Agneepath (1990 film)
Agneepath (English: The Path of Fire) is a 1990 Indian Hindi-language crime-drama directed by Mukul Anand. It stars Amitabh Bachchan with Mithun Chakraborty, Madhavi, Neelam Kothari, Rohini Hattangadi and Danny Denzongpa. The film was produced by Yash Johar.
|Directed by||Mukul S. Anand|
|Screenplay by||Santosh Saroj|
|Story by||Santosh Saroj|
|Produced by||Yash Johar|
|Distributed by||Dharma Productions|
|Box office||₹102.5 million (US$1.4 million)|
The film was inspired by the life of a Mumbai gangster Manya Surve. The title was taken from a poem of the same name called 'Agneepath' which was penned by Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Amitabh's father, and which is recited at the beginning of the movie and creates a thematic link that continues through the movie, particularly in the climax, both literally and metaphorically.
Agneepath has grown into a strong cult film over the years. It is considered a milestone in Bachchan's career, and in the league of his all-time highly successful movies. Amitabh Bachchan received his first National Film Award for Best Actor at the 38th National Film Awards for his performance. At the 36th Filmfare Awards, Mithun Chakraborty and Rohini Hattangadi won the Best Supporting Actor and the Best Supporting Actress respectively. The film, despite being the 4th highest-grosser of 1990, had collections way below its high budget, and thus, the film was recorded as a flop at the box-office. The film was remade in 2012 with the same title, by Johar's son Karan Johar, as a tribute to his father.
Much-loved village schoolmaster Dinanath Chauhan (Alok Nath) strongly opposes the plans of Kancha Cheena, an underworld don (Danny Dengzongpa) and his band of gangsters to set up a base for heroin smuggling. After being discredited in a set-up scandal by Kancha and the village landlord Dinkar Rao (Goga Kapoor), Dinanath is lynched by the manipulated villagers to death, and his family is evicted and made destitute, much to Cheena's advantage. Swearing revenge over his father's murder and the attempted rape of his mother Suhasini Chauhan (Rohini Hattangadi) gone unpunished, and with a burning desire to clear his father's name, his son Vijay Dinanath Chauhan (Amitabh Bachchan) takes on the responsibilities of caring for his mother and sister Siksha (Neelam) that, by a strange twist of fate, cause him to descend into the murky underbelly of the Mumbai Underworld. He is taken by gangsters Hasmukh (Arvind Rathod), Usman Bhai (Avtar Gill), and Anna Shetty (Deepak Shirke) under their wing. Working his way up the ladder, Vijay grows up attaining notoriety as an underworld kingpin.
Vijay is warned by police commissioner M.S. Gaitonde (Vikram Gokhale), (who, while critical of him, nurtures a sympathetic spot for him), of a possible assassination attempt on his life by his former bosses after he refuses to co-operate with their drug-smuggling operations. However, Vijay brushes off Gaitonde's concern, stating that he is already aware of the planned attempt and intends to let it be carried out without any preemptive attack or resistance. Vijay's car is ambushed by his bosses, who fired multiple rounds at him. Left to die, he is discovered by a Tamilian coconut vendor Krishnan Iyer M.A. (Mithun Chakraborty) who transports him to hospital and saves his life, becoming his friend and eventually finding employment as Siksha's bodyguard. During his time in the hospital, Vijay is cared for by Nurse Mary Matthew (Madhavi). Commissioner Gaitonde deduces that Vijay basically played a gamble by letting the assassination attempt on him take place so as to elevate himself to demigod status in the perception of his followers, sending his enemies scurrying for cover. While recovering at the hospital, Krishnan saves Vijay from yet another assassination attempt at the hands of his bosses by sneaking him out of his bed.
Vijay avenges his assassination attempt by targeting the assassins one by one. He begins by killing Hasmukh and Usman Bhai, who are lodged in jail after surrendering to the police to escape Vijay's wrath. Vijay's mother strongly disapproves of his criminal tendencies and stays separately from him with Siksha. One night when Vijay arrives for a dinner programme, his mother drives him away from home after chastising him for sullying the good name of his father. Vijay, hurt and upset, seeks solace in Mary's arms and begins a relationship with her. Siksha is then kidnapped and held in a slum by Anna Shetty, who wants to avenge the death of his associates killed by Vijay, and an unsuccessful rescue attempt by Krishnan ends up with the two of them brawling. Vijay hears of this and arrives to kill Anna in a fit of rage. After brutally beating up Anna, Vijay castrates him with a sword.
The close encounter between Krishnan and Siksha causes a growing intimacy between the two of them, and they fall in love with each other. Vijay is outraged and strongly protests against the relationship with his mother, but is rebuffed again when his mother disowns him and considers Krishnan her "good son" she once had. Stung and deeply hurt by this slight, Vijay seeks solace in Mary and later marries her and resolves to do things "in the right way" to gain his mother's favour.
