You want to hear a confession? I haven’t seen the original Agneepath. Now, before you gawk at me, here’s the thing – it’s been on my list of those classics, that I’ve been planning to get around to, but after hearing about the remake, I’ve avoided it. I’m probably the only person left who hasn’t seen the original, so I wanted to be able to watch the movie on its own, and not as a remake.
Vijay Dinanath Chauhan (Hrithik Roshan) is a man out for revenge against Kaancha Cheena (Sanjay Dutt), the man who murdered Vijay’s father, Dinanath Chauhan, a school teacher from a small island known as Mandwa. Vijay places himself under the care of human and drug trafficker, Rauf Lala (Rishi Kapoor), simply because he knows it’s his ticket to getting to Kaancha and seizing Mandwa from his control.
While I can’t speak specifically on the 1990 original, it is quite clear that Agneepath pays homage to your typical masala films of the 80s and 90s – hence you’ll encounter elements common to that era: revenge, motherly love, over-the-top action sequences. Yet, director Karan Malhotra handles this extremely well – he pays tribute to the masala era but steers the film on his own course, and to his credit, his direction is absolutely first-rate.
What complements Malhotra’s direction is superb camera work and post production. Scenes have been shot well, alternating from the dark (Mandwa) to the vibrant (Mumbai). Great editing moves the film along, in what is mostly fast paced, and also in parts helps to assault the audience with conflicting emotions (I’m speaking, in particular, of the sequence that alternates between a celebratory Kawali song and a fight scene).
Where the film scores its biggest win is definitely in the performances – everyone delivers performances worthy of appreciation – from the main lead, to the child artists, to the supporting characters. Hrithik Roshan lays off the dialogue-baazi and instead chooses to emote (a good idea, too, as it helps minimize comparisons to Amitabh Bachchan, who can deliver a dialogue like no other). Hrithik’s eyes haunt, his nostrils flair, his hands shake – in his every movement, he manages to get inside the character and deliver what is perhaps a career-best performance. Priyanka Chopra‘s role is minimal, but for whatever it is, she makes it hers, and delivers a great performance – she’ll remind you of her role in Kaminey, where again she didn’t have substantial screen time but still makes sure you remember her. Sanjay Dutt is good, but not exemplary – he is styled very well and delivers a performance fitting to his character, but does not go above and beyond to achieve what should have been a truly memorable performance. Rishi Kapoor is brilliant, in what is definitely a new role for him – he absolutely shines and makes much more of an impact than Sanjay Dutt does.
There are, though, things that hold Agneepath back from being a truly great film. Firstly, while I loved Priyanka‘s performance, her character was unnecessary and could have been done away with to ensure a tighter script and shorter runtime. Secondly, this is the sort of movie that is begging for great dialogues, but they don’t seem to make much of an impact. And thirdly, it overdoes the melodrama and violence – maybe it’s just a personal choice, but much of the violence seemed gratuitous. In fact, for me, it got so heavy on the drama and violence that I was practically thankful when Chikni Chameli came on, if only for the break! (And by the way, haters to the left – Katrina Kaif owns this song.)
That said though, Agneepath is a truly well-made film in all aspects, and to top it off it has some superlative performances as well. And for the way it’s opened, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it goes on to become a blockbuster!