Hrithik Roshan, Sanjay Dutt, Priyanka ChopraCast:
Directed by Karan Malhotra Rating: ** A Bollywood remake is like a second child. It cannot avoid being compared to the first and invariably ends up inheriting the inferior traits of the original. This is classically true in the case of ‘Agneepath’ – a box office bummer of the 90s, remembered for the cult clearing of throat between, before and after lines gargled out by the legendary screen gangster, Vijay Dinanath Chauhan (VDC). This one (thankfully) steers clear of clearing of throat but ends up being a puzzled mix of contemporary and Eastman-coloured cinema.
Our journey into the mid-eighties begins suitably with VDC (Hrithik Roshan) as a toddler with a head full of curls (every child actor of the time looked like a baby Tendulkar). Following the original, his idealist school teacher father ends up being falsely maligned and then mercilessly wasted by a fierce goon Kancha (Sanjay Dutt), who looks like an overweight Voldemort with a nose job. Not following the original, Kancha doesn’t go on to become a Godfather of APAC proportions and restricts himself to the tiny village/ island/ cocaine factory location of Mandwa. Like any minor from Hindi films who has seen his father being choked to death, VDC swears to return to Mandwa one day and teach everyone a lesson. Oh yes, the Mandwa-ites join Kancha in ripping VDC’s dad apart.
VDC grows up to become a muscular mafia don under the keen kohl-smeared eyes of Rauf Lala (Rishi Kapoor), the mai-baap, the man of all wrong-doings, Mumbai ka king, most wanted criminal and every other adjective in between. VDC is also oddly fathered by an ant hill-nosed commissioner (Om Puri) who overlooks his misdemeanors for his charitable and social efforts (he sponsors many ambulance vans). Now the premise of this story is to take revenge. But what is baffling is how VDC, who is otherwise conniving (he ousts Lala to take over the throne), gets mauled by Kancha when he approaches him with a business proposition.
It’s easy to assume the rest of the story, so let’s get into the tiny illogical holes in the script. The commissioner of police is portrayed as a tough cop who is married to his job. But when briefing the home minister about VDC, he covers his charities, his permanent address, his nature of work and every micro details of his life but only has a childhood photo in his records. Some nose for detail! Then again, when this top cop goes to visit VDC in the hospital, he bumps into Lala and his ‘chelas’ crowding outside the OT. His immediate response: ‘Disperse! This is no place to stand about!’ How about arresting the most-wanted ‘bhai’ of Mumbai? Lastly, we have the oldest B’wood cliché: the hero never dies. Not before being stabbed and smashed a million times, not before sputtering his last few lines with a constipated expression, breaking only to spit blood.
The biggest dilemma of remaking a movie is how much to retain and what to retain. If the new story takes violent shifts, you lose the audience who came to revisit the original. If you photocopy scene-by-scene, you risk failing to connect with the audience who is accustomed to present sensibilities. The only safe bet: a ‘khichdi’ of the past and the present, like this one.
Hrithik completely absorbs his character and makes the outdated elements about the original character acceptable if not commendable. Sanjay Dutt strongly believes that evil can only be portrayed by cackling about idiotically and he does just that through the film. Luckily, his appearance manages to evoke just the right amount of fear. Priyanka Chopra’s role is quite inconsequential and she usually pops up in the many desi dance numbers. Unfortunately for her, the only number that anyone cares about features the sparkling and energetic Katrina Kaif as Chikni Chameli.
Just after sucking the last strand of life out of the bald Kancha, VDC cried out, ‘Baba!!!’ as an ode to his father. This is funny since that also happens to be Dutt’s pet name and he plays a black sheep here too.
A Bollywood remake is like a second child. It cannot avoid being compared to the first and invariably ends up inheriting the inferior traits of the original. This is classically true in the case of ‘Agneepath’ – a box office bummer of the 90s, remembered for the cult clearing of throat between, before and after lines gargled out by the legendary screen gangster, Vijay Dinanath Chauhan (VDC). This one (thankfully) steers clear of clearing of throat but ends up being a puzzled mix of contemporary and Eastman-coloured cinema.
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