‘Vijay Dinanath Chauhan…poora naam. Baap ka naam, Dinanath Chauhan. Maa ka naam, Suhasini Chauhan. Gaaon, Mandwa. Umar, Chattis saal, nau mahina, Aanth din…solva ghan chalu hai…hain…’
The Agneepath of ’90 may have flopped when it released, but Amitabh owned the movie as soon as he uttered this iconic dialogue. 21 years, some months/days and 3 hours later, I still yearned for something iconic to take away from the Agneepath of ’12. It’s wrong to compare re-makes, I know. But isn’t it inevitable? Heath Ledger’s ‘Joker’ was always going to be pitted against Jack Nicholson’s. There is no escaping it. Shall we, then?
To be honest, I went into the movie hall expecting Hrithik to overact. I’m not a big fan of his, so sue me. He didn’t convert me into one, but thankfully he didn’t totally live up to his reputation in my mind. So that counts as sort of a pleasant surprise. The story remains the same, but subtle tweaks are added to really make it look and feel different. It doesn’t necessarily make it better, just different. Vijay’s father’s death has got to be one of the best shot scenes in recent times, the NGC themed JNMD scenes in Spain notwithstanding. That scene looks like it’s been taken straight out of a Frank Miller / Batman graphic novel and rendered by Zack Snyder. Vijay’s path of fire begins as his father’s ends. He moves to Mumbai, meets Rauf Lala (Rishi Kapoor) and plans to see further than any men by standing on the shoulders of this giant. Some murderous politics and songs later, the climatic showoff arrives. Kancha Cheena (a monstrous Sanjay Dutt) and Vijay face off. A big fight, knife stabs and slashes, and Hrithik finally finds inner peace, albeit in his dying moments, at the very tree where it was taken away from him.
The best thing that works for this movie is not the colossus of a cult movie that looms over it’s head, nor is it the way it has been treated. What works for the movie is it’s music, for starters. Ajay – Atul, after rocking the marathi movie scene for quite some time, are slowly and surely finding their feet in Bollywood. The percussion heavy songs are awesome, and percussion is always the hallmark of Ajay – Atul brand of music. Mark it, I said ‘hallmark’. Don’t confuse it with anything that implies ‘repetition’. And if music is something that shines out in this movie, it’s star cast is what nails it.
I loved Sanjay Dutt in his role as Kancha Cheena. He’s a absolute monster in the movie. He is as primal and devilish as Danny was slick and sophisticated. His monstrosity is wonderfully established at the beginning, at the expense of Vijay’s father, whereas Danny was just, well, he was just shown to be in complete and utter control of his world, and nonchalant while being at it. Rishi Kapoor as Rauf Lala is wicked, what with his surma in the eyes n all. He’s done all the justice in the world, and some more, to his role. But in the end it remains just a convenience for the writer – director to make the story their own, a means to an end.
That brings us to the protagonist. Hrithik is good here. Subdued, weighed down by the events of his past, and breathing every moment just to get that weight off his chest. Every bullet, every kill, is one step closer to his conclusion and he knows it. And yet two things fail him. One, he’s not good at dialogue delivery. Not that there are many dialogues worthy of being written in the history books of movie quotes, but still, his Hindi is too polished for a boy who’s lived in a red light area since he was 12 and has killed more bad guys than he cares to remember. Amitabh’s Vijay, on the contrary, was just awesome. With his arrogance, swagger, absolute control over his destiny, comtempt for the society and the system written large on his face, he made Vijay larger than life, an unstoppable force on course to collide with what seemed like an immovable object. Hrithik, or rather the director / writer fail to recreate that persona, and sadly we are worse off for it. The second thing that I absolutely
hate abhor about him is when he makes his face and cheeks tremble / shiver / quiver during an intense display of emotion. It’s ridiculous and frankly for me, has now begun to border on the comical. It’s his signature expression it seems, but makes his acting one dimensional. For most of the movie, he’s tried to let his eyes do the acting/taking, with mixed results. It sort of gave me an impression that he was trying to pull of a Ryan Gosling, but doesn’t succeed.
I saw Priyanka Chopra after a long time on the big screen, and loved her, even in her limited appearance. Katrina has danced her heart, hips, and ass off in ‘Chikni Chameli’, and loved her to bits too. Rohini Hattangadi and Tinu Anand were sorely missed. But the most I missed was the beloved ‘Krishnan Aiyer Yam Yay’, played to the letter by Mithun. This movie needed some comic relief, a character that believes that someone is bigger than his LIFE, and all it got was a mentally challenged Deven Bhojani. Sad.
Sure the original Agneepath flopped when it hit the screens, but since then it has gone to make a place for itself in our hearts. Amitabh’s iconic scenes like his self introduction, telling when he has an ‘ap-pint-ment‘ with death, his fight with his mother at the dinner table, him telling the ACP to click a pic of his family and frame it, him walking through a blaze at the end – giving life to the entire theme and his father’s poem in that last walk, Mithun straffing the open sky with an entire magazine of his carbine after Vijay dies, Vijay telling his mother ‘Paar kiya maine woh Agneepath!’ as he breathes his last make the original a movie for the ages. After 3 hours of this one, all I got was the classic KJo treatment of emotional overdose, and I was left struggling to call anything remotely close to iconic.
There are some fires that metamorphose into infernos, thanks to the legends that fuel them. The Agneepath of 1990 was one such fire. The Agneepath of 2012 tries to burn everything down, but doesn’t because someone cut off the oxygen. All that is left are glowing embers that promised something more but were left to seeth and crackle and fizzle out.
And while embers hiss and crackle and fizzle out, infernos rage on.