By Rupali Gupta
I saw the new Agneepath on the first Friday of its release. And I saw the first Agneepath pretty much as soon as it was released. Both have some fine performances and characters that leave a deep impression. The Kancha of Danny has nothing in common to the Cheena of Sanjay, except for the single minded evilness. The former is suave and subtle as compared to the larger than life, hands on approach of the latter.
The leading ladies are as different as chalk and cheese. The mothers are different in many ways. Even the Vijays are different – both performance and character wise. Performance wise it is unfair to compare Amitabh Bachchan to Hritik Roshann. Both are actors to swear by and both belong to different eras. Amitabh right from the beginning scorched the screen with his intensity and Roshan has been outdoing his own performances in the last few projects he has done.
Krishanan Iyer (Yam Yay, M.A.) has been replaced by Rauf Lala – both landmark characters played by two very towering personalities. Who would believe that Mithun could do the comic yet intense role like that and who could have conceptualized Rishi, the all time lover boy, from Bobby to Pyaar Mei Twist, as the repulsive trafficker of young girls.
There will be enough and more reviews that dissect the nuances of every scene, dialogue and gush about the heart thudding impactful scene when Vijay tells his foe “Vijay Deenanath Chauhan, poora naam”. But this is not a review. I just want to share my thoughts on the concept of Agneepath. In my opinion, the first one failed for a reason and the second one fails for another.
Agneepath, the path of fire can be both literal and metaphorical. I feel both movies fell short, the present one even more so – in their timing, interpretation and the final positioning of thought.
Bachchan’s Agneepath sees him as a clever person because he does not lose his cool when confronted by the demon of his nightmares. Rather, he plays his hand very smartly and even though torn by the desire to wrench the villain’s guts out, does the right thing by handing Kancha Cheena to the law. The physical confrontation comes when Vijay’s family is kidnapped and threatened by the diabolic and seemingly invincible evil man.
It probably failed because it came at the tail end of a series of such movies, starting from Deewar where Vijay is an honest cop through a series of movies that showed good triumphing bad. Agneepath’s villain emerged as a force much stronger than the law of the land and the good needed to die with it. Many reasons are given for the failure of this movie. Amitabh’s voice, his age, the OTT Kasturba Gandhi-ish character of the mother, the direction, the timing etc. etc. I just feel it was audience fatigue.
Hritik’s Vijay shows no such multi orientation. He refuses to marry his childhood sweetheart for the larger part of the movie for fear of commitment. Being estranged from his mother and sister for 15 years does not sway his mind. Unable to control the mafia inspite of being conniving enough to destabilize Rauf Lala, Vijay faces an avoidable confrontation which leaves you wondering why he did not have the sense to just shoot the villain (any one could see the obvious difference in the bulk).
More than anything else could this character have become the icon of the times today where corruption is rife and the man with the gun rules the roost. We are living in times where values have degenerated and self gratification is the order of the day. People who shed their clothes at the blink of an eyelid are applauded. Debauched children of equally debauched politicians are national heroes. Extra-marital affairs are celebrated and scams worth multi billion dollars are spoken about without horror. Indeed they are spoken about with some wistfulness. In a county of dying, starving and exploited (though the situation is not as one dimensional as this) multitude the national news consists of Filmfare awards.
I remember the times when a protagonist turned negative was always punished in the end. The typical scene of a jail and some tag line saying “5 ya 7 saal baad” if the movie wanted to maintain a light hearted tone or the hero actually dying (very rarely) if the movie was meant to be “realistic”.
This brings me to wonder about the significance of movies. Should they just depict the reality … Can they really shape the future … Should they just be artistic flights of fancy or be narratives with moral responsibility?
Sometimes all, sometimes none of the above. And maybe sometimes some of the above.
Going back to ‘Agneepath’ and more importantly Vijay. Vijay of ‘Deewar’ came at a time when he became the symbol of the simmering angst against the system we ourselves are a part of. Teethering on rage he does not step out of the realms of morality. If he does step out he steps back in before the story ends.
My worry is that today’s Vijay does not even try. His aim is to kill and die (at the age of 10 he tells his mom “main chain se mar sakunga“). The aim of the movie is not vanquishing the bad but to destroy everything, including the positive. It is not a celebration of life but a dance of death.
I wish. I so wish that when re-writing the script, the makers had re-written the movie entirely. That in turbulent times of today’s dying values Vijay had emerged as an Icon to follow. If ever there was a time to be good it is now. If ever there was a time to stand up and uphold positive values it is now. We all are fighting our own battles and walking our own agneepaths in our mundane lives. I wish Vijay had emerged the upholder of his father’s values. I wish his path had been more internal than external. Scorched to the soul I wish he had emerged from the ashes a virtuous victor.
Then his victory would have been final and “iconic”. No doubt the movie will make a lot of money and be a big time hit. No doubt there will be a lot of awards as completely deserved. But, I doubt if it is a story that can define the times of today.
Here’s a novice‘s version:
THE SCENE: A young boy is being asked to be witness in a murder case he chooses to be one; is protected by the cop and grows up to be one.
OTHER OPTION: The same young boy is holding a gun to the cops head, the mother is screaming at him to stop. And he does. He visualizes the outcome of his possible murdering of the cop (which shows his descent into the underworld and final death in the arms of his heart broken mother) and weighs his father’s teachings to put his gun down and be miraculously pardoned by the cop.
The next shot could have shown a new paper flash … “bees saal baad types“.
“DCP VIJAY DEENANTH CHAUHAAN ENDS THE RULE OF KANCHA CHEENA“ or maybe “MLA VIJAY DEENANATH CHAUHAAN INSTUMENTAL IN HELPING THE POLICE TO OVER POWER THE RULE OF KANCHAA CHEENA“.
My hero would have had his revenge. My hero would have been a man to look upto not just for his physical strength, for his family commitments, for his sensitivity but for his inner strength also.
My hero would have earned the right to use his father’s name and say “Vijay Deena Nath Chauhaan, poora naam“.