Hrithik Roshan: I’m playing the underdog in ‘Agneepath’!

The star cast of Agneepath – Hrithik Roshan, Priyanka Chopra and Sanjay Dutt – as well as the producer-director duo of Karan Johar and Karan Malhotra were in form at the launch of the film’s theatrical trailer recently. The megastars and the makers of the film told us a little of what Agneepath is all about…

When Hrithik Roshan turned up sporting a ponytail, showing off his lean yet sculpted body and wearing black aviators mounted on his arrow-shaped nose, the screams reached ear-splitting decibels. Priyanka Chopra leaned on the arm of the Greek god and looked sizzling hot in an outfit that accentuated her curves even further….and the applause got even more intense! Sanjay Dutt, who’s playing the villain Kancha Cheena in the film, received loads of taalis and unending ceetees as he walked in, bald head and earrings gleaming in the overhead lights. Producer Karan Johar looked suave in his black suit and was accompanied by Karan Malhotra, the young director of the film. Kjo was his usual eloquent self. And from Vijay Deenanath Chauhan (Hrithik) to Kancha Cheena, and from Kaali (Priyanka) to Karan, the cornerstones of the film took their seats and faced the rapid-fire……

After watching the promo, we sense that the massive, scary and larger-than-life character of Kancha Cheena played by Sanjay Dutt clearly overpowers Hrithik’s young Vijay Deenanath Chauhan….

Karan Malhota: It’s not a deliberate attempt to make the villain big enough to overshadow the hero. The villain of the film is big because the achievement of the hero had to be bigger in the end. It is absolutely inappropriate to say that the Kancha is bigger than Vijay. The two characters go hand in hand. You can’t separate the good from the evil and vice-versa.

Sanjay Dutt: If you see the Batman series or Spiderman, for that matter, the villain is more powerful and there’s a reason for that. It is quite obvious. I think that when the villain is powerful, the hero becomes more powerful to beat the villain. So they balance each other out!

Hrithik Roshan: The answer is very obvious. Have you seen his (Sanjay Dutt) size? Anybody who stands in front of Sanjay Dutt is bound to get overshadowed. (laughs)

Priyanka Chopra: Let’s keep it simple – the bigger the villain, the bigger the hero.

How different is Hrithik’s Vijay compared to Amitabh Bacchan’s in the original Agneepath?

Karan Johar: Essentially, the character of Vijay Deenanath Chauhan is completely different from the way Amitji portrayed it in the original Agneepath. In that film Vijay was not an underdog, but in the remake Vijay is a younger boy. So it’s important to understand that this character is played by a younger actor too. Vijay was portrayed by Amitji at a certain age when he did the film. And because the character is now played by a younger man, he becomes an underdog. So the story is how this underdog rises against this impactful, big and scary villain( Kancha). That’s when you see the triumph of the hero’s spirit. You can’t compare the style and swagger of Amitabh Bachchan, because then you will seem silly. Remember, you can’t emulate Krrish, because Hrithik owns it. Similarly, Amitji owns that spirit, that swagger of Vijay’s character. You can’t copy the established. We had to deconstruct the film and remake it in a particular way so that when the underdog emerges, you feel the high. This film is about the emergence of an underdog.

HR: Films I think are made for entertainment and what makes Agneepath even more entertaining is how my character, this kid, takes on an impossibility and beats a Goliath. Is it possible? No, it is not! But can he make it happen? Now go and watch the film to find out!

Karan Malhota: The basic story of the film remains the same – it’s a revenge story. It is a story where a son takes revenge for the death of his father, but the similarity ends there. In the first five minutes you will move beyond the old story and relate to the new one instead. Hopefully we have been successful in achieving that.

There’s a school of thought that says that classic films like Don, Sholay or Agneepath should not be touched. Were you apprehensive about making this one?

 Kjo: I believe that this film is more of a revisiting or an adaptation of the original. You can’t make an exact remake. We have paid homage to the original Agneepath. There was no attempt to make a better film than the original. We are simply trying to pay tribute to the film that my father produced. I wanted to show respect and pay homage to Mukul S Anand’s Agneepath and Mr Bachchan’s towering performance and give the story our own world. If you see this film – right from the love story between Kaali and Vijay to Kancha’s evil deeds – everything is portrayed in our own world.

PC: I think the point here is that people of this generation, the younger lot, may not have seen the original film. For example, I had not seen the original Agneepath and had not experienced its magic. So be it the remake of Don, or of Agneepath, it’s a tribute to those films. The repackaging is done so that we can experience these beautiful films again. It’s not that we want to make a better film than the original Agneepath. No, we are not trying to do that. We are simply remaking a film today’s young generation can identify with.

What went into portraying these larger-than-life characters?

SD: My look has been thought of by director Karan Malhotra. The only difference in my character and the one that Danny saab played in the original film is that Danny saab had a full head of hair, but I am bald. I had to shave my head thrice to look the part! We have tried to make this character larger-than-life. Now let’s hope people like my character as well.

HR: I grew my facial fuzz and a long mane, Sanju baba shaved his head and we came on the set – that’s all.

PC: This is the second time I am playing a Marathi mulgi. The character’s name is Kaali. This role had to be different from the character of Sweety in Kaminey. Kaali is different in a sense that unlike Sweety, she’s very strong. She’s the strength of Vijay. She’s a happy soul, a total prankster, very naughty, yet very strong emotionally.

Karan, were you apprehensive giving the reins of direction into the hands of young director Karan Malhotra, given the fact that you were remaking a classic?

 Kjo: Karan (Malhotra) is making a multi-crore film for the first time. I don’t have to say anything more but for the fact that I have implicit trust, faith and respect in his talent. None of us can say anything beyond the fact that he’s been given a chance to make a monstrous budget film that Agneepath is with a big star cast that speaks for itself, just for the faith we have in Karan’s talent.

Karan Malhotra, tell us about your experience of directing massive stars like Hrithik, Priyanka and Sanjy Dutt for this multi-crore film…

 KM: I am extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to work with Hrithik, Priyanka and Sanjay Sir in my first film. I have known Hrithik for a long time and worked with him when I was assisting Ashutosh Gowariker in Jodhaa Akbar. So he wasn’t a total stranger to me. He’s the actor who’s totally for the film and never just for his character. He looks at the film as a whole package and not just for the role he plays. Priyanka is a complete live-wire – I had to mellow her down at times; her energy was infectious on the sets. Sanjay Sir has been the biggest supporting factor. He’s been encouraging throughout the process. I don’t think anybody could have played Kancha as well as he did. It was great fun to work with such a great star cast!