RGV Ki Aag is a tribute left, right and center. After a fairly intelligent adaptation of Francis Ford Copolla's Godfather a couple of years back in Sarkar, Ramu has really decided to get into this adaptation and tributing bit seriously. He is making Sarkar 2, which is possibly a homage to Karan Johar (It is all about loving the Bachchan family). In fact, as a tribute to Sooraj Barjatya, the real-life wedding of Abhi-Aish has even impeded the shooting of the movie (poor Tanisha from the original has been shipped across to the Chopra clan for her own wedding).
Ramu underwent a lot of legal and copyright tribulations in make this unauthorised version of Sholay. To maintain the legalities, the names of all the characters have been modified. However, to retain the spirit, the key elements of the musical score have been copied/remixed.
The movie opens in Mumbai as a narration by Mohanlal (who plays a Malayalam-accented Inspector Narsimha, residing among regular Mumbai folks). Kaliganj basti replaces Ramgarh (which is just like playing Golf in your 100 sq.ft. drawing-room as the DLF course was shut). A dreaded gangster Babban (Amitabh Bachchan playing Gabbar as a tribute to his own hyper-active National Award winning performance in Black) wants to grab some land at Kaliganj (anyone who can throw light on what the issue was will be awarded a comment on the post). In the ensuing battle between Narsimha and Babban, Babban's younger brother, and his only soft spot in life, is killed (the angle is possibly a tribute to Satte pe Satta).
What follows is a blood-fest, where Narsimha's entire family - a patriarchial father, a brother (Chakravarthy of Satya fame), and his wife (Suchitra Krishnamoorthy, who in a decade-&-a-half blink-&-miss career, moves from playing the lead opposite the Bollywood superstar SRK, or rather Deepak Tijori in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na, to the Malayalam thespian) - is wiped out on a Holi day. The only chilling reminder of the real Sholay in the movie is Narsimha discovering his family's slaughter.
In a tribute to Shimit Amin's Ab Tak Chappan (which debuted at the Factory, before Amin wisely moved on to the safer pastures of Yashraj for Chak De), Narsimha bumps off all the suspects. However, he is ultimately captured by Babban, who instead of chopping off the phaansi ka phanda haath (of the original Thakur), slices away his fingers (with the result that Narsimha cannot shave any more).
To avenge and protect, Narsimha hires the two goons Heeroo (Ajay Devgan playing Viru) and Raj (newcomer Prashant Raj playing Jai). It is actually difficult to demarcate between the two, compared to the contrast of the sparkling chemistry between Viru's boisterousness and Jai's sarcasm. Both are equally irritating. While Devgan proves why he is an over-rated actor, newcomer Prashant is relatively tolerable (not to say that he is much good, but I am happy as he could have been worse). The two warring parties first face off during Diwali, when just to prove their morbidness, the Narsimhas (whatever is left of them) and Kaliganj are actually celebrating the festival.
Nisha Kothari is Ghoongroo (Basanti), a character immortalised by a lady who still looks hotter than her two daughters combined (the chaddi-banian of Esha in Dhoom not withstanding). Nisha recently admitted she is dumb, and cannot act in serious films. While I have a personal fetish for dumb girls, Nisha cannot act, in any sort of platform which calls for any sort of acting. When she plays Didi to Ahmed (for some, the most legendary piece from Sholay was the forever-aged AK Hangal calling for Ahmed), when she shouts at Heeroo, when she does some military drills (Ramu's form of dancing inroduced by ex-muse Antara Mali in Road and Naach) in hot pants, you feel like telling Ramu - personal fantasies/fetishes are for personal consumption only.
Radha, the 'Lady with the Lamp' from the original (you squirm whenever the classic Bachchan mouth-organ track plays in Aag), actually turns into Florence Nightingale here. Devi (Sushmita Sen) runs her own clinic/dispensary. To refresh her Miss Universe victory, Sush speaks a lot more (with some heavy breathing), and behaves like a Diva.
In the Mehbooba remix, Urmila Matondkar pays a tribute to her own panting and sighing in Rangeela and Daud. The Bachchan father-&-son do their bit for the original daddy-son duo of Aghas, as Jalal featured in the original.
Thanks to Ramu, I have got my first 'ho' movie to review in quite a while now. (http://agyanonline.blogspot.com/2006/04/cinema-humko-deewana-kar-gaye-hoho.html) I do not know if Ramu caricatured the entire movie and the classic moments intentionally. The original Gabbar dripped menace, Babban is more on the lines of Mogambo (and I think Amitabh has done another Boom here). The death scene of Jai was poignant, here you feel like laughing when Raj is shot dead (after Heeroo literally ditches him to get killed). And during the post-death get-together scene (when Veeru had discovered the lifelong mystery of losing the coin-toss), Heeru actually takes out time to go and happily hug his Ghungroo (who thankfully did not dance on broken glasses in her figure hugging tights).
Ramu had once said (during his Rangeela and Satya days when one could take him seriously) that he has learnt his entire film-making from Mackenna's Gold and Sholay. The former was made in to Hindi by Harish Shah as Zalzala. I somehow think Aag was misleading, it actually was Ram Gopal Varma Ka Zalzala, a rocking tribute to this 1988 classic.
P.S. My post is actually a tribute to Amit Bajaj who had asked for this review. I want to meet Ramu's friends who has asked for his Aag/Sholay, and just tell them, 'Hum Gandhi Nahin Hain', we are not Gandhi (sorry you will have to see the movie to get the context).