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Movie Review: Agneepath

“Did we just watch a 1975 movie?”

That’s the first thing my Dad asked me during the intermission. And unfortunately, that feeling was the same after three hours of Dharma production’s latest offering.

Agneepath is the remake of the 1990 cult classic that imortalized Amitabh Bachchan as Vijay Deenanath Chauhan. It surprised me when I found out that the original movie was released as recently as 1990, because the 2012 version reminds me more of the action films dominating Bolllywood in the 70s and 80s.

Remakes come with a large amount of expectations. And with a cast of Hrithik Roshan, Sanjay Dutt, and Priyanka Chopra and Karan Johar as a producer, expectations were rocket high. Expectedly, the movie is sold out in most cinemas across the world this weekend.

Agneepath starts in 1977 in the small town of Mandva. 12-year-old Vijay Deenanath Chauhan sees his father murdered by local druglord, Kancha (Sanjay Dutt). He and his mother leave Madhva for Mumbai, where he aligns himself to Rauf Lala (Rishi Kapoor) and enters the world of crime at a young age. 15 years later, Vijay (Hrithik Roshan) has become a gangster with a golden heart that has a burning desire to avenge his father’s death.

Agneepath is a formulaic revenge drama: excessive violence, predictable deaths and ultimately a drawn-out climax where good triumphs over evil. The remake is no different from countless action films that gave Amitabh Bachchan the “Angry Young Man” image in the 70s. And that is where it fails for me.

Considering the strides Indian cinema has made in recent years (Delhi Belly, Ishqiya, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Munnabhai series), Bollywood takes one giant stride backwards with Agneepath. Unlike Don (the other recent remake of an Amitabh classic) which was a modern interpretation, Agneepath goes the archaic and formulaic route.

Debut director Karan Malhotra gives us a masala film, which is bound to have its share of fans and critics. The film is visually appealing (Ganesh utsav, chawl set) and the action sequences are so realistic that it makes you cringe.  However, the screenplay drags with a runtime of 3+ hours thanks to an excess emphasis on the family drama and the romantic track. Music is mediocre overall (exception being Katrina Kaif’s item song, Chikni Chameli) and dilutes the revenge drama further.

Where the film triumphs is its casting. Sanjay Dutt’s physical transformation makes Kancha the most menacing villain to hit our screens in several years. In fact, his signature background music reminds you of Dutt from his Khalnayak days. And if India ever decides to remake the Harry Potter series, he would make a great Voldemort.

Rishi Kapoor is a standout as Rauf Lala. From having the image of a sweet and lovable elder, he disgusts you in this film and never goes over the top. Priyanka Chopra has nothing to do but does manage to please in her few scenes.

The film however rests on the able, strong and well-muscled shoulders of Hrithik Roshan. While comparisons to Bachchan are bound to occur, Roshan excels in this role. He once again proves that he can power through action sequences while handling the emotional sequences with his expressive eyes. Any lesser actor (*cough* Abhishek Bachchan *cough*) would have made Vijay into a poor caricature. Roshan even manages to breathe fire into the trademark line “Naam Vijay Chauhan, puraa naam Vijay Deenanath Chauhan, gaon Mandva.”

For me Agneepath remains a disappointment. It isn’t a bad film; it is just a mediocre masala film that is elevated by superior performances. Nevertheless, I hope that the (probable) success of this film doesn’t trigger off a trend of rehashed action movies. The last we need is Bollywood to regress back into the 70s.

Dollz Rating: 3 stars out of 5



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Synopsis:

In a small Indian village Mandwa, Vijay Dinanath Chauhan (Hrithik Roshan) is taught by his principled father about the path of fire – AGNEEPATH. His life is completely shattered when the evil drug dealer Kancha (Sanjay Dutt) hangs his father to death. Vijay leaves for Bombay with his pregnant mother and has only one mission in life- to come back to Mandwa and bring back the glory of his father’s name.

In Bombay, 12-yr-old Vijay is taken under the wings of the city gang lord Rauf Lala (Rishi Kapoor). From then on it is a journey of revenge where he makes and breaks many relationships only to get closer to his aim. Vijay finds support only in his best friend Kaali (Priyanka Chopra), who stands by him at every moment in his life. Fifteen years later his hatred for Kancha takes him back to Mandwa where life comes full circle.
Directed by debutant Karan Malhotra and produced by Dharma Productions, the film released worldwide on January 26th, 2012.

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