Planet Bollywood
Agni Varsha
Producer: I-Dreams Productions
Director: Arjun Sajnani
Starring: Jackie Shroff, Raveena Tandon, Milind Soman, Sonali Kulkarni, Nagarjuna, Prabhudeva, Mohan Agashe & Amitabh Bachchan (Special Appearance)
Music: Sandesh Shandilya
Lyrics: Javed Akhtar
Genre: Drama
Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
Film Released on: 30 August 2002
Reviewed by: Vijay Ramanan  - Rating: 1.5 / 10
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Public Rating Average: 5.11 / 10 (rated by 410 viewers)
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Much has been said about Girish Karnad’s play “The Fire and the Rain.” So much so that Arjun Sajnani, who directed its stage version, decided to mount this subplot of the Mahabharata onto celluloid. The thick plot of this film boasts of epic scale potential. However, Sajnani, who apparently struck gold with its stage version, goes so haywire with it on screen, that it is merely reduced to a production that is at best, laughable for all the wrong reasons.

Agni Varsha” could serve as a case study in film schools to explain why the director is (or rather should be) such a crucial part of the filmmaking process. Sajnani is handed a very impressive team on a silver platter, but is clueless as to how to use it. To begin with, there is cinematographer Anil Mehta (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Lagaan) who has proven that mounting simple stories like “Lagaan” and “HDDCS” to epic proportions is child’s play for him. For his leading lady, there is Raveena Tandon who is still radiating in the glory of her national award. Supporting her is a big name – Jackie Shroff. To put the icing on the cake, he has Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. When it becomes painful to stand even this great man on screen, one can just imagine how bad the film really is!

Anil Mehta’s efforts to salvage this poor product are highly eminent. The talented Taufiq Qureshi too tries his best with an innovative score. Unfortunately, they seem to be the only ones interested in doing so. Sandesh Shandilya’s melodious tunes only do further damage to the already pathetic state of the film’s continuity factor.

The screenplay co-written by Sajnani, T. Jayashree, and Anil Mehta, contains too many characters and subplots that pop out of nowhere. The script is also devoid of any logic whatsoever. Besides relying on age-old clichés, the writers seem to forget the nature of the scenes that they are writing, within that scene itself. For example, while Aravasu (Soman) and Nittilai (Kulkarni) discuss the pains of the caste system, Aravasu, out of nowhere decides to let go of the conversation and impersonate a buffalo. Wake up people!!!

One would expect that a director coming from a theatrical background would know how to extract strong performances from his troupe. However, Sajnani needs to be reminded that like theater, you have to DIRECT your actors in film too!

Raveena Tandon – I find it hard to criticize her. But please! Somebody teach her some script sense. Married to Paravasu (Shroff), her character Vishaka is absolutely confused, being an adulterous on one occasion, and claiming to be a “pavitra” wife on the other.

Jackie Shroff – Paravasu is another confused soul. He begins by performing a sacrifice to bring rain to the parched land, then suddenly kills his father, has his brother Aravasu beaten to pulp, and finally repents by entering the pyre. None of the reasons provided to desperately justify Paravasu’s actions come even close to being convincing.

Milind Soman – Aravasu really is a scared, cowardly, confused chicken. Milind Soman looks equally scared, cowardly, and confused trying to play this character. His dialogue delivery and facial expressions are so bad that the audience was in splits every time he spoke. But hey, you know what? I actually did find one part in the film where his performance was simply outstanding – The part where he lies unconscious and does absolutely NOTHING after getting beaten up!!!

The less said about the remainder of the cast, the better. Mohan Agashe, Sonali Kulkarni, Prabhudeva, and Raghuvir Yadav are wasted. The climax of the film where the Big B appears in a cameo as Lord Indra makes you want to drill a hole in your head. The pre-release hype of “Agni Varsha” boasted of special effects done in Australia. Special Effects??? Are you kidding me? I could draw more realistic looking images holding a pencil between my toes! Not only is this movie a waste of immense talent, it is also a shameful waste of precious 35mm film. If I were to pick one enjoyable portion of this particular movie-viewing experience, it would be the trailer of Ramgopal Varma’s “Road” during the intermission.

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