About the story: As a child, Baba (Sanjay Dutt) has killed a stalker who attacked his mother (Tanuja), and afterwards sold himself to the underworld don Uncle (Ajit); renouncing his own life, he thus made education and a better future possible for his younger brother Avinash (Atul Agnihotri). Avi hero-worships his elder brother, until one day he learns about Baba’s criminal ways and scornfully breaks with him. While Baba atones for his crimes during a three-year term in prison, Uncle’s nephew Sunny (Shakti Kapoor) murders the old don, takes his position and kills Baba’s and Avi’s mother. Avi, meanwhile police inspector, starts fighting Sunny, but he never can throw off the stigma of being a criminal’s brother which makes his life poison for him. So when Baba after his release from jail returns home, Avi rejects him bitterly. Though deeply hurt, Baba accepts his brother’s attitude and goes to see his old friend Nawab (Aditya Pancholi) who, while Baba was in jail, has suffered a cruel fate bestowed upon him by gangster Kaniya (Gulshan Grover). Together, Baba and Nawab take vengeance on Kaniya – and as a consequence, Avi suspects them to work for the don Sunny...
Aatish (= fire) was the directorial debut of Sanjay Gupta who until today counts to Sanjay Dutt’s closest friends. Gupta films are highlights in Sanju’s filmography, and Aatish is no exception. Criminals with heart resp. good men who only due to the circumstances slide into the world of crime are Sanju’s speciality, and Gupta leaves complete freedom to him to carve out a role portrait which from the very beginning captures the viewer for Baba – without driving the other characters onto the backseat. Especially Nawab is also very intensely shaped with his ups and downs, and even though I’m no special fan of Aditya Pancholi I really like him as Nawab, more so as he harmonizes splendidly with Sanju – their reunion scene after Baba’s term in jail is heart rending, and the moment when Baba has to decide between Nawab and Avi gets under your skin. Of all the "younger brothers" Sanju had to deal with in his career (I remember shuddering that Vicky in Yalgaar), Atul Agnihotri definitely counts to the more talented ones; he descriptively conveys Avi’s problem, and thus even the brothers’ conflict in Aatish works very well (did I mention somewhere that I love stories about conflicts between brothers or friends?). Kader Khan plays a small but very important role as restaurant owner Kadar Bhai who for Baba and his friends always marks a sympathetic contact point.
The movie’s leading ladies may forgive me that I up till now ignored them. But what to do, Aatish is another movie where the women don’t play any crucial role for the story – at the most in a passive way like the mother who’s played by Tanuja with a lot of warmth. But neither Raveena Tandon as Baba’s girlfriend Nisha nor Karisma Kapoor as Avi’s girlfriend Pooja (originally Pooja Bhatt was casted for this role) actively decide anything in the story, they are mere eye-turners for the public and moral supports (and, of course, dance partners) for the brothers. By the way, both Raveena and Karisma at that time were quite new in the film business, and more than by their performances, they made headlines by their hassles on the sets of Aatish and, earlier, of Andaz Apna Apna.
Aatish – Feel the Fire is a forceful movie where Sanju gives an intense foretaste of his future gangster and underworld roles (with pain in his eyes). Even his faible for powerful final scenes, best known from films like Kroadh or Yalgaar, in Aatish once more shows to advantage. The first cooperation of the two Sanjays (Dutt and Gupta) was a promising start – and as we know today they didn’t promise too much.
(Finally I just want to make one short remark concerning the so often happening Hollywood soundtrack loans in Hindi films. If you really have to use a musical motive like "1492 – Conquest of Paradise", then please do it effectively like e.g. in Koyla. In Aatish it was simply wasted. Sorry.)
Produced by G.P. Sippy; Directed by Sanjay Gupta
162 Min.; DVD: Eros, English Subtitles (not for the songs)
P.S. In a Stardust interview (9/1993) Atul Agnihotri revealed that it was Sanjay Dutt who suggested him to the Sippys for the role of Avinash and that he would always be grateful to Sanjay for this.