Hrithik Roshan plays the lead role of Vijay Deenanath Chauhan and Sanjay Dutt plays the role of the antagonist Kancha, originally played by Amitabh Bachchan and Danny Denzongpa respectively, with Rishi Kapoor portraying the newly introduced character of Rauf Lala. The supporting cast include Om Puri as Commissioner Gaitonde, Priyanka Chopra as Kaali Gawde and Zarina Wahab as Suhasini Chauhan, with Katrina Kaif featuring in an item number. The film follows the struggle of a common man, Vijay Chauhan, as he seeks revenge from Kancha, for wrongly framing and murdering his father in the island village of Mandwa. In the process he befriends an underworld drug lord Rauf Lala and falls in love with a loquacious girl, Kaali Gawde.
In the island village of Mandwa, the school teacher Dinanath Chauhan (Chetan Pandit) is highly respected by the villagers. The chief of the village, extremely jealous of Dinanath's popularity in the eyes of citizens, summons his evil son Kancha to destroy Dinanath's image in citizen's eyes. Kancha also has plans to start a drug cartel from Mandwa, knowing that the soil of Mandwa is rich for cultivation of cocaine. When Kancha requests the people to lend their lands to him under the pretext of expanding the salt industry of Mandwa, Dinanath dissuades the villagers from doing so. Knowing this, Kancha decides to get rid of the school teacher. He ambushes and murders a young girl inside the school, framing Chauhan for the murder. With the support of the villagers, Kancha then kills Chauhan by hanging him to death from a tree which is witnessed by young Vijay Chauhan (Arish Bhiwandiwala), the son of the teacher. Vijay Chauhan along with his pregnant mother Suhasini Chauhan (Zarina Wahab) leaves the village. Destitute, they find shelter in the city of Dongri,Mumbai but Vijay harbours intentions to go back to Mandwa and kill Kancha. While in Mumbai, Vijay's mother delivers a baby girl named Shiksha. Vijay is attracted to Rauf Lala (Rishi Kapoor), a local girl-trafficker and importantly an enemy of Kancha and wants to get into his company. He earns his favour by refusing to stand as a witness in court to a crime committed by Lala and joins his gang. Meanwhile, his mother along with his baby sister leave Vijay's side as he kills a corrupt cop at a young age and resorts to violence.
A grown-up Vijay (Hrithik Roshan) now works for Rauf Lala and finds himself as his trusted wing-man. Once inspector and now commissioner, Gaitonde (Om Puri) acts as a silent guardian for Vijay and tries to eliminate crime in Mumbai. During the time when Rauf's influence over the drug business in Mumbai is falling, Kancha decides to grow his influence as a drug lord in the city and sends his aid, Shantaram (Ravi Jhankal) over to Mumbai for the process. Vijay with the help of the commissioner disrupts this plan and is lauded by Lala. He further gains the trust of Lala by taking a bullet shot which was aimed for Lala's son, Mazhar (Rajesh Tandon); but is later revealed as a conspiracy involving Vijay and Shantaram to eliminate Mazhar.
After murdering both Mazhar and Shantaram, Vijay brings Mazhar's corpse to Lala, who falls sick and is admitted into a hospital. In the meantime, Vijay takes over Lala's empire and stops all the crimes committed by Lala's gang. He is then contacted by Kancha and offers to go to Mandwa for a business agreement. While in Mandwa, Vijay tries to strike a deal with Kancha to hand over the drug business in Mumbai over to Kancha and in return taking Mandwa. Though Kancha initially suspects this deal, he later agrees on the condition that Gaitonde must be killed.
Meanwhile, back in Mumbai, Lala regains health and finds out the truth behind Mazhar's death. He gets hold of Shiksha (Kanika Tiwari) and tries to sell her off. Vijay is notified of this by Kancha and he flees back to Mumbai and kills Lala. Soon after, Kancha sends a man to assassinate Gaitonde. This man identifies Vijay to be the son of the teacher killed by Kancha and reports this to Kancha. However, while he tries to assassinate Gaitonde, he is killed by Vijay. Vijay, meanwhile marries his love interest Kaali Gawde (Priyanka Chopra), who is killed right after during a shooting spree by Kancha's men.
