There is a reason why history should not be messed with. A fairly comprehensible and reasonable justification why one should not try to perturb what has been done, accepted and made worthy of being called ‘history’.
A certain Ram Gopal Verma knows the reason. His abomination, the so-called remake of Sholay (which I have not had the courage to watch, out of pure concern for my mental health) has shown him the reason – people do not want him to make movies anymore. Satya was his last laudable effort. Thank you, Ramu. But you may leave now.
Another such abomination has been unleashed upon us by Karan Johar and his namesake, Karan Malhotra. This thing goes by the name ‘Agneepath’.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines hogwash as ‘swill, slop, nonsense’. These are tame as compared to the feelings running through my head as I suffered for three precious hours watching this piece of utter horse manure being shoveled upon unsuspecting audiences in the name of a film. As is expected of anyone, I started comparing it with the original from the first frame. I instantly knew this was going to turn into a disaster as I saw father and son merrily hopping away with their arms flailing to Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s poem of the same title.
Vijay Dinanath Chauhan is not just a name or a character in a script. Vijay Dinanath Chauhan is a memory in the minds of people like me who grew up in the nineties; he is a man who saw his house burn down as a child, who saw his father falsely framed, who pulled his dead father’s body on a handcart while his mother sat outside their burned down house, rendered senseless. Vijay is the child, who burned down a petrol pump, who permitted himself only vengeance and nothing else.
The Vijay from Agneepath didn’t shed a tear, he did not break into a dance after a few drinks, and he never let his feeling of revenge against those he wronged him, be clouded with anything else. That Vijay kept alive the child, only as a bitter reminder of what the world had done to him, as a symbol of everything that was wrong in the world, as his weakness, which he destroyed along with the perpetrators.
When Vijay, as a child says “jala dala” sitting in Commissioner Gaitonde’s cabin, he says it with the same conviction and sense of pride, as in the hotel scene – “apne paise se khareeda main ye kapda, joota polish kiya, fadka mara main gadi ko, kabhi mara tum?”
That is Vijay. And much more.
The Vijay that I saw today was a typical Karan Johar Vijay – a character that will appeal to teenagers of today, and to the entertainment-hungry audience that happily laps up the endless reincarnations of Golmaal with the same intensity. This Vijay is a faint outline, a cheap imitation. He is a paper tiger made to dance with a light thrown behind him, so that from the other side of the screen, the audience sees a fierce, dark, heavy animal. Along with him are similar creatures that inhabit the space, being made to dance around on sticks, all at the whims and fancies of the one who pulls the strings.
The biggest disappointment, other than Vijay in this new version of Agneepath, is Kancha Cheena. The original had a villain who could be respected, feared and even revered. He knew exactly what he wanted, who his enemies were, how he could break them. He was suave, was understated, but menacing at the same time. His evil did not need embellishment, nor did it need to be in your face all the time. Here, in the new version, the character of Kancha has been reduced to a prop. Bad, very bad acting, utterly ridiculous dialogues, no real sense of purpose and a forced evil which demands to be feared, which stares at you in hope that you will cower down and give up. Instead, it does nothing. The character fails to make any impact. You do not have a villain if you show someone with a massive body, that crazy look in kohl eyes, a bald head and an earring – what you have is a caricature, my friend. What you have, is one of those old uncles in the family that try to keep up the act of scaring you by suddenly appearing from behind doors. It used to scare you when you were five, but now, you feel sorry for the man. In the movie, one does not even feel sorry for Kancha.
Then, you have the character of Commissioner Gaitonde. The quiet, soft spoken Gaitonde Sahab of the old movie is Vijay’s voice of reason; “Master Dinanath jaisa baat karta hai tum!” This one dialogue sums it all up. Here, the character has no depth.
I think that is true for all characters in this Agneepath. There is no real feeling, no attachment with any of the people we see on the screen.
Shashank recently saw the old movie after me continuously begging him to. His comment was expected – “It’s a bad movie. It’s all about Amitabh showing how big his dick is.” Well, my friend, you did not understand the character of Vijay. He does not need to show anything, and yet, in his actions, his voice, his eyes, he does everything. Considering acting, this is one of Amitabh’s finest. The so-called pundits of films panned it in 1990 when it came out, and still do. They crib about the screenplay and the direction, about how it is copied from Scarface, and so on and so forth.
What the pundits fail to connect it with is the little kid Viju, who became Vijay. I am sure 80s kids who grew up with the ‘angry young man’ character connect with both of them. Because we saw a bit of him in us. Because we wish we had the kind of power he had. Because we wanted to set the world right in our way. But I guess the powers that be wanted the angry young man killed off. Kids were getting smarter, they wanted ‘unadulterated entertainment’ more that anything else, the world of international media was opening up, newer stars were snapping at the heels of the older ones. So it was natural that one phase had to end. Shakti signaled the beginning of the end, and in 1990, Agneepath was the final nail in the coffin.
Which is why one should never mess with history, why one must not dig graves and try bringing back what’s resting. Rotten corpses, bare skeletons and a handful of dust is what you will find. Which is exactly what the new Agneepath is.
Lifeless, soulless and featureless.