ONCE UPON A TIME IN MUMBAI
One of the most common beginnings for stories which we read as children is “Long, long ago”. An equally common beginning is: Once upon a time. However, the movies which have their titles beginning with “One …” are in no way directed towards children. There have been four movies released thus far : “Once upon a time in the West (1968)”, “Once upon a time in America (1984), “Once upon a time in Mexico (2003)” and now we have “Once upon a time in Mumbai(2010)”. The first three are Hollywood productions and the last one is a Bollywood creation. Without exception, however, all the movies have to do with gangsters and violence and have all been applauded by the critics. Yes, including our own OUATIM!
Milan Luthria’s directorial effort, OUATIM pulsates with life from the very first scene and keeps throbbing throughout. There is scarcely a dull moment and Pritam’s background score suitably amended to reflect the 1970s feel adds to that feeling. The movie opens with a standard disclaimer about any similarities between the characters in the movie and real life personalities being coincidental and unintentional; but this is the first time the disclaimer mentions a name of a personality: Haji Mastan. Were the shrewd Shobha Kapoor and Ekta Kapoor (the producers of this movie) wary of being sued for a rather correct depiction or did they get a feeling that the successors of Haji Mastan would demand a percentage of the moolah from the box-office receipts of this movie (which, according to me must be very substantial!)?
This is not the first time that Haji Mastan has served as an inspiration for a Bollywood production. The first part of the blockbuster DEEWAR of the eighties (not to be mistaken for DEEWAR directed by Milan Luthria) also centred on the making of the smuggler (portrayed by Amitabh), but very soon, the movie moved to a dramatic track involving the right and the wrong. Milan sticks to the theme throughout but the conflict he weaves in the story (conceived by Rajat Arora, who has worked with Milan earlier on) is not the easy one between right and wrong, but the tough one between different grades of wrongs.
Ajay Devgn, who has starred in three of the six directorial ventures of Milan, once again comes across as a competent performer, and he excels in roles which portray him as the angry, hurt personality (remember his performance in the recent RAAJNEETI?). Emraan Hashmi (better known as the Serial Kisser) also puts up a good show and manages to smooch yet again, although for a fleeting moment! The female interests are provided by a full bodied Kangna Ranaut and Prachi Desai; the latter suffers on account of a superficial characterization. The art director and the costume designer have managed to faithfully recreate the Mumbai of the seventies; the dialogues are also hard hitting. Where the movie suffers is the over simplistic rendering of the plot, but the sum total of the credits ensure that you gloss over this important failing.
Shobha and Ekta have had millions of Indian families glued to the home watching the inane family serials; now we have them create something not for family viewing, but for the macho and urban audiences who will lap it up readily! They sure spell success!