Director: Ram Gopal Varma
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Mohanlal, Ajay Devgan, Prashant Raj
Storyline: A cop hires two buddies to capture the dreaded gangster Babban Singh.
Bottomline: Miracle cure for insomnia.
When Asif Ali, a music director and the eldest son of the Prince of Arcot, bought a new handycam, he got together his family and friends and remade about 20 minutes of Sholay – as a home video. All they did was re-enact the scenes just the way they had been shot, with the same frames that had been used in the classic, with even the same original audio track. So we had Ramgarh transported to Amir Mahal. He hired horses, extras, costumes, quite a bit of detailing for someone who just wanted to learn how his handycam worked. He had never shot anything before.
We’re talking about Asif Ali’s Sholay because it’s worth more space than Ram Gopal Varma Ki… [Insert appropriate cussword, if you are a fan of the original]. Also, because its only fair to compare one remake with another.
What Asif Ali did was a tribute, even if it was just to test out his new toy.
David Dhawan made ‘Jodi No.1,’ as a cheeky tribute to Sholay.
Though irreverent, that was true homage. Unpretentious, it interpreted the classic effortlessly, confident in its own skin and consistent with the director’s style.
Ram Gopal Varmaa Ki… [Insert appropriate Hindi ‘gaali’, if you are a fan of the original] is an insufferable eighties potboiler about a bad ass bandit called Gabbar.
The kind of film that makes turkeys like ‘Daag – The Fire’ look infinitely slicker.
There’s no stopping Varma’s ‘Aag,’ especially, after he cuts off his editor’s arms (in the original, Gabbar cuts off Thakur’s). The film agonisingly runs for over two and a half hours, unleashing its sadistic streak with bursts of Babban (Bachchan playing out his childhood fantasy, just like a child possessed) and we find ourselves at the butt of all cruel jokes: Nisha Kothari’s “performance”.
It’s difficult to review ‘Aag’ because I kept nodding off to sleep, waking up to be occasionally frightened by the name mothers will drop in the coming weeks to scare kids crying in the cinemas: “Soja, nahi to Nisha Kothari aa jaayegi.” She makes ‘Su-side’ sound like a good idea.
Hema Malini should be granted anticipatory bail and Presidential pardon for it will be no crime if she shoots Nisha in the face on grounds of self-defense/pain-relief.
Sholay was way ahead of its times with elaborate set-piece action sequences of an epic scale – remember the painstakingly shot and orchestrated train-being-chased-by-dacoits sequence in the original? ‘Here, when Ramu on a Lazboy, rents out run down ruins of a fort and let’s his Steadicam operator run amok.
Deserted ruins instead of a speeding train crashing into timber for an impact? The metaphors can’t be more definitive of the respective narratives or the audience response.
Watching stuntmen who’re shot fall down animatedly, you let it pass thinking maybe he’s just recreating the seventies feel all over. You may have forgiven him for that too, if it were consistent.
‘Aag’ is a confused product with conflicting sensibilities for an identity crisis.
Just as you think it’s recreation of a bad eighties (come on, the seventies were way too classy and stylish) film, it opts for the slickness and subtlety of Company. One moment, you have the remix of ‘Yeh Dosti’ and the next moment, Ramu remixes ‘Ek Pal Ki Zindagi’ (from D) as ‘Do Pal Ki Zindagi.’ He wants to marry his realistic sensibility to the stuff legends are made of. Mythology. One moment, you see a healthier Mohanlal reprise his role from ‘Company,’ and another, you see him prance around doing the ‘koothu’ with unflattering wide-angle extreme close-ups.
Sholay came across as a seamless narrative, in spite of the motley crew of unforgettable characters. Here, in spite of its attempt to trivialise, simplify and omit key moments and lines, the screenplay is terribly disjointed, at times even making you forget characters who exist in the film that it is impossible to connect with the caricatures.
There are all of three scenes to write home about. Veerendra Saxena as A.K.Hangal is heartrendingly good. Two, Bachchan as Babban when he saws off the Inspector’s fingers is psychotically effective and the third, I forget but that Prashant Raj chap isn’t half-bad.
There’s so much to bitchslap Ramu for but this film isn’t even worth talking about.