On being told that Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962) was being remade, Waheeda Rehman in her normal, gracious manner had responded that some classics are best left as they are. If only Ram Gopal Varma had paid heed to this advice and not attempted his awful 'interpretation' of Sholay (1975). The film is to put it quite simply, a disaster.
Agreed, it is very, very tough to keep an open mind while watching Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag (RGV ki Aag) for every moment of Sholay is deeply embedded in the Indian filmgoer's pysche even today but even giving RGV ki Aag some leeway doesn't help. Event if you want to give marks to RGV for attempting the impossible, you have to give him an F! Practically nothing in the film works. The film or its characters fail to move or involve you at all. There is not one thing you can say works better in this 'interpretation' as compared to the original. In fact the film takes many of Sholay's memorable moments and makes a total mess of them in particular the 'soocide' scene and Ajay Devgan teaching Nisha Kothari to fire the gun. Male bonding, such an integral part of the original film, between Devgan and Prashant Raj is non existent leaving the moment of the latter's death totally cold and the romantic track between Devgan and Kothari plain sucks. And best not to mention the Mehbooba number with a my-boobs-in-your-face Urmila Matondkar.
The thing is Sholay was an extremely well scripted film. Relationships, characterizations, key moments, highlight items, dialogues, the background score were all extremely well-worked out. Take the coin for instance. Only at the end when you discover it to be a two headed coin, do you realize what a man of conscience Jai was. He always 'chose' heads and the right moral decision at every stage. It was a brilliant piece of characterization and helped elevate and ennoble his character beautifully. Or the use of the Yeh Dosti song whose sad version had such an emotional wallop when Jai dies. Also, Sholay was correct for the time period it came in. Here, in spite of setting RGV ki Aag in contemporary times, the story and plot points look formulaic and are obviously dated. The writing too is pedestrian to say the least. Tracks added like that of Babban's brother do not work at all.
The performances too are nothing to write home about and fail to do anything for the film. Mohanlal, accent aside, comes off best along with Suhsmita Sen who manages to infuse her character with some dignity. Devgan is totally flat, listless and lost while newcomer Prashant Raj is wooden to say the least. Sushant Singh is adequate as Thambe. The less said about Nisha Kothari, a totally inadequate actress, the better but honours in the hammy performance of the year have to go to Mr Bachchan. Although here it must be said that Ramu and his writers have overkilled and shall we say overcharacterised the character in trying to make him the ultimate in terror - so you have the different eye colour, you have the scar on the nose, you have him in this weird wardrobe, you have him sprouting one-liners on Iraq and Al-Qaida, you have the sickly laugh, you have him playing tribute to his character in Sholay by playing the mouth organ, you have him playing with his tongue like a snake, you have him blowing 'poof' at Mohanlal, you have ... oh well you get the picture.
Technically mention must be made of Amit Roy's gritty low key lighting and creation of a mood and ambience but the camera movements are overdone, gimmicky and often disturbing as you try to make sense of what is happening in the frame. The overdose of unbalanced, tilted frames and the wide angle lens too gets on your nerves after a while. Editing is lax with several scenes outliving their welcome. The sound design as in most RGV films is highly overdone with a heavily loaded soundtrack, songs are lousy and the loud background score by Amar Mohile, a big no-no.
All in all, disastrous and avoidable. Ramesh Sippy must be having the last laugh and how!