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Phool Aur Kaante: A forgotten remake of The Godfather 


Two decades ago, Kuku Kohli launched a lanky youngster named Ajay Devgn with his take on the Coppola classic. The superhit established Ajay Devgn as the face of a new generation of action stars, but there was a lot more to the film. Here's why you should revisit it.

Shriram Iyengar

There are very few films that command the reverence and adoration of cinephiles like Francis Ford Coppola's 'The Godfather'. The unanimous approval it receives from cinephiles, old and new, affords it a unique place in cinematic history. Such a position only opens it up to more risks. The film opened up a new dimension to view gangsters and their 'corporate' businesses. Like the works of great artists, this masterpiece has had its copies. Some good, some worse. The Hindi cinema industry of the 90s, in particular, discovered and dredged through this film to create some cult classics that have made an impact on audiences. Parinda, Dharmatma and Satya are some of the films that successfully recreated this magic. One film that is often brushed under the radar of Godfather remakes is Phool Aur Kaante. The onscreen debut of one of Hindi cinema's best actors, Ajay Devgn, is the most complete 'Bollywoodization' of Coppola's most famous production.

Any such remake requires actors of seriously high calibres. The powerhouse talents of Brando and Pacino pushed 'The Godfather' from an interesting movie to one that redefined cinematic history. Talent of such calibre is hard to find. In India, there were few who could recreate the sombre, underplayed efforts of Brando on screen, and many of them were still playing leading men at the time. Kuku Kohli turned to one of the most dependable villains in Hindi cinema for this role, Amrish Puri. As an aging don estranged from his son, Amrish Puri put in a brilliant performance that lent stale dialogues with an additional sting. His booming baritone lent dialogues like 'Jawani me aksar brake fail ho jaya karta hai' a seriousness that is otherwise impossible. Though it was meant to be the big launch for Ajay Devgn, Amrish Puri ended up stealing the thunder with his quiet gravitas. It proved to be a turning point for the veteran who was facing the risk of being typecast as the hyperbolic villain till then.

If Puri was Brando, Pacino was embodied by Ajay Devgn. The son of stunt director Veeru Devgan, Ajay made his entry onscreen, aptly, astride two moving motorcycles. It was the perfect image of a young man looking to take on the bigwigs. He was 19 years old and still in college when director Kuku Kohli approached him to play the lead. It was a big challenge.His lack of experience is most evident in the romantic scenes opposite Madhoo. He appears awkward and insecure. Let's be honest, Ajay Devgn was never the most handsome hero to turn up on screen. Govinda had charm, Aamir was a teenage heartthrob. Even Jackie Shroff and Anil Kapoor had the machismo to back their moustaches. Compared to them, Ajay Devgn looks like a crossover between Rajnikanth and Bruce Lee, without the moustache. The actor in him was unfazed though. The scenes where Ajay's estranged, angry son confronts his father are some of the best in the film. To face up to Amrish Puri at his best in your first film requires some talent. Hidden in these scenes is the potential for an actor who would do films like 'Zakhm' 'Omkara' and 'Company'.

'Phool Aur Kaante' was among the biggest hits of 1991, alongside Yash Chopra's chiffon dreams, 'Lamhe'. It announced the arrival of a new generation of stars who were not fair and handsome. In the next year, another odd looking young man named Shah Rukh Khan would make his debut. Ajay Devgn would evolve into one of the most intelligent actors of his generation and a dependable star in his own right. He is now all set to go behind the camera and direct his debut venture 'Shivaay', a take on his first film. It is a completion of the cycle that began with his first film. Michael Corleone has taken control now.