I’m not Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, I’m simply Vijay, and my Agneepath is the journey of one man on a mission. I had no reference point for my character in either Mr Bachchan’s (Amitabh Bachchan) National Award-winning role in the earlier Agneepath (1990), nor in the underworld gangster Manya Surve, on whom the original Vijay was modelled,” asserts Hrithik Roshan. “I just went by Karan’s (director Karan Malhotra) script and was guided by his vision. Apart from Dr Harivansh Rai’s Agneepath poem, we have retained little else. Ours is a completely new movie.”
The film’s producer, Karan Johar, was the one who had requested Hrithik to listen to the script as Malhotra, a debutant director, had his heart set on casting him as Vijay. Since the actor also knew him well from his Jodhaa-Akbar (2008) days, where Malhotra was the fifth assistant to director Ashutosh Gowariker, he asked him to fly to Spain for a narration, where he was filming Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara at the time.
“I had decided that I didn’t want to do any remakes, so I was feeling bad for having called Karan all the way, only to turn him down. But two hours into the sitting, I was hooked. If this Vijay stands in a crowd, he will merge with them,” says Hrithik, oblivious to his Greek God looks that will always set him apart.
The actor is also reassured by positive reactions to the first look of the film, which was posted on the Dharma Productions fan page — a picture of him breaking a ‘handi’ (earthen pot) on Gokulashtami. He says, “It’s reassuring to know that people liked the picture. Agneepath gave me the chance to celebrate Gokulashatami. I’d never climbed a human pyramid before.”
The film is set to open on January 13 and is the first big release of 2012. “My debut film, Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai, also released on January 13. The date was lucky for me once, maybe it will be again,” smiles Hrithik.
But the smile turns into a grimace as he recalls shooting the climax in Diu recently. “It was the toughest schedule of my career. I came back battered and bruised. Fighting Sanju sir (Sanjay Dutt) is not easy,” he reminisces, raving about Sanjay’s bald look and bravura performance. “He has played characters with negative shades before, but never an out-and-out villain. After Agneepath, Kancha Cheena (Sanjay’s character) will be as unforgettable as Gabbar Singh (Sholay, 1975) and Mogambo (Mr India, 1987).”