Movie Review: 'Agneepath'

Email from Karan Johar

To Karan Malhotra

Subject: Top Secret recipe for the success of ‘Agneepath’

Instructions: Take 5 ounces of blood , 4 kilos of makeup, 3 ounces of Cheddar cheese, 2 ounces of Blue cheese, 1 ounce of Feta cheese, 4 blue screens, 3 villains, 1 finely built shirtless hero, 1 item number. 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, Karan Johar’s remake (read: cheesy vulgarisation) of the cult classic Amitabh Bachchan movie of the same name is a labor of love that reminds you that love is blind. The 1990 film was a B-movie to begin with, and this putrid remake wears its contempt on its sleeve. Agneepath is in fact not even a remake, it’s a ‘reimagining’ and it feels like watching a below average 90’s 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.

A sane writer would’ve strangled all the characters 30 minutes into the film, but then Agneepath would have ended too soon. It’s been 20 years since Big B’s remake of Scarface released, but there is not a shred of freshness to be found in the new Agneepath. The movie leaves absolutely nothing whatsoever for the viewer to digest - Mr Johar and co just offer a frozen dead 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 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) 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 hung to death. The man’s son, Vijay Dinanath Chauhan (Hrithik Roshan) joins forces with the 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 and just trudges unbearably on for almost 3 hours as a how-to manual for budding migraine-fetishists.  Agneepath is completely devoid of humour, and there isn’t a single memorably witty line of dialogue, save for the deadpan Sanju Baba quips. Not even the love story between Vijay (Hrithik) and Kaali (Priyanka) manages to divert from the boredom. In fact few Bollywood movies have ever asked audiences to care for couples as repugnant and irredeemable as Vijay and Kaali. 

During all this atrocity we are treated with plot holes that can 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 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 and dozens of his armed henchmen around the coast, so how does Vijay, carrying all those firearms moor his boat and sneak past all of 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 and Lala’s life, she screams at him to let him go – despite the fact that Lala a few minutes ago had prostituted her own daughter.

There are many more gems but recounting them all would be spoilerish and rather painful. Oh but how can you consider plotholes in a masala movie, you say? KJo and his team had twenty years to iron out the kinks from the story, and the fact that it is even more ludicrous and less believable than the 1990 version says a lot. 

The performances range from great (Hrithik) to good (Sanju Baba and Rishi Kapoor) to horrendous (Deven Bhojani) to hilariously awful (Om Puri). Hrithik Roshan growls, kicks, punches, laughs, weeps, sweats, bleeds – he gives it his all, but he 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. A smart, talented and versatile actress, Priyanka Chopra for some reason believed in this film’s merits before she signed on. It is sad to realise that her turn in Agneepath is not a highlight but a terrible misstep in her glowing career. Uncle Fester Sanju Baba clearly has more fun than the audience, as does Rishi Kapoor in his lecherous role, but neither of them are as suave or threatening as Danny Denzongpa. Om Puri is screen poison, uninteresting in every way.

Agneepath is a tedious, worthless mass of filth and an absolute insult to both Scarface and Big B’s 1990 recreation. Its only redeeming quality is that it reminds us of the things that used to be so much fun about bad 90’s movies.

(First published in MumbaiBoss)

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