Before the onset, I would like to make it known that AGNEEPATH, the original, remains one of my best Bollywood films to date. I have seen it umpteen times and every time I see it anew, I enjoy it even more. To me, that was Amitabh Bachchan's finest performance; he dared to experiment and set a benchmark with his dialogue style that ended with an eeh! Vijay Dinanath Chauhan was a complete character coming from Mandwa, a small town on the outskirts of Mumbai. He had 'Maut ke saath apintment.' Vijay Dinanath Chauhan (Hrithik Roshan) in the re-make too, has 'Maut ke saath apintment'. But this will not be known to the first-time viewers of AGNEEPATH.
Karan Johar in a note before the re-make rolls applauds the genius of Amit uncle (Amitabh Bachchan) and the vision of Mukul Anand, the director. Produced by his father, late Yash Johar, this is Karan's tribute to the vision of the three that produced one of the finest films to come out of Bollywood, which unfortunately failed to be coined as a commercial success.
Any comparison to the original now, is inevitable.
Assistant to Karan Johar, Karan Malhotra gets to hold the reins for the first time. He knocks off a few elements from the original, and adds new layers to the new. For instance, Mithun Chakraborty's character, which was central to the plot, has been done away with, while Vijay's mother's role has been cut down, only to be exploited towards the end. Even Vijay's sister's role has been modified while a layer in the form of the character of Rauf Lala (Rishi Kapoor) who trades in the flesh market and drugs has been added. Kanhcha Cheena (Sanjay Dutt) has a father who is the village headman, while Danny Denzongpa in the original was a one-man-show. No song stands out in the AGNEEPATH of old; it's just the brilliance of one man. Chikni Chameli (Katrina Kaif) leaves an indelible mark on this one. The track is not only catchy and peppy, but also sees the Kaif girl dancing like a 'Kat on a hot tin roof!' She sheds all inhibitions jumping into the song with gay abandon. A paisa vasool moment in the film.
The story: Master Dinanath Chauhan is a respected teacher in Mandwa. His popularity threatens the village headman who uses his son, Kancha Cheena to frame him in a crime and then eliminate him in a most brutal fashion. Vijay is just 10-years-old when he sees havoc wreaked in his life. He leaves Mandwa with his pregnant mother for Mumbai and begins his journey of hate, to one day reclaim Mandwa and eliminate Kancha. He uses the power of Rauf Lala, who is the Badshaah of Mumbai, to gain in strength to get closer to his target.
- While the late Mukul Anand took pains to etch out Master's character, here Karan Malhotra quickly runs through the process without dwelling into how important Master's existence is to the whole plot. He expects his newer audience to have seen the old film.
- As someone who is into the 'flesh trade' and drug mafia, Rishi Kapoor is a poor choice. Simply because he fails to characterize evil in a way it was meant to be. Pawan Malhotra could have been a good choice.
- The film is 20 minutes too long. A couple of songs could have been done away with. The birthday song for Vijay's sister and the wedding song for Rauf's son.
- Madhavi's role (that of a nurse) though small, left a lasting impression. Priyanka Chopra's role has been very poorly defined leaving no room for the actress to improvise or act.
- Finally, even 15 years later, Kancha is still the same fit old villain. Nothing changes for him, not even his style of dressing. Danny has aged considerably in the original. Dutt's make-over has not been looked into properly. His style of dialogue delivery and his bald pate gives one a 'comical feel'. For a character that is supposed to have you shuddering, it's very weakly scripted. However, he makes up towards the end.
- The dinner table scene this time is powerful where Vijay is shown grabbing his thali and devouring his mother's food after 15 years. Touching.
- The entire sequence where Vijay rescues his sister from being sold by Rauf Lala is gripping till the time Shiksha learns who Vijay really is. For 15 years, she never knew she had a brother. And, it is only here, that Rishi manages to go top gear in the evil department.
- The climax more than makes up for the weak beginning. Even though there are a few cinematic liberties that the director takes, you as a viewer want to root out the evil.
- The Chikni Chameli item song which I have already mentioned.
- Hrithik double crossing Rauf Lala is smartly executed. He moves in for his own selfish motives, but is smart enough not to leave a trail. Malhotra handles these moments with the ease of a seasoned pro.
Hrithik conforms himself to the mould set by Amitabh. He sticks to the plot working with vengeance as his crutch. If you blank out Amitabh's performance in the original, Hrithik stands out. He is cool, calculative and not afraid of death. Remember he has Maut ke saath apintment!
Kanika Tiwari who plays Hrithik's sister towers in her brief role. A youngster pitied against seasoned stars like Priyanka and Hrithik, she holds her own in pivot scenes to steal the show.
The entire production is first rate. The songs, especially the Ganapati immersion and the wedding of Rauf Lala's son, are picturised beautifully with well-choreographed dances.
Although it will not have a recall value like the old AGNEEPATH, this surely is a 'must one-time-watch'.
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