Starring: Hrithik Roshan, Sanjay Dutt, Rishi Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra
Directed by Karan Malhotra
Karan Malhotra’s Agneepath spans some 15 odd years—from the Emergency all the way to the Babri demolition and flits between two locations, Mandwa and Mumbai, to play out a tale of revenge and retribution where Vijay Dinanath Chauhan (Hrithik) is the hero who seeks to undo the wrongs heaped on him and his family by Kancha Chinna (Sanjay Dutt) and battles it out to reclaim the Mandwa he had snatched away from him.
The mounting gets bigger, the treatment gets slicker, the background score gets louder, Chikni Chameli is shoved in, a few characters from the original like Mithun’s nariyalpaniwala are done away with, newer characters like that of villain Rauf Lala (Rishi Kapoor), who trades in kids, are introduced. But at its core, it remains a classic good vs bad story.
Malhotra pitches the hero and villain as violently opposite personalities. Vijay is inward-looking and played with wet-eyed “sensitivity” by a brooding Hrithik. Kancha Cheena is unmitigated evil played in a surreal, bizarre, demonic manner with flashes of Khalnayak and Voldemort by Dutt. The sheer physical ugliness, down to the dirty toes, is as revolting as it is frightening. But there’s a scene at the start which shows how Kancha had hated mirrors since childhood because he is teased for his repulsiveness. It could have been a great psychological angle to pursue, but unfortunately is not taken forward.
As in classic Bollywood action films, the women are neatly stacked into two kinds of roles: the conscience-keeper mother and the lover who brings out the man’s softer, protective side.
Agneepath is cinema of excess; a few subtle scenes work, like Vijay and his estranged mother’s love-hate exchange at the dining table. Or the high-energy qawwali sequence, featuring Rishi Kapoor, ending in tragedy and betrayal.
However, the film is mostly uber-violent. Blood fountains flow, bones are broken, bullets fly and knives slice. Relentlessly. Initially disturbing, it manages to draw in the audience. Perhaps because it offers catharsis to the masses. Their pent-up anger, frustrations and aggression find release on screen: the USP of countless Angry Young Man films.
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