The fascination with gangster movies has been immense worldwide. On this side of the Atlantic, several gangster films have left giant footprints on the sands of time. Films like Deewar (Yash Chopra), Dharmatma (Feroz Khan), Nayakan (Mani Ratnam), Angaar (Shashilal Nair), Parinda (Vidhu Vinod Chopra), Agneeth (Mukul Anand), Satya and Company (Ramgopal Varma), Vaastav (Mahesh Manjrekar), Gangster (Anurag Basu), D (Vishram Sawant) and Shootout Ta Lokhandwala (Apoorva Lakhia) have tremendous recall value to this day.
Once Upon A Time in Mumbai recreates an era that so many of us have left behind and for those who arrived on this planet post 80s, I am sure, they must have visited the era through some medium or the other, mainly movies and internet or during their academic careers.
Once Upon A Time in Mumbai is not part of history, but it attempts to portray on celluloid tales that are now considered legendary, that continue to make news to this date. Of course, the disclaimer claims that it bears no resemblance to a particular person, but you can't help but draw parallels with real-life characters. It could be a coincidence, though!
Once Upon A Time in Mumbai is a fascinating story that talks of how the mafia came into force for the first time in Mumbai. A thriller that depicts the crime scenario in Mumbai during the 70s and 80s. The rise to power of two young boys, in different age-groups, who grew up to 'rule' the streets of Mumbai.
Since there's tremendous speculation in the media that Once Upon A Time in Mumbai chronicles the lives of Haji Mastan and Dawood Ibrahim, the curiosity to watch the film increases manifold. Of course, I am no one to comment if it's actually based on their lives or merely borrows a few incidents from their lives or is pure fiction, but as a cinematic experience, I couldn't help getting transported to the bygone era, getting sucked into a world I had no clue of.
Besides the gangster chapter, one enjoys this film also because of its riveting drama and the power play. It could've been set anywhere, in the corporate world, in politics, in the film industry. Anywhere. The rise and subsequent fall of the King and the emergence of the Prince as the super power is what makes this film a compelling watch. The icing on the cake is the magical and lilting song compositions that are juxtaposed so beautifully in the goings-on. On the sidelines of the power play, a game of hearts is being played and that's what makes Once Upon A Time in Mumbai a wholesome movie experience.
Final word? Once Upon A Time in Mumbai is not to be missed. Set everything aside this coming weekend and watch this one. Strongly recommended!
The film, set primarily in 1970s Mumbai, follows the rise of Sultan Mirza (Ajay Devgn) and the conflict that ensues, when his protege Shoaib Khan (Emraan Hashmi) challenges his supremacy and usurps power to rule the murky underbelly of Mumbai.
Once Upon A Time in Mumbai is a power-packed drama that makes you thirst for more. You rewind to an era of romance, smuggling, cabaret and mafia, but director Milan Luthria and writer Rajat Aroraa ensure that there's no sleaze or bloodshed-n-gore. In fact, there's hardly any violent sequence in the movie, except for one when Ajay hammers a cop during a naaka-bandi.
Once Upon A Time in Mumbai is not a biopic, but narrates the story through the eyes of a police officer (Randeep Hooda), who traces the changing face of the Mumbai underworld. The screenplay encompasses several moments that may compel you to draw parallels with real life, but talking strictly from the movie-going point of view, it satiates you completely. In fact, the writing is cohesive, smart and watertight and there's never a dull moment. Besides, there's no time to think whether it's factual or loosely based on someone's life or a work of fiction.
As I look back and recall the movie, a number of sequences flash across my mind. Note the sequence when Ajay divides the city amongst gangsters... The train sequence at the very start... The introduction of Emraan Hashmi's character... Randeep Hooda's landing on a film set and confiscating the equipment... The subsequent sequence, when Randeep is framed for accepting bribe... The romantic moments between Emraan and Prachi in the jewellery shop... Emraan starting his business and the confrontation that ensues between Ajay and Randeep... The showdown between Ajay and Emraan, with Ajay slapping Emraan in full public view... The conclusion to the story is equally novel. It stays in your memory and sets you thinking.
On the flipside, the story begins with Randeep attempting suicide, but the writer should've cited the reason that prompted him to take that drastic step. Sure, there's a mention at the start, but it doesn't register well. Also, you are keen to know the chain of events that drove Randeep to suicide. Also, the pace slackens in the middle of the second hour, but picks up dramatically when Ajay returns from Delhi and confronts Emraan. Besides, how I wish the film had a shorter, mass appealing Hindi title to attract more eyeballs and a big jump in footfalls (at single screens and smaller centres mainly) for a mass appealing subject like this.
This is director Milan Luthria's best work to date, no two opinions on that. Recreating the bygone era is tough and the director, the writer and the art director (Nitin Chandrakant Desai) deserve brownie points for giving the film that authentic feel. In fact, the film wears a chic retro look throughout. Even otherwise, Milan's handling of the subject material is exemplary. This film is sure to catapult him to the top league. Rajat Aroraa's screenplay is powerful and engaging. The writer marries heavy-duty drama and subtle and delicate emotions beautifully. I would like to make a special note of the dialogue, also penned by Rajat Aroraa, which are simply fantastic. In fact, the dialogue writing is such it elevates even an ordinary sequence to great levels. One rarely comes across such potent dialogue in today's times.
Pritam's music is another ace. Injecting songs and that too a terrific soundtrack in a gangster film is tough. He did it in Gangster. He does it again in Once Upon A Time in Mumbai. 'Pee Loon', 'Tum Jo Aaye' and the remix of Apna Desh track are super compositions, which are also placed appropriately in the plotline. Cinematography (Aseem Mishra) captures the look to perfection. Akiv Ali's editing is sharp.
Once Upon A Time in Mumbai is embellished with fantastic performances. Ajay Devgn is splendid as Sultan. The actor had enacted a similar role in Company, but it must be said that his interpretation is so different in Once Upon A Time in Mumbai. He adds so much depth to the character, which only goes to prove his range and versatility. This is, without a trace of doubt, Ajay's finest work so far. Emraan Hashmi is brilliant as the power greedy, wildly ambitious rebel. He plays the dark character to perfection. He's incredible in the penultimate moments of the film in particular. Besides carrying the look to perfection, Emraan is sure to break-free from the lover boy, serial kisser image with this film.
Kangana Ranaut is extremely natural and performs very well. Also, she brings so much of sensuality and glamour to her character (an actress of the 70s). In fact, Ajay and Kangana make a wonderful on-screen pair. Prachi Desai is a bundle of talent who proves her mettle yet again. She's proficient in emotional scenes and sizzles in the Bobby song-sequence. Besides, the chemistry between Emraan and Prachi is exciting. Randeep Hooda is top notch. Even though the film belongs to Ajay and Emraan, Randeep makes his presence felt with a powerful performance. This film should prove to be the turning point in his career.
Avtar Gill (as Home Minister) is good. Naved Aslam (as Patrick, Ajay's trusted lieutenant) is perfect. Mehul Bhojak (as Emraan's friend Javed) is competent. Ravi Khanwilkar (as Vardhan) is satisfactory. Gauhar Khan sizzles in the remix track.
On the whole, Once Upon A Time in Mumbai is an extremely well-made film that lingers in your memory. The realism coupled with stellar direction, power-packed writing, exceptional performances and ear-pleasing tunes are its trump cards. An outstanding cinematic experience!
Director: Milan Luthria
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi, Kangana Ranaut, Prachi Desai, Randeep Hooda, Gauhar Khan, Avtar Gill