So, I decided to see Agneepath. 22 years back I did the same, I had managed to see the original in the first 3 days. So, there’s something in that subject that got the better out of me to get out of the couch and go to the downtown screen-plex for the experience. To be honest, it’s difficult to keep the original out of your mind (in spite of critics trying their best to squeeze that last line in their respective articles – try and go with an open mind and not trying to compare with the original). It’s difficult, nevertheless I tried.
For starters, Karan Malhotra has an imaginative mind. He displays this ability to double click on existing premise to bring out a new flavor. It’s also proven that he sees a lot of films – Well the Old Agneepath, Nayakan, Harry Potter, Angaar etc. etc. And tries to bring in elements from all to make this that ultimate concoction – cocktail if you may! But you know what? it tastes like a fruit punch gone terribly sour. The real question that I was left with was – what was the attempt? While I know – to make it grander, gory-er, larger, menacing-er was the intent or at least that’s what came through listening to all the sound bites, I struggled to find them while soaking in the visual presentation.
Here’s a village where there is an upright and honest man (masterji) teaching the lessons of fearless, principled life to his son (Yeh mahaan drishya hai, chal raha manushya hai..). Village has its share of illiteracy and vices that are being exploited by the evil son (Kancha) of the local chief. A plot is hatched, and masterji bumped off , leaving the boy with a burden and rage of revenge. Shift to Mumbai, boy grows up under a local don (Rauf Lala), with the rage to work towards a logical 3 hour ending to this saga. Now that’s the gist.
The problem begins with Karan M under the influence of his boss Karan J getting over zealous in trying to take this plot and getting into the “Operation Grande” mode. This makeover is Cosmetic. Thanks to the 22 years of technological insurgence, the version 2.0 is sleeker in its cinematography, its color rendition, its canvas etc. The sound of the film is loud, disturbing (in the negative sense) and downright bad. And the performances are mostly over the top hamathons. Most importantly the subject lacks soul. As an audience the only muscles I used was to see and cringe. I did not feel – the grief, the menace, the rage, the despise, the anger, the adrenalin – nothing. I definitely felt the fatigue, the late night, the sleepiness and the regret of dragging my wife into it. The problem was with the feeling.
Mandhwa became this imaginary tapoo (as om puri describes in his inimitable croak), which has a skyline and backdrop which is very Hogwart-ish and with a bald voldemort-ish Kancha looming large in his lungi, it does appear that this was KaranM’s version of “when Harry met Agni”. So while in Mandhwa you have a lot of rains, grey, dilapidated real estate and one bargad tree. (In hindsight, there was a bit of Ratnam’s Raavan too there).
Kancha is a man, who seems to have read, internalized and probably earned a few scholastic laurels in the ancient hindu vedas and Upanishads, yet chose to interpret them in an evil sense. There’s a fleeting reference to him running camps akin to hitlers concentration camps – so kudos to his general awareness and intellectual horsepower. Kancha specializes in “trying” to look menacing .
Rauf Lala, the new addition in 2.0 is a Mumbai Gang-lord, who has a fairly diversified lines of business – from Meat to Charas to Cocaine to Little-Girls and runs an enterprise with Monopolisitic intent. He organizes for these sales-durbars to sell little girls (Damdi as he spells) to extremely desperate and very loud sheikhs. When he isn’t picking up “young talents” from the hapless “below-the-poverty-line” households and selling them in his durbars, he is the unchallenged drug lord of Mumbai. A super power who keeps Kancha off Mumbai limits. Rauf Lala is the shelter and training ground for the boy to get even with Kancha. An interesting addition, which fails big time and takes along with it the whole titanic.
Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, the boy – who sees his father, his beliefs, his dreams, his guiding light extinguished in front of his own eyes brutally. His desire for living ends then. His ambition is to restore this gross imbalance that gets created on that rainy day in Mandhwa. He lives with a deathly silence around him, in solitude but does his annual “Gopala” routine, and an occasional jig or two. He also craves to live a normal life with family, only to remind himself of the larger vision he has aligned himself to and get tragically serious. Yet, VDC doesn’t make you feel the pathos he has undergone. He doesn’t evoke the feeling of the tragedy, the impending doom or the empathy for his troubled soul. VDC, is the biggest disappointment thus making the premise shallow and weak.
Agneepath 2.0 is a directorial disaster. The problem is the classical (ongoing) polarity between “Look” and “feel”. Karan (both M and J), chose to go with the former without having an inkling of the latter. They wanted to make this huge “thing” with a casting coup thereby pulling off a miracle. Sadly this missile lands very close to where KJo’s nemesis RGV landed with his Aag. The writing is abysmally poor. When not mouthing the poetic Agneepath, or Kancha’s Upanishad routine or a few “playing-to-the-balcony” lines – the rest of the lines are very poor. Characters of VDC’s mom and sister, Commissioner Gokhale, VDC’s love interest etc. are just peripheral and barely add to the plot. The script is shallow and screenplay over the top.
However, the topmost failure was the Casting. Sanjay Dutt, tries his best to look and be menacing as Kan”Voldemort”cha. He flaunts an over powering frame, fiery eyes, mouths his shudh-hindi upanishadialouges with occasional fumble and brings in his collection of guffaws, eccentric outbursts and evil stares. Within a limited premise Dutt, brings the character alive, yet looks detached with the larger canvas. Its those moments of silence that Dutt oozes superlative promise compared to the over the top monkish renditions.
Rishi Kapoor as Rauf Lala is a royal let down. Karans wanted to do something out of the ordinary and this was the extent they could have gone to do so. (They depsrataly need to look beyond that one lane of Juhu for being a bit more imaginative). RK isn’t comfortable looking evil. The trademark conviction we associate with him deserts him in those scenes of tyranny. Its here the makers could have been imaginative with their casting, and someone strong could have held the boat together from capsizing.
Zareena Wahab and Om Puri as VDC’s mom and Commissioner Gokhale are forgettable as they appear just as glorified junior artistes in a few scenes. Beauty is Puri manages to Ham his guts out even in those miniscule parts.
Priyanka as Kaali, makes you ask the question, Why? But some questions never evoke any answers so let it be.
Agneepath is Vijay’s tale. And here comes the painful part. Roshan, excels in what he does. He is probably the only mainstream actor present today who understands himself well and brings out the right mix of action and emotion to make it look real. Even here, to what s been written for him, and the direction he receives, he brings that alive. He is understated for the large part of the journey and explodes in a volcanic crescendo. You love him for the earnestness he brings in while playing the son, the brother, the henchman, the troubled kid, the enraged soul et al, yet he doesn’t evoke any feeling in you. You love Hrithik but you cant meet or feel Vijay Dinanath Chauhan. That’s a classic failure of poor writing and the “Look” v/s “feel” conflict. Hrithik wasn’t a good choice for VDC. One tends to compare with 1.0 , but even if I leave that chore – I don’t have anything to write home about here, apart from some kind words for Roshan. This wasn’t his film.
And then This wasn’t a subject for the yippie-yippety school of fim making – the Karans. This needed serious writing, and immaculate casting. Agneepath is all about feeling, and sadly that sense is muted. So what comes out is bigger, grander, louder, sleeker yet a complete slush fest, that screams “Loathe Path Loathe Path, Agony Path Agony Path Agony Path”
My Verdict: See it to quench your curiosity, but avoidable ! (But then Cash registers are ringing, Who am I to crib?)