Saturday, July 30, 2011
#168: Once Upon a Time in Mumbai
Milan Luthria, the director is the kind of cricketer Ajay Jadeja used to be. They were both quite accessible to the mass, they provided good snappy entertainment and overall when you look back at them as entertainers, you'll tend to think that they were not bad at all. Luthria's filmography makes for a passable lineup with movies like Kachche Dhaage, Deewar and Taxi No. 911 to his credit. Once Upon a Time in Mumbai was a picture Luthria directed in 2010 that was written by Rajat Arora and was based on the Mumbai underworld that flourished in the 1970s.
Ajay Devgan is Sultan Mirza, the Don Corleone among upcoming gangsters of the Mumbai of the 70s. He is upright, fair and empathetic towards his ilk and the general public. In a dialogue that must've sent temperatures soaring in the single screens up north, he sternly reprimands a smuggler saying 'Main un cheezon ko karta hoon jinki sarkaar ijaazat nahi deti, un cheezon ko nahi jinko zameer ijaazat nahi deti...'. His imagery is understandably larger-than-life and he starts courting a Bollywood actress Rehana (Kangana Ranaut), a love story that is most likely inspired from the Haji Mastan-Parveen Babi liasion. As Sultan Mirza's ascendancy touches it's peak in Mumbai, an upstart Shoaib Khan (Emraan Hashmi) starts working for him and becomes his loyal confidante. Shoaib is arrogant and flashy in his manners and it not before time that differences in styles of the master and disciple come to a clash.
The two part ways and how their clash pans out is the primary conflict in the movie. With as decent a premise as this, Once Upon... has all the pieces set well in the first half. Ajay Devgan is extremely credible in yet another role as a gangster, something he delivered flawlessly in the peerless Company. and almost matches that performance for it's intensity. Emraan Hashmi, on the other hand is the lousy actor that only he can be in a very serious role. It was shocking that Balaji Pictures, a team whose cinematic sense is not that bad, would opt for him as the ruthless criminal that his character required him to be. Prachi Desai and Kangana Ranaut are simple yet sincere in their respective roles as leading ladies here. Unfortunately at any point, if Ajay Devgan raises the scale of drama through his acting, you can be rest assured that Emraan will step in to make a hash (no pun intended) of it. And that void is felt more so in the couple of scenes in which Sultan and Shoaib confront each other. The Mumbai of the 70s is captured well through the eyes of Aseem Mishra and a special mention for the costumes by Manoshi Nath and Rushi Sharma that made it seem like a genuine period movie.
Once Upon... is a movie that will never bore you and yet it will not make you believe that it is anything special. The moment Ajay Devgan goes off screen the movie loses its tempo. As a result, this becomes your average thriller that will only be remembered as a movie that had a very good actor shouldering the bulk of the movie's journey.