When Ram Gopal Varma decided to remake SHOLAY I was sceptical; the film is the epitome of 70’s masala cinema and undeniably an outright classic. To this day, SHOLAY remains a film which remains firmly etched in my memory scene for scene, character to character and dialogue to dialogue. However when Ram Gopal Varma later said in interviews that his version was a mere homage to the genre that evolved as a result of SHOLAY and not a direct copy of SHOLAY by any means, I was somewhat relieved as Varma had done a superlative homage earlier with his immensely entertaining SARKAR which was adapted from the classic THE GODFATHER.
So does RAM GOPAL VARMA KI AAG live up to expectations? Does the movie pay a homage to not only the original SHOLAY but to the entire 70’s and 80’s “masala” action genre? Being brutally honest, NO! The movie is a colossal letdown and quiet easily one of the biggest disappointments I’ve seen in recent years.
The story of the movie hasn’t been credited to anyone as the entire storyline is almost identical to SHOLAY; sure the sequence of the scenes have changed, the contemporary setting of the movie has changed, and a number of characters have been amended a little, but the basis of the story remains identical. Inspector Narsimha (Mohanlal) hires two street smart goons Heero (Ajay Devgan) and Raj (Prashant Raj) to exact revenge on the man who ruined his entire life and killed his entire family; a man who rules over the town of Kaliganj with an iron fist by unleashing terror and mayhem. The man in question, is Babban Singh (Amitabh Bachchan), Mumbai’s number one underworld kingpin. How Heero and Raj put an end to Babban’s terror and how Narsimha extracts his revenge on Babban forms the crux of the movie. Along the way there is some romance as Heero falls in love with the tomboyish, loud-mouthed taxi-driver Ghungroo (Nisha Kothari) while Raj develops a soft spot for a widow Durga (Sushmita Sen) who used to be married to Narsimha’s brother.
The screenplay by Rahil Qazi is a mere cut and paste job at it’s worst with some of the sequences in the movie being moved around in a different order, but the entire structure of the movie stays exactly the same, and almost all of the important scenes remain in the movie minus any form of impact. The movie starts off on a slow note, and the sequences with Rambha Bhai (Rajpal Yadav at his absolute worst) gyrate on the viewers nerves. The flashback sequence where we find out how Heero and Raj met Narsimha is absolutely pathetic. From there on the rest of the movie basically follows the exact same plot line as SHOLAY.
The climax is the biggest culprit and comes as the rudest shock in the entire venture. The movie ends so suddenly without any impact at all. The climax of the original SHOLAY remains etched in the viewer’s memory as Thakur takes on Gabbar one-on-one.
As a director, Ram Gopal Varma has clearly lost the plot here. The characters poorly shadows of the originals in SHOLAY and the impact of the characters have been diluted for the most. Varma relies entirely on the public’s memory of the original characters in SHOLAY to help see his characters through; however this doesn’t work as he has also changed his characters to an extent, and again the effort is simply confused.