Then And Now Agneepath… Agneepath
In this era of makes, unmakes and remakes the new year, financially at least, begins on a positive note both for producers and for the industry at large. Going by the reports Agneepath may well gross over Rs 150 crore-plus. A modernised version of the 1990 Mukul Anand-directed Amitabh Bachchan box office flop (inspiration Scarface) cult classic produced by Yash Johar, son Karan Johar’s Karan Malhotra-directed tribute to his late father is no longer being speculated as a trial by fire. Instead it is being hailed as a triumph for faith, a gamble paying off because many of the original players are still around and not necessarily out of work. Particularly lead players Amitabh Bachchan and Danny Denzongpa who essayed the two main protagonists, Vijay Deenanath Chauhan and Kancha Cheena, discounting Neelam and Madhavi now happily settled down.
While the late director Mukul Anand is fondly remembered in the credit titles of Karan Malhotra’s version which while retaining the main storyline of a gentle boy rising to be a mafia don seeking revenge for the murder of his father and a vilification of his persona, given each character a definitive identity without which the narrative would not have progressed in a manner of speaking—especially the central protagonist, Vijay Deenanath Chauhan and Kancha Cheena—then or now, sadly, the original story and screenplay writer, Santosh Saroj remains unacknowledged. No doubt, the characterisation has undergone a woeful change, but the time frame, place and motivation factors remain the same. Also, the Amitabh Bachchan-Danny Denzongpa starrer produced by Yash Johar had been declared a flop at the box office, with raw net collections of Rs 4.5 crore, gross Rs 9 crore with major territories sold at Rs 75 lakh, recovery Rs 85 lakhs. In comparison, the sale of Agneepath 2012 even from smaller territories is baffling: Bihar 3.6, Mysore 3.25, Tamil Nadu, Kerala 1.6, Nizam 3.75 crore. Satellite rights 37, music rights 10, home and overseas video 12 crore.
The three-hour-long narrative more or less remains the same in both the versions. The original was 174-minute-long, released on February 16, 1990, the remake on January 26, 2012, with a running time of 180 minutes. The original had only four songs and no item number, whereas the released version of new Agneepath (without Priyanka Chopra’s much-touted number) too follows the same pattern. And like Madhavi’s Mary in the original, the Priyanka’s Kaali Gawde, the love interest of the hero has little to do in the present version (even her killing was unnecessary), though more substantial and well-enacted. The elimination of Mithun Chakravorty’s award-winning essaying of Krishnan Iyer M.A. and love interest of Vijay’s sister, Shiksha, replacing it with a surprising menacing drug lord and flesh trader don Rauf Lala essayed remarkably by Rishi Kapoor likely to become a turning point in the talented actor’s image make-over. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Sanjay Dutt as Kancha Cheena and Hrithik Roshan as Vijay—a classic case of miscasting even though the latter looking more brooding than flexing muscles.
Sanjay Dutt’s puffed-up bullish body (inspiration Marlon Brando in Apocalypse) in contrast to Hrithik’s Adonis personality looks like a clash between a monster and a human, especially in the over-stretched climax when despite a severaly damaged the latter lifts the former and eventually hangs it on the make-shift gallows which is totally unconvincing unlike in the original version where it is between equally placed ones—the suave, cunning villain and the avenging hero. In Yash Johar’s Agneepath, Shiksha is a grown-up woman while in Karan’s she is a teenager. A Salman Khan or an Ajay Devgun would have suited the role better, and more convincing. Even the original choice, Abhishek Bachchan wouldn’t have fitted the bill, and Genelia D’Souza would have been a sad commentary for Priyanka. The first Agneepath had been shot mostly in Chandivalli studio while the present version was mostly canned in Diu and Film City in suburban Mumbai. Made at an approximate cost of Rs 62 crore, the reported first weekend collections have been estimated to be Rs 75 crore, inclusive of prints and publicity.
In some ways the Hrithik Roshan-starrer scores over the earlier incarnation without any deliberate comic relief forced comic interludes except what comes through Priyanka Chopra’s little antics. A little prelude to Katrina Kaif’s entry could have added to the overall impact of her Chikni Chameli song-and-dance number which she has performed effortlessly even though the modernised lavani did have some difficult steps. One is uncertain if its addition, except for pre-release hype, or absence would have impacted the film’s narrative flow. The largely violent narrative is taut and gripping, holding the audience glued to their seats. Although, Mukul Anand, was widely hailed as the best technical wizard of his time, extracted excellent work from Pravin Bhatt, the camerawork of the duo Kiran Deohans and Ravi Chandran is superlative, capturing even the minutest details. There is an element of earthiness in Piyush Mishra’s words that appear rather mouthful when Sanjay Dutt tries to deliver, the bite missing. In contrast, Rishi Kapoor seems comfortable with whatever lines he is given.
Although the narrative raises certain pertinent questions: Kancha Cheena’s tattooed body in the 1970s, an illiterate recalling quotes from the epics Ramayana and Bhagwat Gita, the colour of Vijay’s eyes (contact lens for the young boy to match Roshan’s), matters of detailing that are often given a goodbye in Hindi films of this genre. Agneepath’s success heralds the return of action-packed revenge drama so successfully master-minded by the invincible team of Salim-Javed with Amitabh Bachchan in the lead, the success of some recent Salman starrers and Devgun’s Singham notwithstanding.
Producer Karan Johar has been reported to have said: “As a son, I have taken my revenge on the public. I have avenged my father’s flop… . It has been a daunting task to remake a film of Agneepath’s calibre; it has been a very special film for us. The credit for restructuring the classic goes to the vision of one man—Karan Malhotra.The technical team as well as the film’s cast did a great job of matching his vision.”
By Suresh Kohli