Vijay leaves for Mandwa to avenge the death of his father and his wife and after an intense battle with Kancha, kills him by hanging him from the same tree in which his father was hanged. However due to his severe injuries, Vijay is last seen in his mother's lap passing away whilst seeing a vision of his father and his younger self calling him forward.Hrithik Roshan as Vijay Deenanath Chauhan, a man seeking to avenge the murder of his father and his wife.
Rishi Kapoor as Rauf Lala, an underworld Don. He runs a meat business and simultaneously deals in drugs and prostitution.
Sanjay Dutt as Kancha Cheena. An unscrupulous man, often mocked for his hairless appearance; he runs Mandwa as a concentration camp and exploits the villagers in order to deal in cheap cocaine.
Om Puri as Commissioner Gaitonde. He is a brutally honest cop who develops a close bond with Vijay.
Priyanka Chopra as Kaali Gawde, a talkative girl. She loves Vijay and provides moral support in his quest for revenge.
Zarina Wahab as Suhasini Chauhan, Vijay's mother. She tries hard to dissuade Vijay against choosing a path of violence.
Chetan Pandit as Master Deenanath Chauhan, Vijay's father. A morally upright man, he is wrongly framed for the rape and murder of a young girl and is subsequently killed by Kancha.
Sachin Khedekar as Mr. Borkar. He is the Home Secretary of Maharashtra and an aide of Kancha.
Rajesh Tandon as Mazhar Lala, Rauf Lala's elder son. He is suspicious of Vijay's loyalties.
Deven Bhojani as Azhar Lala, a mentally challenged younger son of Rauf Lala.
Rajesh Vivek as Mr. Bakshi, a police inspector who doubles as Kancha's informer.
Banwarilal Taneja as Kancha's father.
Ravi Jhankal as Shantaram, Kancha's aid who conspires with Vijay.
Kanika Tiwari as Shiksha Deenanath Chauhan, Vijay's sister. She lives with her mother and is unaware of Vijay's existence.
Pankaj Tripathi as Surya.
Brijendra Kala as Muneem.
Katrina Kaif as "Chikni Chameli" (special appearance).
Madhurjeet Sarghi as Lachhi, Kaali's mother.
Arish Bhiwandiwala as the younger Vijay Chauhan.
Vraddhi Sharma as a journalist.
Inaamulhaq as one of the villager.
In an interview with The Times of India, Karan Johar explained that he harboured intentions of remaking the original Agneepath ever since the film released in 1990. Though the film had received critical acclaim over the years, its commercial failure had devastated his father, producer Yash Johar. The idea of a possible remake materialised on the sets of Johar's directorial My Name Is Khan, in which Karan Malhotra was an assistant director. Johar told Malhotra of his desire to remake the original film and asked him to revisit it again. On not directing the film himself, Johar commented, "I am happy directing films on love, romance and drama. That's what I do best. I don't think I will be good at an action film. So I am not taking the reins of the film in my hand". However, Johar maintained that the new film would belong to a different milieu as compared to the original. He stated, "We are adapting the film from the original but ours would be a new age version that would fit in well with today's time. We really hope that we are able to do justice to the original and make the remake exciting for today's generation." In an interview with Filmfare, he added that the protagonist of the film would be "more of an underdog", while the antagonist would be "more flamboyant and menacing" than the older version.
Several changes were made to the story-line of the original film, including the omission of certain characters and addition of new ones. The characters of Krishnan Iyer MA, played by Mithun Chakraborty and Nurse Mary Matthew, played by Madhavi were done away with and new characters such as Rauf Lala and Kaali Gawde were introduced in the screenplay. Moreover, the characterisation of Vijay Chauhan was changed, unlike the original which was inspired by Al Pacino's role in Scarface (1983). In an interview with The Calcutta Telegraph, director Karan Malhotra explained the adaptation by saying, "The similarity (between the original and this film) lies only in the fact that it is a revenge film; a son seeking revenge for his father’s death. Unlike Mr. (Amitabh) Bachchan’s film, my film starts and ends in Mandwa and is primarily about the conflict between the mother and the son. It’s a completely new film with a lot of new characters." He additionally termed Agneepath to be a "crazily dramatic masala Bollywood film".
