Film Review: Agneepath
Director: Karan Malhotra
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Sanjay Dutt, Rishi Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra
Email from: Karan Johar
To: Karan Malhotra
Subject: Top secret recipe for the success of Agneepath
Ingredients: Take 5 ounces of blood, 4 kilos of make-up, 3 ounces of Cheddar cheese, 2 ounces of blue cheese, 1 ounce of feta cheese, 4 blue screens, 2 villains, 1 finely-built shirtless hero, 1 item number.
Method: Mix everything together and half bake it. Avoid insignificant ingredients like innovation, likeable characters and intrigue. Sautee with 300 plot holes. Add kitsch for (bad) taste. Serve blockbuster chilled.
Agneepath, producer Karan Johar’s remake of the cult classic of the same name, is a labour of love that reminds you that love is blind. The 1990 Amitabh Bachchan film, an unofficial remake of Scarface, was a B-movie to begin with. The 2012 Agneepath is in fact not even a remake, but a “reimagining” that plays out like a below-average 1990s Telugu gangster action film where all the characters speak in Hindi. Director Karan Malhotra’s debut sits in a patch somewhere between a shameless cash grab and a callow vanity project. What is certain though, is that the film is compulsively horrible and full of unintentionally hilarious OTT drama.
It’s been over 20 years since Big B’s Agneepath released, but there is not a shred of freshness to be found in the new version. The movie leaves absolutely nothing whatsoever for the viewer to digest—Mr. Johar and Co. just offer a frozen cadaver of Bollywood tripe and expect it to be reheated by paying audiences who can find nothing else in their fridges to snack on. It’s hard to say what’s worse, the film’s utter lack of entertainment value or the unabashed condescension towards its viewers.
The story remains more or less the same, but when you have big stars like Hrithik Roshan, Priyanka Chopra, Sanjay Dutt and an item song from Katrina Kaif, why do you even need a story? Mega baddie Kancha Cheena (Sanjay Dutt, looking like Uncle Fester from The Addams Family) descends upon the town of Mandwa to turn it into a drug haven. A schoolteacher (Chetan Pandit) who dares to oppose him is framed and hanged to death. The schoolteacher’s son, Vijay Dinanath Chauhan (Hrithik Roshan) then joins forces with high-profile rival gangster, Rauf Lala (Rishi Kapoor) and plots revenge against Kancha.
But none of this is interesting, new or arresting in any way—the film keeps throwing melodrama and songs at the audience, and trudges on unbearably for almost 3 hours. Agneepath is completely devoid of humour (Mithun Chakraborty’s Krishna Iyer “MA” character was written out), and there are barely any memorably witty lines of dialogue, save for a few of Dutt’s deadpan quips. Even the love story between Vijay and Kaali (Priyanka Chopra) doesn’t ease the boredom. Instead, we are treated with plot holes large enough to let a tiptoeing woolly mammoth through.
Vijay attacks Kancha’s lair by carefully placing and detonating big bombs, but refuses to carry a simple pistol to overpower the villain, and gets beaten to pulp. Vijay stages an assassination attempt on Rauf Lala’s son (Deven Bhojani) and takes a bullet to his own shoulder. Why? To get in Lala’s good books? Then why make a speech about not needing either of them? Kancha’s lair is guarded day and night by dozens of his armed henchmen manning the coast, so how does Vijay, carrying all those firearms, moor his boat and sneak past them? When Vijay is 12-years-old, he refuses to hand Lala over to the cops and that angers his mother so much that she abandons him. But 15 years later, when Vijay is busy taking revenge, she screams at him to let Lala go, despite the fact that Lala has prostituted her daughter just a few minutes ago.
The performances range from great (Roshan) to good (Dutt, Kapoor) to horrendous (Bhojani) to hilariously awful (Om Puri, playing a cop). Hrithik Roshan growls, kicks, punches, laughs, weeps, sweats, bleeds—he gives it his all, but is sadly eclipsed by the overall stupidity of the film. There isn’t much he can do to leverage his star power to avoid the embarrassment. An otherwise smart, talented and versatile actress, Chopra’s poorly-written role is not a highlight but a terrible misstep in her glowing career. Dutt clearly has more fun than the audience, as does Kapoor in his lecherous role, but neither of them are as suave or threatening as Danny Denzongpa, who played Kancha Cheena in the original. Agneepath is ultimately an insult to both Scarface and its 1990 recreation. Its only redeeming quality is that it reminds us of all the things that used to be fun about bad 1990s movies.