After cutting a deal with Kancha Cheena to allow him access into his old village, Vijay sets in motion a number of strategies that undercut Cheena's criminal operations and gain him the legal ownership of the village. He kills Kanchas's henchman Gora (Bob Christo), who is sent by the former to assassinate Commissioner Gaitonde. He gets Dinkar Rao lynched at the hands of the debased and impoverished villagers, similar to the manner in which his father was killed. Revenge is a dish best served cold as Vijay informs Cheena of his identity as the son of Dinanath Chauhan, lands Cheena in jail by arranging for Cheena's keep Laila (Archana Puran Singh) to testify against Kancha in court. Laila reveals herself as Shanti, the daughter of the prostitute who helped set up Master Dinanath to discredit him, and that she has been Vijay's trump card all along to get back to Kancha. Vijay returns the village to his mother and finds himself back in her favour, but Cheena ensures his release by arranging for the witnesses to be gunned down and Vijay's family to be kidnapped and held hostage. This is the last straw for Vijay, who is forced to return to his criminal ways and to walk the "Path of Fire" in order to rescue them. A violent and bloody struggle takes place as Cheena bombs every building and demolishes the entire village before he is killed by Vijay, who throws him into the raging fires and burns him alive. However, Vijay succumbs to the various bullet wounds inflicted on him by Kancha. While dying in the lap of his mother at the site of his family's old house, Vijay tries to justify the life he chose and the deeds he committed; that he indeed walked the "Agneepath", the "path of fire", (personifying his father's poem that was taught to him as a boy), to get justice for his family and insists that he is not a criminal. His mother weeps over his body piteously along with Krishnan, Siksha and Mary, finally forgiving him and acknowledging that he was never a criminal.
- Amitabh Bachchan as Vijay Chavan
- Mithun Chakraborty as Krishnan Iyer M.A.
- Madhavi as Mary Mathew
- Danny Denzongpa as Kancha Cheena (Underworld Kingpin)
- Neelam as Siksha Chavan
- Goga Kapoor as Dinkar Rao
- Alok Nath as Master Dinanath Chavan
- Rohini Hattangadi as Suhasini Chavan
- Sharat Saxena as Teraline (Rival Gang leader)
- Tinnu Anand as Nathu
- Vikram Gokhale as Commissioner M. S. Gaitonde
- Sudhir Pandey as Inspector Pathan
- Archana Puran Singh as Shanti aka Laila
- Avtar Gill as Usman Bhai (Former Boss)
- Shammi as Tara Bai
- Bob Christo as Gora
- Shakti Kapoor as Himself in the song "Ali Baba"
- Asha Sachdev as Chanda Bai
- Deepak Shirke as Anna Shetty (Former Boss)
- Arvind Rathod as Hasmukh (Former Boss)
- Pradeep Rawat as Vijay's Henchman
- Master Manjunath as Young Vijay Chavan
- Anjan Srivastav as Police Constable
- Monty Nath
A characteristic feature of the movie was the dark undertones and the grim atmosphere of the film, which was unusual for any of Amitabh Bachchan's films. It was noted that the film was "grim" due to the protagonist Vijay Chauhan's bloodlust and ferocity. The film was inspired by the life of Mumbai don Varadarajan Mudaliar and gangster Manya Surve. Bachchan modelled his mannerisms and voice on Surve for his character.  The film utilised a lot of dark distortions in the imagery, which were a common theme in some gangster films. Mithun Chakraborty's unique role of Krishnan Iyer was inspired by one of his roommates of his struggling days, before he became a popular film star. In his struggling days, Chakraborty used to share a room with Devio, who used to pay 150 Rupees, while Chakraborty used to pay 75 Rupees. Devio had the bed while Chakraborty used to sleep on the floor; one specific time, Chakraborty used his bed whilst he was at work, and when Devio came back, he scolded Chakraborty. This incident remained with Chakraborty, and he put Devio's character on screen. Tinnu Anand, who played the role of the Village Drunkard, shaved his head to obtain the age difference between him and Bachchan. The film was shot extensively in Bombay in several locations such as Andheri, Goregaon, and Colaba. The locations and the photography drew positive feedback from critics.
When it was first released, Agneepath was a flop, both at the box office as well as among the critics. Karan Johar recounts in an interview how younger city-based audiences thought it was a cool film. "Over the top, inane songs", dialogues "veering towards melodrama" and, more importantly, Amitabh Bachchan's experimentation with his voice did not go well with the masses and the critics alike. Film Trade Analyst Komal Nahta wrote thus about Bachchan's voice: "But the biggest undoing of the film is Amitabh Bachchan’s voice. He has spoken the dialogue in a different voice (similar to what Marlon Brando did in The Godfather) which will not be accepted by the audience. Further the mixing not being clear, his dialogues are incomprehensible at places." He further wrote that the film lacked a gripping drama, well-set script, and that even the murder scenes lacked excitement. Satish Naidu in his review noted that the narrative had a slow pace in the last hour. Another fact that worked against the advantage of the film was its weak story. Rediff.com's review of Agneepath suggested that perhaps, the grim, violent, aggressive, and dark portrayal of the underbelly of Bombay's underworld had worked against the film.
