In this weekly column, Reel Retake, we compare the original film and its remake. Beyond highlighting the similarities, differences and measuring them on the success scale, we aim to discover the potential in the storyline that spurred the thought for a newer version and the ways in which a remake could possibly offer a different viewing experience. And if that is the case, analyse the film.
The movie in focus this week is Agneepath (1990) and the contemporary homage director Karan Malhotra pays to it in his 2012 version of the same name, starring Hrithik Roshan.
What is Agneepath about?
In village Mandwa, school master Dinanath Chauhan (Alok Nath) strongly opposes the plans of Kancha Cheena (Danny Denzongpa), an underworld don and his gangsters who want to set up a base for heroin smuggling. Chauhan is discredited in a set up and villagers lynch him to death leaving alive his son Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan), mother Suhasini Chauhan (Rohini Hattangadi) and a younger sister Siksha. Vijay, at a tender age, vows revenge on Kancha as he and his family are forcibly made to leave the village. Finding no other way to feed and fend for his family, Vijay takes to underworld and slowly becomes one of the most notorious and dreaded gangsters.
Concerned with Vijay’s growing clout in the crime world, his bosses plan to assassinate him. He is ambushed and fired at and left to die. Krishnan Iyer MA (Mithun Chakraborty) luckily finds a dying Vijay, transports him to hospital and saves his life. They become friends and Iyer eventually finds employment as Siksha’s bodyguard. It is learnt that Vijay let his enemies hatch his murder so that his status as a lord in the crime world can grow. Now, Vijay seeks revenge and kills off those who tried to kill him. Wary of this change in his lifestyle, Vijay is denounced by his mother and she moves out with Siksha.
Nearly unstoppable now, Vijay sets his plan in motion to avenge his father’s death. He cuts a deal with Kancha Cheena and gains access to Mandwa and begins to bring down Kancha’s empire. He starts getting Kancha’s influential men killed one by one, thus making his way to him. Kancha is unbeknownst of Vijay’s true identity till he is trapped and sent to jail after Vijay gets him right where he wants. Kancha secures his escape from prison and kidnaps Vijay’s mother and sister. Vijay, who wanted to set on the right path after seeking revenge, is forced to get back to his criminal ways to save his family. A big fight ensues between Kancha, his men and Vijay. In the battle, Vijay is greviously wounded and dies in his mother’s lap explaining to her why he became a criminal and seeks her forgiveness. The movie ends with Vijay dying and his mother acknowledging the circumstances made him to choose the ‘path of fire’ or Agneepath.
Wherein lies the potential?
Agneepath is a classic in ways more than a few. Its cinematography and heavy worded dialogues are its biggest draw. The change in voice tone that Big B adopts for his angry young man character was different from the previous movies he did.
Vijay is an anti-hero who trudges the thin line between black and grey, and is almost despicable. The only thing that makes us sympathise with him is how he was wronged during his childhood, how helpless he was back then to do anything to save his family’s life and honour and how he had no choice than to fall in the burning pit of crime. A childhood lost due to circumstance. A vengeful character became the biggest highlights of the movie.
Big B’s mannerisms of an arm extending and proclaiming ‘hain’ have stuck. Everyone who mimics him is sure to do this gesture. His costumes and the kohl applied eyes gave a certain depth and range to the character and the story. Vijay is just a gun toting man on a crime spree, he is to be feared and bowed down to. The biggest enigma emerges from the fact that he is unbending to authority and anti-establishment in every sense of the word. Very violent, but cinema lovers have always admired and loved such characters and Big B plays to his strengths.
Rohini Hattangadi as Vijay’s mother is one of the better supporting actors who lends a semblance of honesty and truthfulness to the otherwise dark narrative. Their scenes fill the movie, and Vijay’s mind, with emotional turmoil and create a conflict that is inwards rather than outwards. The Rayban wearing Kancha, who lives in Maldives, reminds us how the movie was ahead of its time.
Director Mukul Anand gives it an almost Hollywood Western kind of a vibe with a unique placing in the crime festering world, one that is unlike any.
Agneepath (2012) is a homage with strong performances
It’s quite interesting to see how Agneepath cuts down heavily on the original’s runtime, retains the main storyline and the dramatic turns, backs it up with powerful performances from Hrithik as Vijay, Sanjay Dutt as the menacing Kancha and Rishi Kapoor as the dreaded Rauf Lala. But Agneepath remake is a glossy version of the original, made with a clear vision of box office lure. The song and dance scenes and the romantic angle between Vijay and Kaali (Priyanka Chopra) is more stressed upon, with as many as three songs featuring the romancing couple.
Hrithik’s turn as a vengeful Vijay is driven more by his muscular build and not the fearlessness with which Big B operates in his territory. Hrithik’s Vijay is brawny while Big B’s was a clever mastermind. Additionally, the mother-son angle, which gives Vijay redemption in the original film, is diluted heavily in the remake. Instead, the new Vijay is not portrayed as an anti-hero at all. He is a messiah in the slum, doing well by the lower class, stands for women’s honour, loves the specially abled and cracks jokes. He is a modern day hero in every way and even though the movie is impactful, it will never be a classic as the original Agneepath was.
The story goes that the original Agneepath was not successful at the box office upon initial release. Viewers hated Big B’s made-up voice quality and even found the film too gory in places. The character of Krishnan Iyer, played by Mithun, was considered way over-the-top. Vijay’s delirious ferocity and the grim-filled plot was rejected by the movie-goers. Many watchers also drew parallels between Dewaar’s mother-son relationship with Big B and Rohini Hattangadi’s chemistry here. Some even commented on how the screenplay dragged in the final hour, extending the film’s runtime. However, these very criticisms became the biggest selling point of the movie later on. Over the years, it started getting favourable responses and now enjoys a cult fanbase. Thus, the remake in the first place.
With the remake, the story is different. The initial pull was Sanjay Dutt’s turn as Kancha. His shaved head and no-eyebrows look was a draw. The music of Ajay-Atul attracted a lot of praise and especially Katrina Kaif’s special song Chikni Chameli was a huge hit and still is. All this worked in favour of the Agneepath remake and it is considered a mainstream movie that is well made in all aspects.