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From Agneepath to Vaastav: The unusual link between Ganeshotsav and gangster movies

On this Ganpati festival, here’s looking back at some of the gangster movies that depict the festival during an crucial moment in the narrative.

Keyur Seta

The underworld of Mumbai has regularly been featured in mainstream Hindi cinema from the time the city was called Bombay. An unusual similarity in these gangster films is that many use the festival of Ganeshotsav to create thrill or bring about an important story development, especially involving a murder or some sort of violence.  

Understandably, the scenario of Ganesh visarjan [immersion] with bands playing and thousands of people gyrating to the rhythmic beats offers cinematic scope. 

On this Ganeshotsav, we take a look back at some of gangster films that depict the festival during an crucial moment in the narrative.  

Agneepath (1990)

Mukul Anand’s Agneepath is one of the earliest films to start this trend. The song ‘Ganpati Apne Gaon Chale’ arrives during a tense moment in the film when Vijay Dinanath Chavan (Amitabh Bachchan) is all set to immerse the Ganesh idol along with his mother (Rohini Hattangadi), sister (Neelam Kothari) and close friend Krishnan Iyer (Mithun Chakraborty). Meanwhile, Kancha Cheena (Danny Denzongpa) is let off by the court and his men attack Vijay as he is about to immerse the idol. 

Satya (1998)

This is the only entry in our list that doesn't involve a song. The scene takes place during the climax of the feature, directed by Ram Gopal Varma. Satya, played by JD Chakravarthy, is hell-bent in finishing off Bhau Thakurdas Jhawle (Govind Namdev) for killing his best friend Bhiku Mhatre (Manoj Bajpayee). It is important to note the unhurried narrative used in this scene. The excitement is slowly builds up as Satya makes his way through a large crowd while hiding a knife within a piece of cloth. 

Vaastav (1999)

Mahesh Manjrekar’s Hindi film debut, Vaastav, saw the rise of Raghunath Namdeo Shivalkar (Sanjay Dutt) and his best friend Dedhfutiya (Sanjay Narvekar) in Mumbai’s underworld. However, just when they thought that the world was at their feet, they had to literally flee for their lives. The song ‘Sindoor Laal Chadhayo’ arrives when everything is over now for the two friends. The song perfectly suits the situation when Dedhfutiya is picked up by the cops and is about to be killed in a fake encounter.  

Don: The Chase Begins (2006) 

This moment from the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer is the only entry that doesn’t fall in the serious category. The ‘Morya Re’ track from director Farhan Akhtar's remake is an out-and-out celebration of Ganeshotsav and the entry scene for Vijay, one of the two roles played by Khan in the film. This remains one of the most popular Ganeshotsav songs from Hindi cinema, aided by its theme tune by composers Shankar–Ehsaan–Loy. Chandra Barot’s Don (1981), the original film on which Akhtar's film borrows, didn’t have a Ganeshotsav number. 

Agneepath (2012)

Karan Malhotra’s Agneepath was the official remake of Mukul Anand’s 1990 movie of the same name. Like the original, the Hrithik Roshan-starrer also had an important moment taking place during the Ganesh visarjan scene in the form of the song 'Deva Shree Ganesha'. This time, it is Vijay Dinanath Chauhan who murders the villain Surya (Pankaj Tripathi). The song reaches a crescendo from this moment onwards and it never fails to give you goosebumps. 

When black money was stored inside Ganesh idol and nobody cared

The 2012 film also adds its own creativity by using this song to feature the important moment when the protagonist spells out his name and gives his introduction in style. 

Sarkar 3 (2017)

This is the second Ram Gopal Varma film to feature in the list and the second for Amitabh Bachchan as well. This moment and the song ‘Ganpati Aarti’ isn’t remembered by many largely because the film received negative reviews and it also failed at the box office. Sarkar 3 finds Amitabh Bachchan’s titular character taking matters in his hands after the death of his beloved son Shankar (Abhishek Bachchan) in the second film. Therefore, he is seen in the Ganesh Visarjan scene where he is attacked by the bad guys but he narrowly manages to escape. 

Mumbai Saga (2021)

This one is yet another case of a good song not getting its due because of the failure of the film. Sanjay Gupta’s Mumbai Saga has a moment when Amartya Rao (John Abraham) visits Mumbai’s iconic Siddhivinayak temple when the song ‘Danka Baja’ begins. The song follows Rao's vow to take over the reigns of Mumbai from the gangster Gaitonde (Amole Gupte) and rule the city singlehandedly. He visits the temple to get the lord's blessings for the same.

As the film takes place in the 1990s, the makers have built a set of how the temple looked back in the day. But the idol shown in the song is from the real Siddhivinayak temple.