By Shilpa Jamkhandikar
MUMBAI Karan Johar was in college when his father produced “Agneepath”, was on the sets daily and remembers being disappointed when the film didn’t do well.
Johar is now revamping the 1990 movie and says the new “Agneepath”, which stars Hrithik Roshan in the lead role, pays homage to the original film.
The filmmaker spoke to Reuters about his memories of the original “Agneepath”, reasons for revisiting the film and why Abhishek Bachchan wasn’t considered for his father’s role.
Q: I know you’ve said that this film is not a remake, but did you have to give a lot of explanations about why you wanted to revisit it?
A: “Yes, don’t ask. I think I will have to answer this to my dying day. But as I said even at the launch of the trailer, this is not a remake, this is a homage to the earlier film. ‘Agneepath’ became such a cult film later on, but it never managed to make the kind of money it should have.
“When Karan (Malhotra, director) came to me with the script, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to revisit it, and if made in the right way, it could also hit bulls-eye in terms of commercial success, at least that is what I think.
“That is one of the main reasons for making this film. Also, a whole generation has missed out on the film, and I hope that through our attempt, they get to experience ‘Agneepath’.”
Q: What are your memories of the original “Agneepath”?
A: “Oh, I have so many memories. I was in college at the time and used to be on the sets every single day. I wasn’t involved creatively but I remember being witness to so many discussions between Mukul Anand, my dad and Amitji.
“For example, there was this huge discussion on Amit uncle’s voice and I remember that Mukul Anand and Amit uncle were convinced that he should speak in a particular way - and it worked.
“I also remember watching the film so many times, at several screenings and trials. I remember my father being devastated when the film didn’t do well. So, yes, there are a lot of memories.”
Q: What happened when the film didn’t do well?
A: “Oh, my father was absolutely broken. Absolutely devastated. In fact, he used to keep saying, we have to do it all over again, we have to correct what went wrong. I think the one thing that was wrong with “Agneepath” was that it was a film way ahead of its time -- it was slick, modern and not at all in tune with the kind of cinema that was being made at the time.
“Every time my dad used to say we should remake this film, I would look at him incredulously and say there was no way I could do it, because I cannot direct a movie like ‘Agneepath’ -- it is beyond me. That is why when Karan came to me with the script, I jumped at the opportunity. I know that whatever happens, there is at least one person who will make sure that this film does well.”
Q: What is your personal view on remakes?
A: “I don’t see any problem with remakes actually. I think -- to each his own. There are some films that lend themselves well to a remake and there is no harm if you try those. Hollywood makes remakes all the time, without apology, and no one points any fingers at them.
“Of course, there are some films you cannot touch. Like a ‘Sholay’. I would never remake ‘Sholay’ because that’s a classic. But an ‘Agneepath’ or a ‘Don’ have enough material in them that lends itself to reinterpretation.”
Q: Would you be OK if someone wanted to remake any of your films?
A: “Yeah, why not? I wouldn’t have a problem. Although I don’t think you can remake ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’. There were so many things in the movie which seem ridiculous to me now. Like Rani writing her daughter letters for eight years. I mean how did the daughter read them when she was a year old? And how did she assume that Kajol wouldn’t be married for eight years? Now it seems a little far-fetched to me (laughs).”
Q: There were rumours that Abhishek Bachchan was supposed to play the lead role and was keen on it. Is that true?
A: “No, not at all. My director had his cast decided and we just went with what he said. Abhishek is like my brother, he is more than family to me. He has done films with Dharma Productions and will continue to do them. We trust each other completely and there are absolutely no misgivings there.”
Q: There were also rumours that Rishi Kapoor had backed out of the film after the ‘Koffee with Karan’ controversy.
A: “That is also baseless. Yes, there were some misunderstandings but after the whole thing had blown over, I went over and we both realised that it was just a big to-do about nothing. Rishi Kapoor was always on for the film, there were no doubts about that.”
Q: You are now working on your next film, “Student of the Year”. How is that going?
A: “It’s going well. I have shot for ten days but I am having fun. I am working with newcomers which I have never done before. That film should be out sometime next year, so I am keeping my fingers crossed for that one too.”