Ratings: * * *
Films on underworld have been a regular feature in Bollywood right from the time of Shiva, then moving on to Satya, Vaastav and Company till the recent ones like Gangster and Shootout At Lokhandwala to name a few. Because of the success and popularity of these films, Milan Luthria’s Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai turns out to be one of those ‘been-there-seen-that’ sagas despite some intelligent direction and sleek presentation.
To make matters worse, the culmination of the story is fearfully similar to Ram Gopal Varma’s Company. Plus, as the word has spread that the film is based on Haji Mastan and Dawood Ibrahim’s friendship and rivalry, the story becomes predictable for most of us.
Perhaps the only novel thing offered here is the exploration of the underworld in Mumbai during the 70s, an area which is hardly explored in Bollywood. It is during this era that Sultan Mirza (Ajay Devgan or Devgn) ruled over Mumbai. Although a smuggler by profession, Sultan is a messiah for the poor and underprivileged. As his ruthlessness never hurts an innocent, he enjoys a Godly status in Bombay (then called). Then there’s Shoaib (Emraan Hashmi) who has been a notorious goon since early childhood. Fate brings Shoaib and Sultan together. What happens next forms the rest of the story and the history of Mumbai.
Luthria’s presentation of Mumbai in the yesteryears is the biggest plus point. The director also makes his mark felt in a number of praiseworthy and stylized scenes especially during the climax, which is wonderfully shot.
Things would have looked better if Luthria was blessed with a powerfully punched story and screenplay (Rajat Arora). There aren’t many punches or kicks during the first half while the film gains momentum only during the pre-climax portions. Although the dialogues are witty and intelligent, they tend to become a bit too philosophical particularly the lines given to Randeep Hooda.
Contrary to most of the gangster movies, OUATIM scores in the music department (Pritam) with tracks Pee Loon and Tum Jo Aaye standing out. Aseem Mishra’s cinematography jells well with the mood of the flick.
Ajay Devgan to Once Upon A Time In Mumbai is what petrol is to a car. The actor gives one of his most powerful performances while portraying anger, sympathy, joy, ruthlessness, sadness and power with utmost ease. A sheer delight! However, his act doesn’t overshadow Emraan Hashmi’s baddie act that he enacts perfectly. This actor is coming of age from a ‘serial kisser’ image.
Although there isn’t much to do for the ladies, Kangna Ranaut and Prachi Desai manage to fit well in their characters. Randeep Hooda in the role of the ACP is quite good.
One won’t be disappointed with if he/she isn’t expecting newness from Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai. Definitely worth a watch if you are looking for an interesting modernly crafted flick with lots of style and a powerful background score. The good opening, especially in the single screens, will make sure the film enjoys good returns in the first two weeks.