AGNEEPATH(1990)

bcef304c59928bde5f9a958b0a30ed4eMukul. S. Anand’s Agneepath is iconic both in terms of content and success. It is one of those films which not only redefined Indian cinema but also added a new dimension to its protagonist Amitabh Bachchan persona. With this film he took his angry young man image another step forward. Who could possibly forget that high pitched voice that resounded through cinemas? How could one forget that somewhat twisted posture that came to identify him with the masses and above all how could one forget that simmering drama between him and his mother who loved her son just as much as she detested his ways of getting back at the world.

The film portrays Amitabh Bachchan as Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, the son of an idealistic teacher, Dinanath Chauhan who sets his eyes on changing the life and times of the village of Mandwa. Dinanath notVTS_04_1[17-32-12] only wants to see the village of Mandwa grow but also tries to bring the light of education in the lives of the villagers. In walks Kancha Cheena (Danny) the marauding businessman who wants to use Mandwa as an epical point for the creation and distribution of his hallucinogens. The master stands as the biggest challenge in his path and so he schemes against him with the help of the local landlord and gets name tarnished and him wacked from the village.

VTS_04_1[17-27-27] Vijay, his sister and his mother are left all alone in the big bad world. Vijay, who is burning up inside, wants to get his revenge on Cheena and the others but before that he must set foot into the world of crime and smuggling. He does so in style and grows up through the ranks until the day when he axes all competition to emerge as the king of Bombay. He soon makes way to Mauritius to forge a partnership with Cheena who plots to kill him but Vijay emerges successful and is able to forge the partnership. He comes back to take control of Mandwa and soon his crosses path with Kancha who now comes down to India for a final showdown with his adversary for life.

In the midst of all this he is able to find a true friend in Krishnan Iyer MA(Mithun Chakravarti), an educated youth who is forced to selling coconuts to VTS_04_1[17-42-58]make ends meet. He meets Krishnan during an encounter when a gang of people are all set to kill him but Krishnan saves his life. He also finds the love of his life in a nurse who treats him at the hospital and whom he marries subsequently. Throughout the course of the film his relationship with his mother is a constant source of self criticism as well as self evaluation for him. After every encounter with his mother he either is left to rue the wounds that she forces on him or made to change his path of propagation.

VTS_04_2[17-46-57]Agneepath can easily be considered as the Indian equivalent of Scarface. While the story takes certain points from the classic the treatment and the screenplay is completely different. The most astute addition that the film contributed to Indian cinema was the iconic character of Vijay. The way it depicts Amitabh Bachchan, his mannerism, his way of speaking and also the action have acquired cult status. The Gangster films from thereon sort of took Agneepath as a parameter and template on which they pictured their protagonists until that was reworked by a film called Satya. For generations, Agneepath remained a benchmark for films of this genre in India.

At 167 minutes, Agneepath is in no way a short film but the amount of material that its screenplay holds is enough to keep the audience interested all the way through. This is one film which is brimming with characters and situations with its protagonist at the center of all things. There are no less than six major negative characters who get dispatched before the film ends. Four of these baddies get a lucrative chance to shoot and kill Vijay but even after putting in four bullets he survives. Later he hands these bullets back to the people as he sends them back to hell.

The film has two romantic tracks, one involving Mithun and Neelam who plays Vijay’s sister and another involving Vijay and his nurse played by Madhvi. While the Mithun Neelam track is VTS_04_3[18-02-29]crass and un-poetic, the one involving Bachchan and Madhvi has its share of tender and affective moments. The discussions between Vijay and his nurse are a way for the audience to look at his vulnerable side which at times is great. This part also gives Vijay something to lose apart from his mother and sister. In key scene he is shown insulted in a restaurant in front of his love when people are unable to fathom his presence at the dinner table banishing him as a goon and anti social element.

VTS_04_7[18-44-07]Amitabh Bachchan turns in one of those performances in which he is more the character and lesser himself. His blood red eyes, twisted posture and heavy voice coupled with a Mumbaiya lingo completes his transformation into the character and people loved him for that. Rohini Hatangadi as his mother is a revelation. Danny plays Kancha with ferocity. He appears as someone who you feel afraid of. He works as the perfect adversary to Bachchan’s larger than life Vijay. Neelam and Madhvi do their part. Mithun I felt was a tad bit too loud even though his character demanded that.

Agneepath is a cult classic which has been watched and re-watched across generations over and over again. It is one of those films which defined the Indian film industry over the years. People waited outside theaters over night to get tickets to watch this film. That greatest achievement of this film was the fact that these people where not disappointed.

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