Of Agneepath & Agneepath.

नाम विजय चौहान, विजय - दीनानाथ - चौहान. पूरा नाम. 
In the original Agneepath (अग्निपथ), released in 1990, these lines served the purpose of establishing the character of Vijay Deenanath Chauhan (VDC) and of reminding the audience of his quest to vanquish those who wronged his father Master Deenanath Chauhan. In Karan Malhotra's adaptation, they are used more as a homage to the original, towards the fag end of the movie, which is a very wise move indeed since it would have been a near impossible task for Hrithik Roshan to match what Amitabh had delivered all those years ago. Just take a look at adult VDC's opening scene from the original
And if playing the role similar to the way Amitabh played it is near impossible, portraying Krishnan Iyer M. A. (pronounced Yum Yay) is well beyond impossible for any other actor. And since Mithunda is on the other side of 60 now, director Karan Malhotra did the next best thing that he could do - rewrite the story to not have a second lead and allow Priyanka Chopra's Kali to provide support and comic relief (which didn't turn out as well as expected I should say since Priyanka is clearly the weakest link in the movie, which is not to say that she has done a bad job).

Hrithik has done a good job of depicting a simmering and quiet VDC, who keeps his sorrows and desires to himself while freely distributing his wealth. His physique does not let him look like someone who has lived in a chawl for fifteen years but that does not take anything away from his performance. He has used his eyes to good effect and the scene where adult VDC is welcomed by a hugging Kancha is a great showcase for that. The conflict between his father's teachings and his actions on his quest for revenge are again expressed through his eyes. His vulnerability comes to the fore during the song abhi mujhme kahin and it is then that you actually start to feel for this VDC.

The rewrite kept the basic premise of the story same, and played with everything else. VDC is not a larger than life over the top bhai whom people worship and are ready to die for, he is a pure revenge driven soul who is not above assisting in pimping of girls as young as 12-13 years if it will help him build a bridge to reach Kancha (a sharp contrast to the original where VDC's mentors shoot him for not agreeing to indulge in drug trade, something he considers taboo). His basic desire is still revenge for the way his father was wronged, but it no longer gives the same importance to providing justice to his mother and a lesson to the villagers. He is more subdued now and keeps his desire for revenge to himself, even as he is tirelessly working for it. Even his identity as Vijay Deenanath Chauhan is not too well known. Within the basic desire of avenging his father's death, the original VDC was content with getting ownership of the village and Kancha behind bars (Kancha escapes and acts up for which he has to be killed, but that wasn't the plan), the 2012 VDC just wants to kill Kancha even if he has to blow up the entire village for it. He is also short on the planning department (who takes the pain of bringing loads of bomb on the boat but not a single gun?) because of which every time he meets Kancha in the movie he gets beaten to pulp, and it's only by way of some filmi inspiration that he is able to match Kancha physically. And you have to see the movie to realize why matching Kancha physically is such a tough task.

Sanjay Dutt has come very close to personifying pure evil in his role as Kancha. The original Kancha Cheena, played ably by Danny Denzongpa was a suave suited businessman who never got his hands dirty in pursuit of his business, no such restraints here. Pure evil is soulless, he does not have desires, attachments, reasoning or fear. There is no justification why he does what he does, and that brings about a certain unpredictability in his behaviour, which is a cause of thrill as well as fear for the audience. Sanjay Dutt's Kancha is pure evil, in looks as well as deeds. A good performance from him after a long long time, the clever use of visuals to establish his on-screen persona and the dialogues of Piyush Mishra, all do a fine job of creating a larger than life and scary Kancha. Looking at him you implicitly justify VDC's preference to killing him over reclaiming Mandwa, and you actually feel relieved when he is killed, which is a big big achievement for everyone who contributed to this version of Kancha.

Rishi Kapoor as Rauf Lala is a revelation, which is a great achievement considering he's already had along and illustrious career. Not even for a split second do you feel that he is out of place as the slimy underworld boss who doesn't skip a heartbeat describing, to possible buyers, a 12 year old up for sale. Nor do you squirm in your seat (as you did when Bomman Irani was fighting with Shahrukh Khan in Don) when he fights with Hrithik. His body language and dialogue delivery are near perfect for the role and I would not be surprised if he finds more offers for such negative roles coming his way in the future. Within the story, Rauf Lala replaces the four mentors of the original and is the stepping stone for VDC's entry into the crime world, though he remains in the equation much into the second half.

Om Puri, as honest and upright Commissioner Gaitonde, is adequate, though his role and Gaitonde's equation with VDC is not as well developed here. Zareena Wahab as Suhasini Chauhan (VDC's mother) is again equal to the task asked of her.

The director makes good use of striking visuals convey characterizations and to make an impact. Some of these would definitely stay with you for a while. It can be Kancha's entry (Sanjay Dutt's trademark gait) against a backdrop of the sea, the ill-fated banyan tree set against the evening sky, VDC's corner of solace atop his chawl building giving a view of the entire chawl or Rauf Lala picking out girls from a storage container much like what you do with goats.

In all, I liked this movie. It kept me involved for 3 hours, which is a tough job; and it did not make the original Agneepath fan in me cringe, which was achieved by making it as an adaptation rather that a remake.
The movie could have been shorter, two of the songs were not needed at all. Gun Gun Guna actually went contrary to VDC's characterization and the less said about Chikni Chameli the better (actually let me say this, Puke Puke Puke). But as I said, it wasn't too big a deal for me since I was on board for three hours.
I would say go watch.

Also, consider watching this scene from the original while you here. This is when adult VDC first meets Kancha, so totally different from the new one.


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