As the menacing Kancha Cheena rears his shaved head in the first rushes of “Agneepath”, the audience reaction alone is proof enough that an icon has just been born.
For filling those shoes with an evil glint and a heartless demeanour is none other than Bollywood’s golden boy, Sanjay Dutt, whose ability to play the bad guy on-screen with finesse has created legendary treats for cinematic fans over the three decades he has ruled the industry.
The Bollywood villain, which had almost drawn in its last breath during the years following the millennium – laying down his arms in face of family melodramas and romantic mush – has been given a new lease on life as Dutt emerges onto the scene in an avatar that will spawn copycats in years to come.
“I don’t think anyone has ever been as bad as Kancha Cheena,” comes the response from the actor in question, who was in Dubai yesterday, along with actors Hrithik Roshan and Priyanka Chopra for the promotional event for the Dharma Production.
He added: “In the film industry, cult heroes have come and gone, but Kancha is a class A villain that I have never even attempted before. He is pure evil.”
Industry insiders who have seen the “Agneepath” remake claim that bad has never looked so good with Dutt helming a character that is already being compared to other iconic villains that have graced the silver screen over the decades, including Gabbar Singh in “Sholay” and Mogambo in “Mr India”.
Quiz Dutt and he said: “Gabbar Singh has been my favourite on-screen villain of all time, but you can’t compare the two. Gabbar had a heart, but Kancha is all evil.”
The actor, who has portrayed grey characters on screen before with films such as “Khalnayak” and “Vaastav”, said he actually scared himself when dubbing “Agneepath’s” climax scene.
“The climax scene sees me indulging in a gruesome fight with Hrithik. But while I was dubbing the scene in the studio, halfway through I suddenly turned to Karan Malhotra (director) amidst reciting my lines, saying I needed a 10-minute break.
“Karan got worried and kept asking me what was wrong. I finally told him: please don’t laugh but I can’t see myself in this state. This character is beyond anything I have ever done. I’m scaring myself.”
Dutt gives credit of his iconic Kancha Cheena avatar to Malhotra, who visualised the character that has emerged in the final cut.
“When Karan approached me for the script narration, he showed me sketches of a bald character. And that got me even more excited,” set Dutt.
During the first few days of shoot, Dutt would sit through a painful make-up session that would last hours, adding prosthetics that would give him the bald look; however, things soon went south with that plan.
“The prosthetics kept melting during the shoot, so I finally had enough after a few days and shaved my head to make things easier,” recalled Dutt. “But I had to actually go bald a few times for the film.”
Dutt stated that after the film shoot ended, he started growing out his hair, but 10 days later, Malhotra returned saying that they had to reshoot a scene and the actor was forced to shave his head again.
“But it didn’t end there,” Dutt laughed. “My hair finally grew back, but a month later we had to shoot a song so I had to shave again.”
“Agneepath” is a remake of the 1990 film of the same name that saw the legendary Amitabh Bachchan essay the protagonist, Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, who takes on the evil Kancha Cheena (played by Danny Denzongapa in the original) who murders his father in cold blood.
When asked if Dutt was nervous about comparisons with Denzongapa’s portrayal of the original character, the actor was quick to put the matter to rest for good.
“Firstly, I want to say that Karan Malhotra has penned an awesome script. But his film isn’t a remake of the first “Agneepath”. The premise is the same but the approach is very original.
“Secondly, Danny Denzongapa is a legend and he did a phenomenal job as the original Kancha. But my interpretation is less grounded, more bad, and very crazy.”
Dutt added, “Overall, our “Agneepath” is a very intense film that drained both Hrithik and me during the shoot. In fact, the climax was so difficult, especially when I had to drag Hrithik up these stairs that after 18 days of shooting the end, I finally said enough, I can’t hit this boy again.”
The veteran actor, who has worked with Roshan on “Mission Kashmir”, added: “It was so much fun working with Hrithik that I can’t wait to work with him again. But after this, I want my next film with him to be a comedy, where we love each other. Oh, and where I have hair on my head.”