Once Upon A Time In Mumbai: Review

Monday, August 2, 2010

Successes and Failures aside, Milan Luthria’s works so far reflect his penchant for exploring new vistas. Starting as a Mahesh Bhatt protégé and later venturing out on his own with films like Kache Dhaage, Chori Chori, Taxi No 9211, Hattrick, Deewar and now Once Upon A Time In Mumbai (OUATIM), Luthria has shown diversity in his work. His films had something about them that got him noticed. With OUATIM, he is sure to earn respect.

OUATIM is a fresh look at gangsterism (if such a word exists). Weaved around a plot showcasing the rise and fall of the empire of Sultan mirza (portrayed by Ajay Devgn and based on Haji Mastan), the film culminates with a new don Shoaib (portrayed by Hashmi and based on Dawood Ibrahim) taking over the mantle from him. What lies in the intervening two and a half hours is a cinematic treat for a Bollywood buff. Loud but clapworthy dialogues written by Rajat Aroraa, hummable music by Pritam, wonderful art by Nitin Desai, good production values, riveting performances and excellent direction make this a film worth the money you spend at the theatre.

Though this is not the first time that a gangster film has been made, there is a novelty factor in OUATIM. Unlike the other films based on the underworld, this one is not about bloodshed and foul mouthed dialogues. It is also not about deft camera angles or idealistic preachy stuff that make you twist and turn. OUATIM is about how Mumbai, a city that Sultan Mirza is in love with, falls into the hands of a hot headed rogue Shoaib who rules it and then destroys it. Although the story doesn’t seem new, watch it for the treatment. There are a host of reasons why I liked it:

Performances: This is the second Emran Hashmi film that I watched to completion. The other one being Murder and that had nothing to do with Hashmi for sure! This guy has been a consistent performer if you look at the money that his films have made so far. His biggest drawback was that he was glued to the Bhatt camp only. The stamp of “Just for Bhatts” was proving detrimental to his rise. With this film, Hashmi has come of age. His portrayal of the non-repentent, hot headed and wicked Shoaib is excellent.

Kangna Ranaut is good while Prachi Desai still looks the TV star who is not coming to terms with her leap to the big screen. That is probably because her promotion was not earned but gifted by her mentor Ektaa Kapoor. She has more to do to cement her place in the industry. The support cast is able. Randeep Hooda is a revelation. In the few opening sequences, he makes a mark with his portrayal of ACP Agnel Wilson. A strong performance that fades in the second half not because of weaker performance but lack of focus on his character. The scene where he shuts down a film shooting and the one where he blasts one of his juniors in the police station are notable. There are a couple of scenes where he gets to rub shoulders with the larger than life character of Ajay Devgn and I must say that he holds his own.

The high point of the film is Ajay Devgn. After a really long time do we see the flamboyance that is the mark of a veteran performer. He was splendid in Rajneeti too but the character was very subdued. Here he gets to portray a character who rules a city. He got to play one in Company too but the portrayal here is different. In OUATIM he is more of a Robin Hood than a mafia don. He looks convincing with his body language and speaks with his eyes. A sterling performance and a strong contender for the best performer of the year awards this year.

Direction: Milan Luthria is top rate. He does not let the interest of the audience wane despite a predictable story line. A complete masala entertainer who doesn’t think that his audience is low on IQ. His stocks are set to sore in the industry after this one.

Music: One part of me just loves Pritam for the superhit music he gives and the second loathes him for being a copy cat and a big one at that. Of late, the first part of me is taking over strongly. There is something about this guy that no one else possesses. Even though he is not revered as a musical genius but when it comes to popular music, all competition pales in front of him. If you count the number of hits in the past 3-4 years, more than 50% will belong to this guy. That cannot be a fluke and not all of it can be copied.

Dialogues: Rajat Arora is the next big thing in dialogue writing. He has wonderfully recreated the magic of the 70s era with loud dialogues that draw claps in the cinema hall. They remind you of the Salim Javed era.

Sample these:

Prachi (when she sees Emran drinking): “Tum to party mein aate hi shuru ho gaye”
Emran: “To main koi tent kursi wala hun jo sabke jaane ke baad piyunga?”

Emran (talking about his dreams of ruling Mumbai): “Fir duniya raakh ki tareh neeche aur main dhuen ki tareh upar”

Randeep Hooda: “Main koyle ki khan mein mashal leke nikla tha..sab kuch jal gaya”

Randeep Hooda (when he switches his loyalty from Police to Sultan Mirza): "Khan, itne saal tak tumne prasad (bribe) nahi khaya aur ab Bhagwan hi badal diya?"

Ajay: “Maine apne jeene ka tareeka badla hai, tewar nahi”

Also, the climax speech by Ajay Devgn is noteworthy.

Art: Nitin Desai has wonderfully recreated the 70s era through his sets. The film does look like one straight out from those times.

One of the negatives of the film, as I see it is the climax. It left me feeling a bit incomplete. As Bollywood fans, we are used to a prolonged climatic sequence. This one doesn’t have one that makes the audience feel satisfied.

The character of Randeep Hooda is left in the lurch in the second half. I can understand that it might have been the need of the script to emphasize more on the two protagonists but building and then leaving a strong character somewhere midway made me cringe a bit. The role of the police in the rise of Shoaib doesn’t come out well in the film. The romantic track of Emran and Prachi looks half baked and not necessary.

All said and done, no film can cater to 100% of the audience demands. However, Once Upon A Time In Mumbai lives upto the demands of a large section of the audience and that is a reason enough for you to watch it. 7.5 out of 10 is what I will give to the film.

As an aside, let me vent some ire on the state of affairs in Delhi during rains. I missed close to first 25 minutes of the film, thanks to the rains and the resulting Delhi Traffic snarls. This time around, the newly built roads in the city didn't get submerged under water, they just cracked wide open to swallow cars for a change!


abhishek chandra said...

The first 25 minutes of d movie were d most important... ;)

Amit Jaiswal said...

Ajay Devgan was at his best. I liked the movie and will give it 3.5/5. There is one incident in the Movie which I want to bring to focus here. When Prachi was caught wearing robbed neck set, there was conflict between Prachi and Hashmi. At that time I thought She would have left him but in the next scene of both of them there was no sign of disagreement.
I agree with your view on Randeep's role in second half. He should have been given more time and end climax could be made more enthralling making triangular fight among Sultan, Shoib and Wilson.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing to tell - keep silent not to litter a theme.

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