Let's get one thing straight! To remake a film that not only set box-office records and is referred to as a classic, but also one that by far has the biggest recall value, is playing with aag. Ramgopal Varma, the maverick film-maker, has the courage to remake SHOLAY, a film that continues to be one of the favorite entertainers across the globe.
Comparisons with SHOLAY are obvious and one presumes, RGV knew it all along that's he's bound to feel the heat by those who swear by SHOLAY. To give the credit where it's due, RGV remains faithful to the classic, not once does he deviate from the plot, not once does he twists facts… you know exactly what to expect and where the story is heading.
Jai, Veeru, Thakur, Basanti and above all Gabbar are characters that attained cult status over the years, especially Gabbar. RAMGOPAL VARMA KI AAG does justice to those characters, especially Gabbar, who wore a sinister look on his face all the while. Terror has a new name now. It's Babban!
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Shortcomings? Oh yes! The romantic track, involving Ajay - Nisha Kothari, is a yawn. To be more specific, the by-now-famous 'suicide' sequence doesn't work. Prior to that, Prashant and Sushmita's meeting with Nisha's parents to seek her hand in marriage for Ajay also falls flat. Besides, this is not for the faint-hearted who detest violent films. RAMGOPAL VARMA KI AAG is sure to give them hiccups.
To cut a long story short, the comparisons with SHOLAY will tell on RAMGOPAL VARMA KI AAG.
In the dark underbelly of Mumbai city, a nihilistic new leader has risen to rule the fetid underworld. His name is Babban [Amitabh Bachchan]. Cruel beyond imagination, psychotically violent and far more devious than any gangster the city has ever known.
Nobody has ever seen him and if they did, they didn't survive to tell the tale. But one man believed in his existence. And that is Inspector Narsimha [Mohanlal], who has a single-minded determination to finish Babban.
RAMGOPAL VARMA KI AAG is SHOLAY, yet different. Sure, the story is the same, but the setting and interpretation of the story are different, very contemporary. As a storyteller, the RGV stamp is visible in a couple of sequences. Note Bachchan's spine-chilling introduction. Nisha's introductory sequence also makes you break into a chuckle. The Sachin episode that gives birth to a bitter enmity is tremendous. The sequence outside the courtroom [Bachchan - Mohanlal face off] is remarkable. Bachchan avenging his brother's death by eliminating Mohanlal's family is terrifying…
After a riveting first half, the pace suddenly slackens in the post-interval portions. Courtesy: The prem kahani. These scenes are far from exciting and only add to the length of the film. In fact, the second hour should be judiciously trimmed by at least 20/25 minutes so that the events unfold at a feverish pace.
There aren't many songs in the narrative. The song that deserves 10 on 10 is 'Mehbooba'. The track is foot-tapping and Urmila's presence sets the screen ablaze. Abhishek Bachchan's appearance in the number will be greeted with surprise and of course, whistles. The Holi track is interesting as well, more for the picturization, not as much for the tune.
Amit Roy's cinematography is outstanding. Note the scene when Bachchan plays with an apple and simply watch the movement of the camera. Awesome! Dialogues [Sajid-Farhad] are in sync with the mood of the film. Besides, the writers haven't lifted any of those legendary lines ['Kine aadmi thhe?', 'Soja, warna Gabbar aa jaayega', 'Yeh haath mujhe de-de Thakur'], but provide interesting alternatives. Action scenes [Pradhyumna] cater more to the desi audiences. Do not expect the MATRIX stunts here!
Bachchan as Babban is exemplary. The veteran has portrayed a variety of roles in his illustrious career: Vijay in ZANJEER, Vijay in DEEWAAR, Jai in SHOLAY, Anthony Gonsalves in AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY, Don/Vijay in DON, Vijay in TRISHUL, Sikandar in MUQADDAR KA SIKANDAR, Vijay Dinanath Chavan in AGNEEPATH, Baadshah Khan in KHUDA GAWAH, DCP Anant in KHAKEE, Debraj Sahai in BLACK, Sarkar in SARKAR and Eklavya in EKLAVYA. Now add Babban to this enviable list!
Mohanlal is topnotch. He matches up to Bachchan in every sequence. Ajay Devgan is competent and balances the mischievous streak with the serious one with ease. Newcomer Prashant Raj does very well. He stands up to the veterans and looks confident all through. Sushmita Sen is restrained. Her performance is perfect. Nisha Kothari does well in her introductory sequence and maintains the pace all through. Sushant Singh is first-rate. Rajpal Yadav irritates. Virendra Saxena is okay. Rasika Joshi makes her presence felt. Sanjay Narvekar, Jeeva, Raju Mavani, Ravi Kale, J.D. Chekravarthy and Suchitra Krishnamoorthi are adequate.
On the whole, RAMGOPAL VARMA KI AAG has a strong first half, but a lengthy and violent second half plays a spoilsport. At the box-office, the film will find the going tough in the wake of its comparisons with the mighty SHOLAY. Its dull opening coupled with uninspiring publicity [the posters/billboards give an impression of an outdated film] will make a dent in its prospects
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