Agneepath: Dharma's New Take on a Classic

As I’ve been at home, ill and unable to speak (I kid you not), I’ve had the perfect opportunity to watch 1990’s Agneepath before Dharma Productions unleash a new take in approximately a week. I think I should make a confession here and reveal that this was my first watch of the Amitabh Bachchan starrer. This wasn’t a conscious decision and neither had I been obviously avoiding the movie all these years. I’m not a huge fan of the action movies of the 90s and I never have been. This is quite possibly the reason I found Karan Johar‘s decision to “remake” the movie a weird one, to say the least. I have placed the word remake in inverted commas purposefully and there are a number of reasons for this. Read on to find out what they are…

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Hrithik Roshan’s Vijay vs. Amitabh Bachchan’s Vijay Dinanath Chauhan

Ok so when the announcement was made that Agneepath was going to be “remade”, I was interested to see who would take on the character played by Big B in the original. Although this was obviously going to be pivotal in determining the way a new generation would take to a story which has already been seen before, it would also serve as message to the sceptics out there that this was a film being retreated in characters and in story. Bachchan’s dialogues are, arguably, the best thing about the 1990 film and it seems these very dialogues have been omitted from the 2012 offering. I’m sure Roshan would have been breathing a huge sigh of relief when learning this as well as the fact that he will be better known as “Vijay” or “Viju” as opposed to “Vijay Dinanath Chauhan” that Big B so stylishly says so many times in the original. These factors should make it quite obvious that Johar is looking to a whole new generation to give the story the kind of love it didn’t really experience when it first released. Johar seems to also be focussing on the freshness of today’s generation of actors to create a whole new identity for a story many will be familiar with but also that many will be seeing for the first time. I will also argue that if the original Agneepath was to release in the exact state in today’s age, Bachchansahib perhaps may not have been appreciated so much in his performance and I doubt he would have won the National Award for best actor for his performance either. Naye generation ki baat hai!

The glam love interest

Whether this is just for universal appeal or the fact that nowadays it is assumed that every film needs some sort of love story, Priyanka Chopra will provide a welcome and refreshing mehbooba for Vijay. In the original the role of Mary, VDC‘s wife, was rendered by South Indian actress Madhavi who fit the bill in what was needed to be a co-star for Bachchan who was a fresh face that wasn’t seen too often but who was strong enough to open her arms to him, warts and all. You may remember that the character of Mary was the nurse who looked after VDC after he was shot. In contrast, Chopra plays the character of Kaali who, if first trailer’s impressions are to  be believed, doesn’t belong to the nursing profession. In fact, what seems to be apparent in the new Agneepath is perhaps that Kaali and Vijay are good friends and Kaali is very much a shoulder to cry on as well as a pillar of support for the emotionally-wounded and out-for-revenge Vijay. Chopra is said to have a small role in the movie but it is sure to be central to the plot. Once again, this difference from the original only further highlights that the word “remake” isn’t technically one that should be used. It is sure to be a treat, as always, to see Chopra on-screen with Roshan once again.

Cuts and amendments in characters

As well as the change in Vijay’s love interest, there are a few characters that simply didn’t cut it and haven’t been allowed to seap into the new take. You may recall that the beautiful Neelam played VDC’s younger sister, Shiksha. You will also recall that in the opening scenes, Shiksha is just a few years younger than VDC and the two siblings, along with their mother leave the town together with a promise from the junior VDC that they will return some day. In stark contrast, 2012’s Agneepath sees junior Vijay leave in a similar fashion but with his expectant mother. Although not too much of a change in plot, it justifies the omission of  Krishnan Iyer M.A. which was played fantastically by Mithun Chakraborty in the original. In the newer version, Deven Bhojani does play a character named Krishnan, but it remains to be seen how he will fit into the plot. Arguably, he may play a well-wisher of Vijay’s and protector of Shiksha but surely this Shiksha would be too young for a love story to be incorporated? Hmmm…

There is also the introduction of a drug-lord, Rauf Lala, which is being played by the evergreen Rishi Kapoor. This will be a really interesting watch because Kapoor is usually associated to characters who are on the good side when opposed to evils. In what will be a first for the actor, Rauf Lala takes Vijay under his wing in Mumbai and has, as has been reported, some negative shades. I have full faith that Kapoor will be just fabulous in this role and I can’t wait to see his performance.

Impressionable music

It has to be said that 1990’s Agneepath did not have a very impressive soundtrack at all. Whilst watching it, I was yearning for a song which I was familiar with but it never came. In fact, what I found were some extremely cringeworthy lyrics and music that would never have been branded as ‘unforgettable’. It is thought that Johar wanted the new Agneepath to have a soundtrack which would not lose the compositions and sounds of Laxmikant-Pyarelal of his father’s era. In my view, this is probably the worst decision Johar could have made for what has the potential of being a cult film. Having listened to a few of the new soundtrack, I can safely say that it surpasses any kinds of expectations which may have been associated to the original’s songs. The item number, featuring eye-candy Katrina Kaif, oddly named ‘Chikni Chameli’ was clearly included because it would lure the audiences in. In my humble opinion, I don’t think it was needed at all but each to their own. The soulful ‘O Saiyyan’ has been picturised beautifully and sensually captures the love between Kaali and Vijay. ‘Gun Guna’ is the dhamakedaar song which wows me every time it graces my TV. Chopra is the epitome of grace in her dance and she enacts the lyrics with such ease that it is a complete pleasure to watch. ‘Deva Shree Ganesha’ is the one I’m sitting on the fence with. I would say that the song that should’ve been in the moment it would come in in the film could’ve been much more effective but sadly seems to miss the plot somehow. Overall, music composers Ajay-Atul capture a soul that perhaps wasn’t apparent in the original.

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Some or all of the above should be enough to showcase that the word “remake” will only encourage comparisons to be made. Although connections are inevitable in the grand scheme of things, I would put forward that the new Agneepath be treated and reacted on on it’s own merit. The reworking and representation of a film already seen before happens for so many reasons and, in this case, I feel Johar seeks to ignite love for his father’s movie which it didn’t get in it’s time. By making it more appealing to the younger audiences, he has sought to give the film a fresh perspective with a brand new star cast, twists to the original plot and, at the same time, throwing in essential ingredients which he deems appealing to the masses. It remains to be seen whether this generation sees through the parts that are there only for effect and finds a way to the bits that should leave an impression. With just a week to go, let’s see if the audiences really want to walk the path of fire to see Dharma’s take on a classic.

Photo credit: devilsdownload.com

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