Agneepath
India 1990
Directed by Mukul S. Anand .


Every upright man must at one time walk the path of fire. That is agneepath. The path of fire. Agneepath. AGNEEPATH! The path of fire cuts a swath through the friends, family, and entire ancestral village of Amitabh Bachchan in this amazingly intense drama, his anger seething right below the surface, exploding in rage at those who cross him. And considering the actor was under a cloud of suspicion because of a political scandal at the time, it's no wonder he had so much vengeance to dole out, and that he did it so convincingly it won him the National Award for Best Acting.

AGNEEPATH is named after a poem written by an Indian poet, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, a poet who also happens to be the real-life father of the biggest star of Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan. In the movie, the poem, about the path of fire the righteous must walk, is told to young Vijay by his father Dinanath, schoolmaster of a small village. Dinanath is warmly loved by the people of the village, and he wishes to bring electricity and modernity to this poor, empovershed place. There is a town drunk, whom he shames into giving up the liquor, and a town prostitute, whom he agrees to teach in the evenings to make her a better person. However, gangsters, led by the evil Kancha Cheena (Danny Denzongpa) want the town to stay in the dark, literally, because its proximity to the city and complete obscurity make it a great base from which to sell heroin. The only one standing in their way is the schoolmaster, and before long, the gangsters have manipulated the villagers into rioting against their formerly beloved headmaster. Only a small part of Vijay's family escape the village with their lives, to become beggars on the streets of the city.

The death of his father, and later, the attempted rape of his mother, are crimes that go unpunished by the law. Vijay sees the only thing that anyone respects is power, and he devotes himself to that end, biding his time until he can mete out the appropriate punishment himself. When he is leaving the village of his youth, he looks back and swears, "I will give the whole village to my mother one day." In Indian movies, oaths become prophecy, the hand of fate will bring him back, and you can better believe, no matter how much time passes, that he will fulfill his destiny.

Twenty years later, the boy Vijay has become a man (Amitabh Bachchan), a ruthless gangster partial to white suits and black eyeliner. His own gang becomes afraid of his power and attempts to wipe him out, but he stays alive, thanks in part to the timely intervention of a simple coconut vendor (Mithun Chakraborty) who carts his body to the hospital and saves his life. Vijay survives to have his revenge, and eventually to face Kancha Cheena himself.

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 mudfights in the slums to swordfights in the middle of a festival.

The slower, more comic moments feature the coconut vendor, who at one point is sent to protect Vijay's sister, and breaks up a disco party with his very own, special "coconut disco." Happily, these comic moments are pretty funny, once you combine the shameless mugging of the actors with the atrocious disco fashions and dance moves. The music, however, fails to move. AGNEEPATH features an uninspired soundtrack of forgettable songs, stuffed into the film at odd and often inappropriate places. There is one good number, towards the end, at a festival, but otherwise the songs are complete duds.

But Amitabh is great. Granted, Amitabh is nearing fifty at this point and perhaps not the best choice for yet another "angry young man" performance, but he nails it anyway. He had been in politics -- had been encouraged by his friend, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and was elected in 1984. But he gave up his seat in parliament before his term was up, having been implicated in one of the biggest scandals of Gandhi's government, in which it was claimed that the Swedish Bofors field gun company paid huge bribes to Congress politicians and officials in order to win a big $1.3 billion contract to supply weapons to the Indian Army. Bachchan stepped down, and fought implications of his involvement in the conspiracy in court and in the media. At the same time he vowed to never enter government again. And suddenly, there is AGNEEPATH. He had walked the path of fire, he was ridiculed by the people, but he was still standing. And not only that, he is just about unstoppable. There are a couple TERMINATOR-like moments that are just fabulous. Sure, you can put a few bullets in Vijay, but so what? As he tells his opponents early on in the film, as he lays his gun on the table, "Bullets will not decide who wins this contest. Fate will decide it."

Rating: Recommended (Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on November 18, 2004.


Comments

wow!!!it is a nice effort .i am really impressed.thanks a lot

Posted by: pragnesh shukla at April 23, 2005 03:19 AM

Can u get the poem plz?

Posted by: Aditya at June 23, 2006 10:19 AM

'Agneepath' is not a movie but a great effort

Posted by: Pragnesh Shukla at September 23, 2006 07:33 AM

This is one of the best film in bollywood industies keep it up amithab bachan wid da acting

Posted by: sheikh aadil at February 16, 2007 08:47 AM

I have watched it many times just for the great performance of amitabh bachhan. Hats of to this aging actor!

Posted by: manmath sahu at December 3, 2007 08:57 AM

This is slick and entertaining...but at times murky film. Amitabh, as far as I am concerned hams it up. And is it just me or people actually did not see any resemblance to equally bombastic Brian De Palma's 'Scarface'?

Posted by: Saif Khan at December 13, 2007 03:21 AM

Actually I find it very similar to Scarface. There are many scenes which seemto be directly lifted from scarface, like the one when the protagonist goes to meet his mother, the way he rises to fame and many other ideas are very similar.

Posted by: Singhvi at December 29, 2007 12:22 PM

am enthused at the review. As someone who lives in India, I should tell you that Agneepath was one of the first movies to actually show a handgun, known as a katta, back then. It was also one of the first movies to actually show how the underworld works and how some lawmen are hand in glove with the goons.

For example, the scenes which show the gangsters happily sleeping in the police station, until Vijay comes and shoots them down may be passe today, but there were few movies back then that actually showed the police force in a corrupt color. Oh, and notice the farsan in one of the said scenes, farsan is something that one eats as junk food while drinking. The said farsan pictured was 'gathiya' something made with dough and is normally spicy to compliment the drinks.

And then, it was one of the first movies to show a sword being actually used to cut people up.. with the proper swordmarks on a dead man's chest...

A few people may not know that Amitabh's prolific baritone voice was not used when the movie was first released, they instead relied on a drainage/sewage voice which just didnt match this great guy and orator and the movie was a massive flop.

It was only after a month that AB accepted to redub the movie that it reached the heights that few gangster movies have.

And as a parting shot.. here's the poem.. I will try to translate it into hindi in my next post. if you wish to have it translated, please contact me at the email.


http://sandeepsinghal.blogspot.com/2006/05/agnipath-poem.html

Posted by: roy at September 25, 2008 07:08 AM

This movie has to be ne of Amitabh's greatest.

The INSULT in the first comment stating that Amitabh's original voice did not match the movie is a disrespect to cinema. Indeed the fact that the Indian public did not like his voice in the original version of the film show's how inept many Indians were at that time to the true meaning of cinema.

If this film was released today (with all the mod cons) I guarantee you that the star of the film (If they were as half as decent as Amit) would scoop all the awards going.

Abhishek has said on more than one ocassion that this was his dad's best performance.

Posted by: tmunited at February 19, 2009 11:38 AM

i am interested in the DVD of agneepath but in the original voice in which it was released...

Posted by: vinay at April 19, 2009 01:02 AM

Well this movie is famous for big b's dialogues.while in college we always impersonated him.ispecially his introduction to police commissioner.

Posted by: Tapan at May 5, 2009 04:57 PM
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