While media reports initially suggested that Abhishek Bachchan was being considered to portray the role of Vijay Chauhan, director Karan Malhotra approached Hrithik Roshan for the role. Roshan, however was sceptical on taking up a role earlier played by Amitabh Bachchan and agreed to star in the film only after months of deliberation. He said, "The script had so much passion that I felt very emotional and I made up my mind to do it". On casting Hrithik, Malhotra explained, "Hrithik has the charm of a boy and the attitude of a man. Also, he has a certain vulnerability, which I was looking in my characterisation of Vijay Dinananth Chauhan." While explaining the character of Vijay Chauhan, Malhotra added, "Nobody can play Vijay the way Amitabh Bachchan did, and I would have wanted my Vijay to be subtle even if it wasn't Hrithik. I wanted the negative characters in my film to be bigger. This made Hrithik's victory seem bigger." In preparation for the film, Roshan did not look up Bachchan's performance in the original for inspiration, as he considered his role to be completely different. Roshan, however, faced several difficulties while filming. He suffered from a severe back injury, which caused him considerable pain, throughout the shooting schedule. In an interview with Filmfare he quoted, "Agneepath is the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life. I didn’t know what the film had in store for me. I’ve never been so tired in my life. I have exhausted my body completely."
Actor Rishi Kapoor was subsequently cast as Rauf Lala, an underworld Don. Kapoor, who had never played a completely negative character in his entire career, was initially hesitant to sign the film. In an interview with Daily News and Analysis he stated that when Malhotra had offered him the role, he considered it to be a joke and thought that he would be the reason for the film's failure. Kapoor subsequently insisted on a test look before principal photography could begin, so that he could comfortably fit into the Muslim character of Lala, who wears kohl in his eyes, a karakul cap and is dressed in traditional kurta-pajamas. While shooting for the action sequences, Kapoor suffered several bad falls and bruises, but continued shooting and was thereby praised by co-star Hrithik Roshan for his professionalism.
For the role of Kancha, the antagonist, Sanjay Dutt was cast. According to Malhotra, the script of Agneepath demanded that the villain be more powerful than the hero, and due to Dutt's bulky frame, he was considered perfect for the role. The character of Kancha demanded that Dutt go bald, but due to a prior commitment to the film Son of Sardar, which was being shot simultaneously, he could not do so for the sake of continuity. Therefore, Hollywood make up artist Robin Slater created a "bald" look for Dutt, with the use of prosthetics. However, due to the summer heat in Diu, the make-up would eventually drip down Dutt's face, which impelled him to finally shave his head. Director Malhotra admitted to being inspired by Marlon Brando's bald look in the film Apocalypse Now (1979) while designing Dutt's character. Dutt explained his look by saying, "Kancha is suffering from an ailment that leaves him hairless. I shaved my head for the role, not once but twice, and the eye-brows and eye-lashes have been digitally removed." Furthermore, Dutt worked out in the gym twice a day in order to bulk up for the role.
During pre-production, media reports suggested that several actresses including Genelia D'Souza, Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor were being considered for the role of Kaali Gawde. However, Chopra was approached over the others, who agreed to do the film instantly. While initial reports suggested that Chopra would be playing the role of a sex worker in the film, they were later denied as rumours. In an interview with Rediff.com, she clarified that she was playing a prostitute's daughter. On Chopra's character, Malhotra commented, "Despite being a male dominated film, the part played by Priyanka is very prominent. It isn't that of a simple or ordinary lover. She is there for Vijay unconditionally and without any expectations. With all the dangerous people around her, she is like this pretty flower standing there with a smile on her face." In preparation for her role, Chopra wanted to visit a brothel, but Malhotra insisted that she doesn't for safety reasons.
For the supporting roles, Zarina Wahab was cast as Suhasini Chauhan, Vijay's mother; a role originally played by Rohini Hattangadi. Wahab agreed to do the film, due to her close association with producer, Johar. For the role of Shiksha Chauhan, newcomer Kanika Tiwri was auditioned and cast among 6500 girls. In order to feature an item number in the film, producer Johar wanted to sign Kareena Kapoor, who refused the offer and Katrina Kaif was eventually contracted. Filming for the song was demanding on Kaif, as she ended up with cuts and blisters on her feet, due to the long, stretched-out schedules.
