Once upon a time in Mumbai movie review
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Kangna Ranaut, Emraan Hashmi; Director: Milan Luthria; Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Have you ever seen a filmi film? The kind of film where everything is larger than life? The bullet hits the Rolex which stops so you know a man’s time is up? The woman has a hole in the heart and has only a few years to live? The man looks out at the sea and wants it to be in his “baahen” (arms)? Heroines flutter their false eyelashes and fans get signatures on Rs 1,000 notes which they then tear with great flourish. Films spout lines such as, “Main tumhare bachche ki maa banne wali hoon.”
Poster of Once Upon a Time in MumbaiWell, Milan Luthria’s film is that sort of film. It’s overwritten, over acted, overcharged but also super fun. Nothing is simple here. Every dialogue is like a philosophical statement. “Jab dost bana kar kaam ho sakta hai to dushman kyon banaye,” says Devgn’s Sultan Mirza as he speaks to the dons of Mumbai–each one has had a movie made on him. “Jinki manzil ek hai woh raaste par hi milte hai,” so says the heroine to her soon-to-be hero. As everyone knows the story is a fictional recreation of the rise of Mumbai’s underworld, of the replacement of the gentler anti-social smuggling of Haji Mastan with the hard nosed, hard hearted gangsterism of Dawood Ibrahim. Devgn is Mirza/Mastan and Emraan Hashmi is Shoaib/Dawood. Mirza has his Madhubala (?) and Shoaib has his Mandakini. Mirza has his all white attire and Shoaib has his all black heart. Mirza is a boy who came to Mumbai in a “machli ki tokri” and Shoaib is the son of an honest police officer.
Yes, yes, with some changes of character here and there it could be Company. It is not, not even because of Devgn’s presence. It is part costume drama, part period film and part crime thriller. It is also all glamour, from the hair on Kangna’s elaborate wigs to the tips of Devgn’s white shoes. Luthria, a Bollywood talent who has for one reason or the other, been languishing on the periphery should come full front and centre with this, fullfilling the early promise of Kache Dhage. He is in command of his film, however melodramatic it may be. A love letter to Mumbai, this is a film that trots out every possible placard signalling it is the 70s. Yes, “Amit” has the intense eyes required to play Mirza in a film (Deewar, anyone?). Yes, Bobby’s polka dot lie-up shirt and hot pants became quite the rage. Yes, Mastan was a Robin Hood character who helped the poor whenever he could. And yes, Dawood was a new age criminal who believed the “ghoda” (gun) was the source of all power and the supari was the solution for all ills.
The movie takes us back to the last years of innocence, when it was clear that the social fabric of Mumbai was tearing. When it was clear that crime paid, got you the bangla, the gadi and the girl. When the police tried to prop one gang against another to create chaos in the underworld. When the economy of shortages meant no opportunities for youngsters. When criminals started becoming more powerful than politicians.
You can understand why then that dialogues like this: ”duniye raakh ki tarah neeche hogi aur khud dhuye ki tarah upar” make so much sense. As does this: “Himmat batai nahin jati, dikhai jati hai.” The clash of civilisations, between Mastan’s gentler way of doing business and Dawood’s criminal ways could not be sharper. Hashmi has played impetuous upstart before and can now do this sort of role in his sleep but he brings a new sleeker danger to Dawood’s role. Devgn is also now a past master at playing the conscience striken criminal–I smuggle those things for which the government doesn’t give permission, not for which my conscience doesn’t. Kangna has never looked lovelier and been more playful. This is one girl who has not come out of a bottle, or even if she has, the bottle is broken. Prachi Desai as Dawood/Shoaib’s girlfriend, who is as “garam” as the food she serves, is suitably tremulous and pleading.
The tragedy is even Dawood’s beginnings look so modest by today’s hugely corrupt standards. He has a two-in-one and phone and expects his girlfriend to be happy. He is not. He is greedy. He wants Mumbai, never mind if the city becomes as dirty as his deeds.
You get the picture, hmm? The film is directed with precision, the drama at a tone that matches the decor, the cabaret, the dialogues. Its cinematography is by Aseem Mishra who shot New York as well. And even the walk-on parts are played pitch perfect, from Randeep Hooda’s policeman, Agnel Wilson, who blames himself for creating a monster, and Naved Aslam is stoic as Patrick, Mastan/Mirza’s Man Friday. As Mastan would say “har kitab ki kismat main library nahin hoti, kuch kabadi ki dukan main milti hain”. But this little number belongs to a full house.
Watch it. It’s like watching a retro fashion show with some cool gun battles thrown in. Lots of rain, lots of crashing of the waves, moody lighting, and dialogues that echo Salmi-Javed at their purplest prose. Ahh. Mumbai when it was still Bombay.
Source: India Today