Director: Karan Malhotra
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Priyanka Chopra, Sanjay Dutt, Rishi Kapoor, Zarina Wahab, Sachin Khedekar, Om Puri
Synopsis: In a small Indian village Mandwa, Vijay Dinanath Chauhan (Hrithik Roshan) is taught about the path of fire (Agneepath) by his principled father. His life is shattered completeley when the evil drug lord Kancha Cheena (Sanjay Dutt) hangs his father to death. Vijay leaves for Bombay with his pregnant mother played by Zarina Wahab, and takes an oath that he will return to Mandwa someday and bring back the glory of his father name. In Bombay, 12 Year-old Vijay is taken under the wings of the city`s drug lord Rauf Lala (Rishi Kapoor). From here on, it is a journey of revenge where he makes and breaks many relationships only to get closer to his aim. Vijay finds support in his only friend Kaali (Priyanka Chopra), who stands by him at every moment of his life. Fifteen Years later, his hatred for Kancha takes him back to Mandwa. Agneepath is a remake of the Hindi film of the same name starring Amitabh Bachchan which fetched him a national award.
Review: Vijay Dinanath Chauhan steps into our era with cold-blooded suaveness and a meditative focus towards retribution. Second time around he is less man-like and more boyish in his vulnerabilities. First time director Karan Malhotra pays a tribute to the original rather than miming it. Borrowing the plot but re-inventing the way it should conduct itself, he recreates a version that takes you by surprise with its robust imagery, black humour and spine chilling villainy.
More than Mukul Anannd’s original plot you see an almost Shakespearean tragedy surfacing through the script. Black skies menacingly witnessing gruesome deaths and a turbulent sea wildly weeping at the loss of humanity. The story is a tribute to resilience, vengeance here is a lot like the horse wearing blinkers to all else in pursuit of its goal. So you have a Vijay who is grey in his sensibilities and too conniving for his peers to get the better of him. He often fakes loyalty to add momentum to his grand plans. His eyes, a reservoir of pain and seething with unadulterated hate. This a Vijay you cannot be in awe of but in an instant identify with. Vijay ruthlessly kills a lot of people to infuse life to his sense of purpose. He is possessed with so much pain that he dare not entertain his emotions, lest they obstruct his mission. He is heroic in the ironies he throws at us. His familiarity on one end and his unpredictability on the other makes "Agneepath" a hands down winner.
The plot is just a basic revenge saga exactly like the original. Meet the menacing uncrowned king of Mandwa, Kancha Cheena (Sanjay Dutt) who cunningly gets the righteous village school master Dinanath Chauhan wrongly accused of raping a minor and drags him to a gruesome death by hanging him on a large and deathly tree.
In a spine-chilling scene we see, bordering on insanity, Kancha quote the Bhagwad Gita to defend his inhuman cruelty. Vijay mind-numbed by his father’s death migrates with his pregnant mother to Mumbai, where he, his baby sister and mother decide to relocate. The teenage Vijay keeps a close eye on a drug lord who dares to humiliate Kancha and inspires him to seek unquestionable power. Vijay fascinated by the aura exerted by the human and drug trafficking don Rauf Lala (Rishi Kapoor) chooses to become his loyal right-hand man simply to reclaim entry to Mandwa and seek revenge from Kancha.
Rishi Kapoor’s performance as the foul-mouthed mafia, unabashedly auctioning trembling teenage girls like he was selling a goat for slaughter, is noteworthy. He is the stuff cold-blooded men are made of. He makes a great stepping stone in Vijay’s mission, his black kohl eyes recreating the old Bollywood baddie charm that we witnessed back in the early nineties. Priyanka Chopra plays the admirably adapting girl-next-door cum lover to Vijay, cheering him up, conspiring gimmicks simply to see a smile spread across his face. Her role though functional stands out in its unconditional bonding with the hero. Om Puri as the zealous and soon to retire commissioner is endearing in his warmth towards Vijay, trying hard to solve the mystery behind his many twisted and shocking doings.
Meanwhile, a special mention to Dutt who excels as Kancha Cheena, a lot like he once did as "Khalnayak" only this time his tyranny is too overpowering right until the climax. It takes steel and not muscle to break this almost surreal face of evil. He is a devil’s reincarnate, black in head and attire both. But nonetheless he is not dramatic, he hardly speaks, just grins and guffaws, since he knows how tough his own lineage is to overpower. Vijay’s reunion song with his sister post rescuing her from being auctioned by a spurned Rauf Lala is highly memorable in its subtlety and simplicity. The mother-son bonding unlike the original is as good as nil in this one. Zarina Wahab as Suhasini, Vijay’s battered mother, chooses a deafening silence to express her disapproval of his ways rather than melodrama of any sort.
Piyush Mishra’s dialogues are rhetorical, reeking of unresolved anger and still keeping characters miles away from over-the-top drama. The eerie cinematography by Ravi K Chandran and Kiran Deohans is remarkable in creating am apocalyptic sense of doom amidst the skies. In the official remake, however, Amitabh Bachchan’s trademark self-introduction monologue is enacted in the most crucial phase of the plot, establishing the hero’s identity like nothing else would, paying a smart homage minus just weakly imitating the original. With Bollywood off late going on a remake spree, this one boasts of a soul of its own. Karan Johar pays tribute to his father’s home production by remaking it with creative liberties, exploring an unexplored territory and emerging rather a winner despite all the filming dare-devilry. It’s a tribute that steers from trying to replace the original, simply borrows from it and then like any other achiever decides to set up a benchmark of its own. The only flaw that surfaces is the way too lengthy climax.
Watch it because three superstars, each coming in from different cinematic eras, make every minute memorable. Sanjay Dutt with his ominous cruelty, Hrithik with his manipulative righteousness and Rishi Kapoor’s incredible filthiness. Agneepath is a celebration of vices to heed virtues so as to unfailingly claim victory all over again.
Verdict: Agneepath is a firebrand of talent blazing on screen. Loved the robust saga of revenge.