Principal photography of Agneepath took place in the union territory of Diu, which was used to double as the village of Mandwa. Johar had to complete several formalities before shooting could begin, due to the sensitive nature of the territory. Director Malhotra, however did not shoot in the port of Mandwa itself, as it was "too congested". While shooting for the film in Mumbai, a picture of Hrithik Roshan, filming a dahi handi sequence was leaked to the media. Worried over this, Johar increased the security on the sets and banned the use of cell phones. Additionally, Priyanka Chopra faced difficulties in allocating dates to shoot for the film, as she was simultaneously shooting for Anurag Basu's Barfi!.
According to Malhotra, most of the action stunts in the film were shot by Roshan and Dutt themselves, while body doubles were used to film a few scenes. Several accidents took place during the filming of Agneepath. Priyanka Chopra's lehenga caught fire, while shooting for an elaborate Ganpati festival song. Hrithik Roshan too scalded his hands while shooting for the same scene. Roshan also suffered from an eye injury during the shoot of a song, when holi colours were flung into his eyes by some junior artists. In October, Roshan suffered from a major back injury while lifting a man weighing 110 kilograms, which was a part of an elaborate action sequence. Shooting was stalled for some time following the incident, while Roshan recuperated in a hospital.
While Ravi K. Chandran was assigned as the cinematographer of Agneepath, he opted out of the film after filming certain portions, for unknown reasons. Kiran Deohans was later contracted to replace him. Sabu Cyril was contracted as the production designer for the film, along with a team of 200 people. He explained the creation of Kancha's den by saying that he built a haveli-like structure with tantric paintings on the walls, resembling an old fort built by the Portuguese (who had historically occupied Diu). Vijay's home, on the other hand, was a "small sack-like thing" on the terrace of a chawl, which was built on an open ground with a hundred houses. Cyril added, "We wanted a tree to be at the edge of a hillside, protruding out due to erosion, with not enough soil. We made this banyan tree with fibre as we wanted it to have a particular look." This tree forms a visual thread to represent Kancha's atrocities in the film. The song "Chikni Chameli" featuring Katrina Kaif was shot in Film City, Mumbai, where the entire set of Dutt's villa was recreated.
The first official trailer of Agneepath was launched at a press conference in Mumbai on 29 August 2011. Dharma Productions streamed the event live on the production house's YouTube channel. The event was attended by the entire cast: Roshan, Kapoor, Dutt and Chopra. The trailer of the film was the third most watched trailer in India, behind the films, Don 2 and Ra.One.
The film associated itself with McDonald's to provide a discount of ₹50 (78¢ US) to customers buying a meal at the joint. Additionally, few winners were offered a chance to win a lunch date with Roshan. As part of the promotional campaign, Roshan, Dutt and Chopra visited Dubai on 19 January 2012, to interact with fans at a shopping mall, followed by an invitational high tea party. The actors travelled to several places in India including New Delhi, Nagpur and other cities to promote the film.
The music of Agneepath was composed by Ajay-Atul, with lyrics written by Amitabh Bhattacharya. Sony Music acquired the rights to the album for ₹90 million (US$1.4 million) and released its digital version on 16 December 2011, followed by mass release on 19 December 2011. Sanujeet Bhujabel, the marketing director of Sony Music, revealed that live instruments would be extensively used on the soundtrack. While explaining the process involved in composing the soundtrack, Ajay said that director Karan Malhotra narrated the story to them for over four hours, whilst humming the background score that he wanted. This was followed by innumerable discussions which made them "understand each other well". He also mentioned that the song "Chikni Chameli" was a remake of their own Marathi song "Kombdi Palali" from the film Jatra (2006).
In January 2012, a plagiarism suit was filed against Sony Music and Dharma Productions by a Mumbai-based engineer, for lifting and featuring the song "O Saiyyan" in the album. The Nagpur High Court ordered Johar to release the film, only after truncating the use of the song in it.
The song Chikni Chameli was extremely well received and topped the music charts.
