critique of the movie, that Kancha has the influence of a Kurtz like character played by Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now. I will second that, only to add that Kancha is more sinister. The evil smile and brutality that Sanjay portrays is scary but convincing for the role. His look - massive, bald, tattooed body, soiled toe nails (watch carefully) and a black attire easily fits into someone that the character demanded. Agneepath 2012 is as much of Kancha as Vijay’s.
There is not much left for the woman characters in this Agneepath, though Priyanka Chopra does good a Kali, Vijay’s childhood friend and then eventually as his lover in the Chawl of Mumbai. She offers intensity to the emotional scenes but leaves you with nothing significant to carry back. Zarina Wahab as Suhasini Chauhan is a far cry from Rohini Hattangadi of the earlier version. In the earlier version the silence of Rohini Hattangadi was a powerful statement to the last shot, even when Amitabh dies in her arms. Not much justice is done to that role in the present characterisation with Suhasini Chauhan is left as a brooding wife and mother who disapproves of her son’s revengeful attitude. Om Puri as the commissioner of Mumbai Police recognises Vijay’s purpose albeit late but like the earlier Agneepath, in this also he remains as someone who tries to warn and pull out Vijay from the pulpit of revenge and evil that the latter engages with a single minded purpose.
One complain that I have of the present version is the song and dance routine which seems to be one too many, perhaps an extension of the Karan Johar effect as a producer. Though the music is good, it would have been more pleasant if some of the numbers, which occur almost immediately after one ends, were done away with or kept as promo items only. This applies also for the popular Chikni Chameli number, but one must accept this extravagance as this is a commercial and not parallel cinema.
Karan Malhotra has successfully carried the remake of Agneepath and you must watch it once at least. And all this began with a title immortalised by the late Harivansh Rai Bachan’s famous poem:
Vriksh hon bhale khade,
Hon bade, hon ghane,
Ek Patra chhah bhi,
Maang mat, Maang mat, Maang mat.
Agneepath! Agneepath! Agneepath!
Tu na jhukega kabhi,
Tu na mudega kabhi,
Tu na thamega kabhi,
Kar shapath, Kar shapath, Kar shapath.
Agneepath! Agneepath! Agneepath!
Ye Mahaan Drushya Hai,
Chal Raha Manushya Hai,
Ashru, Shwed, Rakta Se,
Lathpath, Lathpath, Lathpath.
Agneepath! Agneepath! Agneepath!