The very idea of watching a film based on Baap Ka Badla, Maa ki mamta and Behen ki izzat was enough to develop a cold feet for someone brought up on the diet of vendetta films released in the nineties, right from Elan-E-Jung, Main Intaqaam loonga, Zakhmi Aurat, Jigar, Boxer, and of course, Agneepath.
The reviews were positive, the opening box office collection of 25 crores was awe-inspiring, Hritik was promising, Katrina was hot, and Sanjay Dutt looked menacing – Quite enough a reason to part from those yawn-earned hundred bucks.
The opening poem of Late Shri. Harivanshrai Bachchan recited by Master Dinanath Chauhan played to perfection by Chetan Pandit sets the benchmark of the film to be something beyond one expected. The next ‘pleasant’ surprise comes from no other than the once-sweater-clad-lover-boy Rishi Kapoor, this time donning the hat of Rauf Lala – a gangster who doesn’t bat an eyelid before selling teenaged girls to ogling men. The veteran Rishi Kapoor plays his first-ever negative role with aplomb, leaving you shocked in disbelief.
Well, unfortunately, the fun ends right there. The film suddenly gets into Maqbool-mode, where Vijay Dinanath Chauhan (Hritik Roshan) ploys against Rauf Lala for reasons best known to him or maybe the writers. As a viewer, one is left scratching his head (we’re not talking about Chikni Chameli or Gun Guna so one is scratching where it actually itches), why did Vijay have to take that long route if he had to go to Mandwa empty-handed with a few Diwali crackers loaded in a boat? If Rauf Lala was such big a gangster, why was he unable to fight against Vijay, who was armed by just a gun and a few eunuchs?
Vijay’s mother Suhasini played by Zarina Wahab remains in silent mode almost through the entire film and gets her talk-time only when Vijay kills someone. Some loopholes here and there often make the film lose its grip, but Hritik Roshan, with his nuanced performance plugs those leaks with finesse.
The music by Ajay-Atul and lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya seem redundant and hamper the narrative – not that their music or lyrics is mediocre, but films like Agneepath ought to do away with naach-gaanas.
The climax is stretched enough to test one’s patience. Vijay seems to have taken his father’s advice of ‘becoming a pehelwaan’ too literally, which perhaps is the reason he fights Kaancha Cheena bare-handed than exercising his grey cells to defeat him strategically. Furthermore, when Vijay is punctured from everywhere by Kaancha Cheena, the dude rises unscathed to show his perfect eight-packed abs.
The dialogues by Piyush Mishra lack the punch. Blame it on dialogue writers like Rajat Arora of ‘Once upon a time in Mumbai’ and ‘The Dirty Picture’, who has raised the bar too high for films of this genre. Akiv Ali edits the film with a slickness that spares you of all the emotional attyachar that films of nineties inflicted on you. For instance,the daal-chaawal scene of Hritik Roshan and Zarina Wahab would have overdone if directed in the nineties.
Movie buffs like me used to spend ten bucks to watch torturous films with a hope of stumbling upon some real good stuff. Things haven’t changed much in a decade; just the zeroes after the ten have increased. Fortunately, I did stumble upon a good film like Agneepath, which is like a breath of fresh air amid the claustrophobic mindless action flicks. Finally a complete action-packed film which also happens to have writers! (Writer Ila Dutta Bedi and director Karan Malhotra take a bow).
Kamlesh Shankar, a friend of mine, aptly summed up his ‘Agneepath experience’ on his Facebook status as: “Critics ko sun mat, reviews ko padh mat, comparisons zyaada kar mat, aur bilkul miss kar mat – Agneepath…Agneepath…Agneepath.”