Hrithik convincingly plays superman with an everyman core, but the film disappoints!
There are moments of great power in Agneepath. Debutant director Karan Malhotra, clearly a connoisseur of over-the-top Bollywood drama, piles on thunderous confrontations and punchy dialogues. So when Vijay Dinanath Chauhan gives his full introduction, which includes the name of his village Mandwa, as he knifes a hated adversary, you have no choice but to applaud. There is also some fine acting in Agneepath, notably Hrithik Roshan’s heartfelt performance as Vijay Dinanath Chauhan. Stepping away from the long shadow cast by Amitabh Bachchan’s stylised take in the 1990 original, Hrithik convincingly plays superman with an everyman core. So he isn’t obviously larger-than-life. His eyes have an ache and when he breaks down and weeps, the anguish is palpable.
Rishi Kapoor as Vijay’s mentor Rauf Lala also goes bad with panache.
But the problem is that all of this skill, sweat and passion is servicing a standard-issue revenge story that wasn’t very interesting in 1990, and despite the ample tweaking and updating, isn’t very interesting now. Mukul S Anand, who directed the original, decorated the ordinary narrative with style. Bachchan, lounging in white suits or stepping out of the sea after a foiled assassination attempt, packed a wallop. Malhotra reserves his flourishes for the villain Kancha, who, as one character puts it: Mandwa ko Hitler ke concentration camp ki tarah chalata hai. Sanjay Dutt, channeling Marlon Brando from Apocalypse Now, is effectively menacing but the character veers too often into cartoonish – why do bad men in Hindi movies laugh so much (here even a sidekick seems to have the giggles).
Agneepath is shrill in tone and morally specious – Vijay uses his earnings from crime for charity but finally this is a man whose prime business is cocaine and selling under-age girls (when he comes to power, he sets the girls free and this, I think, is supposed to redeem him in our eyes). The film is also long and loud, literally – the background score by Ajay-Atul bludgeons your senses. By the end, I was, in equal parts, exhausted and unsatisfied.
I really wanted to like Agneepath more. See it for Hrithik Roshan.
Two and a half stars.
The author tweets at @anupamachopra