The Kalnayak is back.
Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, poora naam.
Who could forget the baritone of Amitabh Bachchan? The larger than life performance, the fiery dialogues, the maut ke saat appaintment? It takes a little of bit courage, then, to attempt to remake a classic that is still very much alive in the minds and hearts of the Indian movie-goer. But take a bow Karan Malhotra, because the new Agneepath not only stays true to the formula, but interprets it in new ways, and executives it with such panache and finesse, it, I dare say, to many extents, matches up to the original.
It works because it is not “Karan Johar’s Agneepath”, or directed by a manic, self-entitled douche. It does away with many needless characters (Mithun’s grating character was certainly not missed), needless subplots, and a needless want to recreate many of the popular sequences. Malhotra knows his and his cast’s limitations, and instead spins around a new tale that while does not deviate from the main revenge arch, brings new perspective to the characters, and the story.
The film does play out like a basic Hindi masala movie, complete with unnecessary songs to break the perfectly flowing track (having Katrina Kaif shaking her hips only helps a little). The film starts with Vijay as a kid, who pretty much acts out the ‘angry (really) young man’ part of his character, getting into brawls, and believing that what is his should rightfully belong to him. He is, of course, the son of Dinanath Chauhan, Mandwa’s only teacher and probably the only one educated enough to understand the ploy of Kancha Cheena, a spiteful, merciless creature, who storms into the tiny village with faux promises of industrial growth and jobs. Chauhan starts a protest, warning the villagers against lending their lands to Cheena, an act that ultimately costs his life. In typical Hindi movie flair, Vijay promises revenge and joins Rauf Lala (Rishi Kapoor), a crimelord in Mumbai who runs a drug racket and indulges in flesh trade. It is only 15 years later (of course!) that he finally gets a chance to avenge his father’s death, and thus begins an avalanche of bloodshed, deception and iconic one liners.
Vijay, played by the remarkable Hrithik Roshan, is a stark departure from the one portrayed by Mukul Anand. Gone is the broken English, unabashed personality (and baritone, unfortunately), the new Vijay prefers silence over dialogue, and carries a volcano that erupts to only destroy everything in his path. He is not loyal, not even to his “aba” Rauf Lala. His sole purpose of existence is Kancha Cheena, and he will stop at nothing to eradicate his – even if it costs the love of his mother that he so yearns for. Roshan performs the role with superb control, and to some extent can thank Malhotra for not forcing him to fill Big B’s rather large shoes – he does not even come close. Like in Jodha Akbar, Roshan flourishes with an author backed role, and we so wish he concentrates his efforts on only those than accepting roles that any tom, dick and harry can do – he is much, much better than that.
But the performance that gives the film its edge is of Sanjay Dutt’s, whose menace and evilness as Kancha Cheena is just terrifying to watch. His character is defined early on when Dutt breaks a piece of glass only because it showed a reflection of his self – an ugly forming monster that almost seems like Malhotra’s interpretation of Voldermort. Dutt brings back his best of the Kalnayak-ness back, and owns every piece of reel that he is featured on with his enigmatic, gigantic personality.
Dutt is only matched by Rishi Kapoor, whose performance as Rauf Lala only shows what the actor is capable off, even after all these years of playing over-weight chocolate lover boy roles. His pitch is impeccable, and rises much above than what his role was to undertake, a stepping stone for Vijay to reach the collars of Kancha.
The film rarely falters, at least as much as a masala movie like this is allowed to be. The only serious complain would be its unnecessary length, which could have been trimmed out by chopping the average musicals, and probably the entire role Vijay’s barely explored love angle with Kaali. Priyanka Chopra doesn’t have much to do except smile brilliantly and gasp innocently and shed a few tears here and there – a role that just breaks the mood of the entire movie.
Karan Malhotra’s debut is riveting. More of a homage – a salute – than a complete remake, the modern Agneepath is a marvelously executed project that works despite the age old, ludicrous plot line. Go to the theaters not with an agenda to compare every shot to the original, but to enjoy an old story packaged in a shiny, tastefully done package. Malhotra has our respects, and also for not ruining the iconic series of dialogues which is extremely cleverly implemented into the movie. Just watch it.