The music of Agneepath received positive reviews from critics. Joginder Tuteja praised the compositions and added that "Chikni Chameli" would be responsible for the rise in sales of the album. Sukanya Verma of Rediff.com gave the album 3 out of 5 stars and said that the film's soundtrack was better than that of the original, while praising the composition of the songs "Deva Shree Ganesha" and "O Saiyyan". A review carried by BBC UK summed up, "Blessedly free of unnecessary remixes, Agneepath is a well-crafted, evocative collection of songs that proves the adage that, when it comes to Indian music composers, sometimes two heads can be better than one.
Prior to its theatrical release, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) certified the film with a UA certificate after demanding a few cuts, due to a high proportion of violence present in the film. Explaining the certificate, Pankaja Thakur, CEO of CBFC stated, " Agneepath has a lot of bloodshed but none of us felt disturbed by it. The violence is not the type that can psychologically damage a child and the softer scenes of the film managed to offset the darker part of it". The film's posters subsequently featured disclaimers reading, "This film is certified U/A. We advise parental guidance due to violence in the film." The board, consequently praised Johar for the step.
Initially scheduled to release on 13 January 2012, Agneepath was postponed by a week to 26 January to coincide with the Republic Day celebrations. The film eventually released at around 2650 screens worldwide. The satellite rights of the film were sold to Zee Network for a sum of ₹410 million (US$6.4 million), a month before the theatrical release. Dharma Productions released the DVD of Agneepath on 13 March 2012 across all regions in the NTSC format, with a censor rating of PG-13. The DVD includes special features such as the "making of the film" and "deleted scenes and songs". It is available in Dolby Digital 5.1 and Stereo format with English and Arabic subtitles presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen.
Upon release, Agneepath received mostly positive reviews from film critics in India. Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama gave the film a score of 4.5 out of 5, and said, "Agneepath is an uncomplicated story of revenge, is hard-hitting yet entertaining, dwells on strong emotions and aggressive and forceful action, yet is dissimilar from the original. It is a fitting tribute to the masterwork." Subhash K.Jha of IANS gave it 4 out of 5 stars, while commenting, "Every component of the film falls into place, with a resounding thump. Agneepath is brilliant in its brutality. It's a riveting and hectic homage to the spirit of the cinema when revenge reigned supreme. And content was king. This new Agneepath takes us back to the era when there was no computer or cellphones. And communication with the audience was immediate and electrifying." Kaveree Bamzai of India Today rated the film 4 out of 5, noting, "Melodramatic, choir-inducing sentiment, ecstatic. Agneepath is that rare mainstream movie written well."
Aniruddha Guha of Daily News and Analysis gave the film 3.5 out of 5, reviewing, "An adaptation rather than a remake, the film assumes a life of its own once the central plot has been established. The film then charts a journey of his own." Piyali Dasgupta of NDTV gave it 3.5 out of 5, stating "Watch this film because this one is unadulterated Bollywood entertainment." Daily Bhaskar gave the film 3.5 out of 5 stars, while adding, "On the whole, Agneepath totally rests on star power which will lure the cine-goers to halls but how far will it impress them remains to be seen."
Avijit Ghosh of The Times of India gave the film 3 stars out of 5, and said, "Try to wipe out the movie's earlier version from your mind. You might find it more enjoyable." Sukanya Verma of Rediff gave it 3 out of 5, while commenting, "Agneepath, less of a remake, more of a tribute. The makers of Agneepath should have just called it Dharmapath." Kunal Guha of Yahoo.com gave the film 3 out of 5 stars, saying that, "The biggest dilemma of remaking a movie is how much to retain and what to retain. If the new story takes violent shifts, you lose the audience who came to revisit the original. If you photocopy scene-by-scene, you risk failing to connect with the audience who is accustomed to present sensibilities. The only safe bet: a ‘khichdi’ of the past and the present, like this one." Mayank Shekhar of Hindustan Times gave the film 3 out of 5 stars while remarking, "This is the kind of genuine theatre experience, now getting rare, which remains most precious in the life of a film-goer. Reason can take over later. I had a ball!" Sonia Chopra of Sify gave it 3 out of 5, and mentioned, "Debut director Karan Malhotra shows great promise in making the film visually arresting and maintaining the consistency of performances. But remaking a cult film means you have big shoes to fill. If you’re a loyalist of the late Mukul Anand’s Agneepath, you’re likely to have reservations with this one. But if you leave the comparisons aside and are willing to forgive the faults, Agneepath is worth a watch essentially to savor Hrithik’s performance." Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN gave Agneepath 3 out of 5 and said, "It is in the end, an old-fashioned revenge drama treated in that melodramatic, over-the-top style. You're not likely to be bored by the intense action and the solid performances, but prepare to be exhausted by just how long this film plays on."