However, the perception of Agneepath changed gradually down the years, where at the time of its release it had a tepid reception, today it boasts of a strong and loyal cult following. The very same characteristics that acted against the prospects of the movie, i.e., the gritty tone, the gory and stylized violence, the modulation of Bachchan's voice, the glossy cinematography, and experimental background score, are now considered its key attractions which were way ahead of their time. Interestingly, it is Bachchan's performance in Agneepath that is considered as the primary reference by mimicry artistes while imitating the actor to this day. The National Film Award for Best Actor being bestowed on Amitabh Bachchan changed the perspective in which the film was appreciated. Over the years, favorable reviews trickling in made Agneepath a cult classic. Currently, Agneepath has been rated 7.7 on a scale of 10 in the Internet Movie Database by 7,555 users. In review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 93% of 715 user ratings favour the movie. Sanjay Dutt, the actor who plays Kancha Cheena's role in the remake praised the film saying that it was well ahead of its time when asked about the original film: "I loved the original film and if I was the whole of audience, I would have made it a big hit. I think may be the film was too ahead of times. Mukul is a brilliant director and his vision was so much ahead of his time." Satish Naidu commented in his blog that Agneepath's direction, camera work, and cinematography "had some serious physicality going for the film[there]". He further drove home his opinion, describing the betrayal of a certain "undeveloped terrain below" by the jagged, staccato-like movements of the camera work. Further, Naidu praised the way in which Mukul Anand portrayed Amitabh Bachchan in the film. An interesting aspect of the film was its cinematography, handled by Pravin Bhatt, which has been described as "marvelous" due to the "beautiful scenes shot in Mauritius. The ship bombing scene was executed well, and that the portrayal of the picturesque scenery of trees and fields in full bloom (in the songs, especially) met with rave reviews. Movie reviewer Peter Nepstad in his blog, the Illuminated Lantern wrote that: "Agneepath is deliriously melodramatic. The first thirty minutes, the prologue of the film, if you will, in the village of his youth, ranks among the best openings of any Bollywood film I've ever seen. Afterwards, when most Bollywood films crank it down for some syrupy romance or goofy comedy, Agneepath plops its adult protagonist right in the middle of a gang fight. Often a film has a great set piece at the beginning, then deflates by the end, but Agneepath continues amping up the conflict from beginning to end, from riots in a village to riots in a city to mud fights in the slums to sword fights in the middle of a festival." The movie's review in Rediff.com, mentioned that: "Agneepath, despite its amplified sentimentality, strong language and violence works on account of this very dynamism. "
According to the trade website Box Office India, the gross collection of the movie was Rs 10,25,00,000, way below the film's budget, and so despite being among the top grossers of the year, the film was a flop.
|1.||"Kisko Tha Pata"||SP Balasubramanyam, Alka Yagnik|
|2.||"I Am Krishnan Iyer M. A."||SP Balasubramanyam|
|3.||"Ali Baba Mil Gaye Chalis Choron Se"||Runa Laila, Aadesh Shrivastava|
|4.||"Ganpati Apne Gaon Chale"||Sudesh Bhosle, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Anupama Deshpande|
The film featured great background music, but songs were rather not exciting[neutrality is disputed]. Rather unusually, for a Bollywood film of the time, a West African track was used in the film. Guinean singer Mory Kanté's hit "Yé ké yé ké" appears in the film, but is not on the soundtrack. The lyrics were penned by Anand Bakshi.
|Year||Nominee / work||Award||Result|
|1990||Amitabh Bachchan||National Film Award for Best Actor||Won|
|Mithun Chakraborty||Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor||Won|
|Rohini Hattangadi||Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress||Won|
In an interview with The Times of India, Karan Johar explained that he had the intention of remaking the original Agneepath ever since the film released 22 years ago, because according to him, the failure of the film broke his father's heart. The idea of the remake materialised on the sets of Johar's film My Name Is Khan in which Karan Malhotra was an associate director. Johar told Malhotra his desire to remake the original film and asked him to revisit it again, to which he agreed immediately.
Hrithik Roshan played the lead role of Vijay Deenanath Chauhan and Sanjay Dutt plays the role of the antagonist Kancha Cheena. Priyanka Chopra was the female lead. The character of Krishnan Iyer played by Mithun Chakraborty in the original was removed and Rishi Kapoor played a newly introduced negative character, Rauf Lala. Other members of the cast include Om Puri and Zarina Wahab among others.
Shooting of the film mostly took place in Diu and Mumbai's film city. Originally slated for release on 20 January, Agneepath was postponed by a week to 26 January 2012. Unlike the original, the remake opened to positive responses from critics and the audience. Agneepath collected Rs 217.5 million (US$4.34 million) on the opening day. According to review aggregator Review Gang, professional critics have given the film a rating of 6.5 stars out of 10. The film did fantastic business at the box office and entered the 100 crore club.
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