This movie marks a return to the worst genre of Hindi cinema, vengeance drama
Agneepath may work as retro entertainment, but it is no great addition to India’s film culture. The original revenge drama, made in 1990, arrived towards the fag end of the worst decade in Hindi cinema. This vengeance genre, with variations to the plot, usually sets the stage with a flashback to a boyhood memory (a parent killed by a ‘Thakur’ or gangster), then cuts to adulthood, with the protagonist acquiring the power and weapons to settle the score. The slow march to a climax of lynching, arson, fistfights—anything but a conclusive bullet to the head—prolongs the interminable blood feud.
We now celebrate the return of this drivel in 2012. Reruns of the first Agneepath and its like on TV actually make the younger actors here, Hrithik Roshan (playing Vijay Dinanath Chauhan) and Priyanka Chopra (his love interest), look like they are in some sort of costume drama. No matter. Like a four-wheel drive on a dirt track, the film tears its way through with an energy that is admirable in terms of sheer cussedness, if little else.
In the end, it all boils down to your taste in cinema. The film is about a schoolmaster in Mandwa who is lynched for not going along with the strongarm tactics of a hoodlum called Kancha Cheena (Sanjay Dutt). The story then moves to Mumbai, where the schoolmaster’s tormented son Vijay, witness to his father’s murder, is now a handsome mobster (Hrithik).
Vijay’s personal life is divided between his disapproving mother (Zarina Wahab) and cheerful girlfriend (Priyanka). His professional life, such as it is, is largely about dodging bullets. Essentially, he is marking time, preparing for the final showdown with Kancha Cheena.
No one ages in the film, not the mother, not Kancha. Time stands still. It’s like the Theory of Relativity, all based on a formula in which energy (Hrithik) and mass (Sanjay Dutt), under certain circumstances, are interchangeable and can make the bloody late 1980s stand stock still.