Overseas, the film received positive reviews. Russel Edwards of Variety reviewed, "Debuting helmer Karan Malhotra stokes up a fiery revenge tale in Agneepath, an expensively pumped-up, relentlessly energetic retelling of the 1990 Amitabh Bachchan cult favorite of the same name. Toplining Bollywood hunk Hrithik Roshan and veteran actor Sanjay Dutt donning the hat as the antagonist, this dynamic Hindi action extravaganza boosts its potent story with an aggressive style that will ensure audiences feel every blow." Farah Andrews of Gulf News praised the film while saying, "Fans of the 1990 original starring Amitabh Bachchan and Danny Denzongpa as Vijay and Kancha may be wary about the remake, but take it from us, the revamped flick is well worth a watch." Rabina A. Khan of The First Post wrote, "Director Karan Malhotra has made an impressive film under the able guidance of his mentor, Karan Johar. It scores on all directorial aspects – design, sound, edit, costumes, camera, phenomenal cast, dialogues and a very gripping screenplay."
Agneepath derives its name from a poem of the same name written by Harivansh Rai Bachchan. The poem, which is recited through the film provides a metaphorical link to represent Vijay's quest for vengeance.
Several critics consider Agneepath to be a homage to the era of the melodramatic, over-the-top action films of the 1980s and 90s. Critic Rajeev Masand analysed, "Agneepath is a throwback to those heightened action dramas of the 90s, so every dialogue is delivered as a punch-line; our hero may be battered and stabbed, yet he'll rise like the phoenix, and the women are flung around to be raped or sold as sex slaves." He added, "The film is enhanced by uncompromising, brutal action, and by its striking camerawork, especially those scenes framed against a monsoon sky, heavy with dark clouds." Writing for Hindustan Times, Mayank Shekhar explained that the film, like several other Bollywood films was inspired by the Indian mythological tale of the Ramayana. He also added that "the external logic of a star driven, fantasy fed film" would "not be easy to gulp for many." While writing a critique for Deccan Chronicle, Suparna Sharma quoted, "Agneepath is more than a remake or a homage to the original. It’s about a son righting a wrong and this emotion makes us connect with the film immediately."
Agneepath broke the record of the highest opening day collections, with a nett of ₹217.6 million (US$3.4 million) on its opening day, surpassing the previous record held by Bodyguard. Subsequently, the film netted ₹621.1 million (US$9.7 million) over its extended four-day weekend. The film's collections sustained well on its first Monday and it netted around ₹75 million (US$1.2 million), taking its five-day total to ₹695 million (US$11 million) nett. It netted ₹65 million (US$1.0 million) on Tuesday and another ₹50 million (US$780,000) nett on Wednesday. The movie brought its first-week total to ₹858.8 million (US$13 million) nett, thereby emerging as a major commercial success.
The film collected ₹231.2 million (US$3.6 million) in its second week, thus taking its two-week total to ₹1.09 billion (US$17 million) nett. The film collected ₹75.9 million (US$1.2 million) nett in its third week, taking its three-week nett collections to ₹1.17 billion (US$18 million). It collected ₹26.1 million (US$410,000) in its fourth week, taking its four-week nett collections to ₹1.19 billion (US$19 million). Agneepath was thus declared a "superhit". Agneepath has collected ₹1.20 billion (US$19 million) in its lifetime run in India. Its final distributor share was ₹655 million (US$10 million).
After a successful opening in the domestic market, Agneepath made ₹165 million (US$2.6 million) in its four-day weekend, overseas. At the time of release, the film holds the record for the twelfth largest opening ever internationally. The film has grossed around $6 million in overseas markets.