Review; Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai
Revisit the 1970s Mumbai underworld when smuggling was the most heinous crime (the age of innocence, huh!) and benevolent don, Sultan Mirza (reference point: Haji Mastan) was the mafioso king. The film presents the rise and reign of Sultan over the city as a glorified Robin Hood figure and his tempestuous relationship with his biggest fan-turned-foe, Shoaib Khan (reference point: Dawood Ibrahim), who joins him as a rookie gangster, only to outplay him and usurp his empire. This becomes the beginning of Mumbai's tryst with ugly crime: gang wars, shoot-outs, bombs, terror and the big bad bhai log as we know them today....
Movie Review: So, you've seen Satya and loved it. You've also seen Company and lapped it up too. Had a most satisfying encounter with Black Friday also. You've even read those page turners on Mumbai's underworld, Maximum City and Shantaram, and wondered if there's anything more left to be said about the shining city's sleazy underbelly. Hold your breath. For Ã¢â‚¬ËœOnce Upon A Time In MumbaaiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ might just take your breath away with its iridescence and engaging quality.
True, the film does re-open the familiar X-files of Mumbai's most well-known crime story -- the stormy relationship between Haji Mastan and his protegee Dawood Ibrahim, even though it does begin with the mandatory disclaimer of steering clear from real life. But it does it with an elegance and an intensity that keeps you glued to your seats, despite the fact that you know where the drama is headed for. And that's because director Milan Luthria chooses to anchor his film in the emotional heartland rather than dabble with guns and gore. Refreshingly, the film goes low on violence and focuses more on the emotional quotient, throwing light on how Sultan Mirza (an awesome Ajay Devgn) rose to his Shahenshah-esque status in the underworld and how he tried to tame the roguish new team member, Shoaib Khan (an edgy Emraan Hashmi). Alas, in vain!
And here-in lies the dramatic core of Rajat Arora's dynamic script which catapults the two lead characters as a study in contrast. While Sultan is showcased as the archetypal gentleman crook with a strong moral fibre, Shoaib is unprincipled and rotten to the core. Like that dada of all Dons, Vito Corleone, our desi Godfather too refuses to do drugs and insists he dabbles only with stuff banned by the law of the land not by his conscience. Shoaib, on the other hand, is game for any and everything -- treachery, infidelity, gang war, bloodshed -- in his unbridled bid for power. Of course, he begins as the trusted acolyte of the man he venerates as God himself (Maine toh bhagwan chun liya hai, ab aap insaan chuniye, he tells the iconic Sultan), but it doesn't take long before he sets his eyes on the wider horizon. Mumbai mere neeche aur main dhuey ki tarah upar (Mumbai below me while I scale above as smoke), he declares and roller-coasts his way on the road to pure crime and total immorality, ending up as the outlaw who managed to rule the city with remote control. Interestingly, despite presenting Sultan as a larger-than-life figure, the film does manage to keep its moral compass straight and has a seminal sequence which categorically brands all its seemingly heroic characters as criminals, charisma notwithstanding.
Interspersed between this titanic tale of a ganglord and his wannabe are the tender love stories of the two fugitives. Once again, done with a delicate finesse which creates memorable mush on screen as Sultan serenades the actress Rehana (Kangna Ranaut) and Shoaib tries a Bobby with his shy showroom girl Mumtaz (Prachi Desai).
After the innovative and experimental Love Sex aur Dhoka, producer Ektaa Kapoor once again scores with a complete entertainer which boasts of almost everything: a compelling story, crisp and absolutely state-of-the-art dialogues (Rajat Arora), an artistic period piece ambience (Aseem Mishra), a lilting music score (Pritam) and some riveting performances. Both Ajay Devgn and Emraan Hashmi breathe fire and brimstone in to their portrayal of the two disparate gangsters and come up with two of the most mesmeric acts of the year, while Kangna Ranaut and Prachi Desai pitch in as perfect and picturesque molls. Add to this an in-form ensemble cast which includes principled cop Randeep Hooda and loyal Sultan aide, Naved Aslam (both are extremely watchable) and you have an entire catwalk of flesh and blood characters in a cinema that is generally peopled with cardboard cut-outs.
Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai offers you both substance and soul, even as it dabbles with a slice of reality. Don't miss it.
A word about:
Performances: Excellent, across the board. Ajay Devgn and Emraan Hashmi grab eyeballs, like never before, as do the other characters. The girls -- Kangna and Prachi -- are sheer gossamer.
Story: Rajat Arora reinvents drama in contemporary cinema.
Dialogues: Awesome. Some of the most compelling conversations you've heard of late on screen.
Cinematography: Aseem Mishra serenades old world Mumbai with love and nostalgia.
Music: Pritam creates a lilting track, with a special mention for Pee Loon.
Styling: The 1970s is re-created with pizzazz. Watch out for the Bobby knotted choli sequence, donned by a shy and sweet Prachi. Adorable.
Inspiration: 1970s. The Mumbai underworld.
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