It’s been a while since I saw an action-packed, violence filled movie and actually enjoyed it. Well, not in the voyeuristic sense but in terms of film making, art, direction and of course, acting. For once, the dishum dishum didn’t bother me. But before I begin, it’s important to confess, and sadly so, that I haven’t seen the original Agneepath (1990) starring Amitabh Bachchan. Neither have I seen Kala Pani, starring Dev Anand, which is said to be the actual inspiration behind the original Agneepath.
Agneepath (Path of Fire) has revenge at its crux. An honest schoolteacher, Dinanath Chauhan, who personifies principles, discipline and righteousness, is executed in full public view for a crime he never committed by Kaanch Cheena (played by the versatile Sanjay Dutt), who personifies evil (only to face competition in the extent of his evilness from Rauf Lala, played by Rishi Kapoor). Chauhan’s son, Vijay, sees the brutal murder of his father as seeds of revenge are borne at an early age. The movie attempts to show how Vijay plans to avenge the wrong that was done to his honest father and the pain and anguish he goes through during the course of time. A decent plot. An ordinary plot. What makes it stand out? Power packed performances from almost everyone and impeccable direction by Karan Malhotra. Hard to believe this is his debut movie. Some shots are too good to be directed by a first-timer. Especially those that portray Mandwa, the village that the story is set in.
Since the movie is set in the 70’s, the drama has to be borrowed from yesteryear. So, in that context, dialogues like “Mai ishwar se prarthana karungi ki agle janam me tum hi mere bete bano” shouldn’t be welcomed with a frown. A review by Rubeena Khan points out how the movie is factually wrong as it portrays Mumbai and not Bombay, as it was called then. There are other obvious mistakes, too. Since there is a time lapse in the movie and the chracters grow in the course of time, we see a grown up Vijay (Hrithik Roshan), Kaali (Priyanka Chopra) and even Suhasini Chauhan (Zarina Wahab) with her more wrinkled and weary look. But our villain Kaancha (Dutt) remains the same. Well, there is no scope of greying his hair as he is essentially bald. But even so, there is no difference, whatsoever, in terms of his looks now and 15 years ago. Perhaps, they don’t really matter as his appearance, that has been maintained throughout the movie, is as deep, dark and black as it can get. While critics have unanimously praised his Big Bad Guy look, Anuj Kumar in his review ponders how a man in the 70’s got all those tattoos in his arms.
Leaving such common sense aside, the movie promises pure drama, melodrama, emotion, fear and horror. A special mention for Rishi Kapoor who plays the role of Rauf Lala with extreme fineness. In his own words, he plays a filthy, fucking bastard, who sells young girls’ flesh and cocaine and is the undisputed Mafia king of Mumbai, and hence an arch rival to Kaancha whose territory ends in Mandwa. Perhaps, flawlessness runs in the Kapoor blood, evident from the tremendous acting potential in both Rishi and son, Ranbir. In a scene where Lala and Kaancha are pitted against each other, when Lala calls Kaancha ‘badsoorat’ (ugly) and says: “Tere chechre se toh ghin tapakti hai” (Scornfulness drips from your face), one wonders whom to hate more. They’re both brilliant in depicting pure evil, with a lining of horror added in Kaancha’s case, which probably arises due to his physical appearance (that bears a very obvious resemblance to Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series).
Hrithik as Vijay Deenanath Chauhan is impressively powerful. In a movie where both the bad guys are giving you some serious competition in terms of impact and acting, Hrithik manages to create a niche of his own. A scene where he says he brooded in turmoil for 15 years just to taste his mother’s food, his acting prowess come out beautifully. Of course, director Karan Malhotra has utilized his six pack abs and bulging biceps to the fullest in large parts of the movie, particularly his entry, fight scenes and a not-to-forget climax, where melodrama overpowers drama and like a typical Hindi movie hero, he survives several cuts and bruises to avenge his father’s death and kill the villain, before finally surrendering to death. Priyanka, as Kaali, is definitely not mediocre in her performance but seems so when pitted against other actors in the movie, including the ever-talented Om Puri.
My rating: 3.5/5
Footnote: It’s common knowledge that the movie’s backbone lies in a poem by the same name by renowned Hindi poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan. For those interested, here is a link to the actual poem. Bachchan’s Jo beet gayi so baat gayi has always been one of my favourite poems as a kid. Post Agneepath, I feel I really need to read more of Urdu and Hindi poetry.