‘Vriksha ho bhale khade, ho ghane ho bade, ek patr chaaon bhi, maang mat maang mat maang mat… agneepath agneepath agneepath…
Tu na thakega kabhi, tu na thamega kabhi, tu na mudega kabhi, kar shapath kar shapath kar shapath… agneepath agneepath agneepath…
There are no we-want-to-match-up-to-Hollywood kind wannabe-isms here. Thank God for that! We, the audience, have enough guilt on our stained consciences for indulging in one too many of that kind, each falling well short of our towering expectations. The change, in the form of Agneepath, is most welcome. It’s raw, earthy, and Indian to the core. The director, Karan Malhotra (first timer), knows exactly what he wants and lauds should deservingly be given to him, and the other Karan, the Johar, for allowing the former to make his own path filled with agnee. And fiery the way would have been for sure, for trying to pick up a cult (Agneepath of 1990) and making a remake out of it. It’s always been a dirty and dangerous business; none of the previous ones has ever worked. Fizzled out, all of them! This one explodes, with more than enough fire to keep your filmy-fanaticism warm and cozy for three straight hours.
And the fuel to keep it going till the end is all in it. Hrithik Roshan, as Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, propelled by a sole desire to avenge his father’s death, is a human dynamo. There’s nothing Amitabh Bachchan-ish about him. Again, thank God! Utilizing, rather than mocking the cult, his own skills as an actor (a great one at that), Hrithik makes this Vijay his own. Watch his eyes set fire to the screen every time a surge of underlying angst and the urge to lay revenge on his enemy flows within his veins. And the enemy, Kancha Cheena - the bald headed and tattooed beast of a lord of Mandwa (a mythical island off the coast of Mumbai), is played astonishingly to pitch perfect menace by Sanjay Dutt. A Ravan to Lanka; Hitler to a Nazi Concentration Camp! As Kancha, he’s a perfect Yang to Hrithik’s Ying. If his introduction (met by loud cheers and whistles even at an urban multiplex) and a scene where he devilishly rings a school bell close to his face don’t make your skin crawl then you sir, need to see a good dermatologist.
Equally convincing baddie, if not better, is played by Rishi Kapoor. Shunning away his chocolate boy image, kept intact for four decades, he transforms effortlessly into Rauf Lala: the human and drug trafficking lord of Mumbai. Missing from the original, the character of Rauf Lala makes the proceedings even more interesting with his raw negative energy and perfect dialogue delivery. If ever there were an award for the Best Supporting Villain, it would have, hands down, belonged to Rishi Kapoor. Priyanka Chopra as Kaali, Vijay’s childhood friend, is a treat. Although she does slow down the proceedings and delays the inevitable. One would even question she is only there to realize Johar’s mushy mushy wishes of forcing the womankind among the audience to shed a tear or two. À la all of his directorial ventures! Still, forgivable! Wrapping up, Om Puri, in his little role as the upright police officer Gaitonde, is convincing, and so is everybody else.
The basic premise, borrowed from the original, remains the same though the story, with subtle changes and few characters removed (Mithun’s award winning Krishnan Iyer for one) and new introduced, adopts a different course before reaching the finale. It’s the kind of entertainment that the previous and the twilight generation have grown up watching: high on drama and action and driven by sheer star power. Those, 25 and above will agree to it. It’s the blockbuster Indian cinema as we know it!
4 out of 5 Stars.