From the dark and dangerous cinematic world of Ram Gopal Verma, to the raw and piercing depiction of Anurag Kahsyap, the gangster film genre has come of age in Bollywood.
Here, the subject of the underworld, full of dangerous goons controlling cities, has been particularly important to many film-makers. Films like Satya tackle this subject aptly, and a classic like Gangs of Wasseypur — which is more about gang wars than the underworld — has really set new benchmarks in terms of treatment.
So where does a film like Once Upon a time in Mumbai Dobara fit in the aforementioned spectrum? Its prequel, a glossy and polished rendition of an essentially dark world, could be placed somewhere in the middle of two extremes. But the latest in the franchise does not merit being measured on the same scale.
Milan Luthria’s OUATIMD is a misleading sequel to an honest film. While we have witnessed love stories develop in gangster narratives, this film does quite the opposite — it forces two gangsters into a love triangle. The result is a film that fails to satisfy in both the gangster story and love story departments.
The film is about Shoaib (Akshay Kumar), a ruthless and handsome Muslim goon who pledges to rule all of Mumbai. He has the power and connections to delay the toss of a test match, as well as decide who gets awards in showbiz.
His companions are his long-time love Mumtaz (Sonali Bendre), who he still trusts more than anyone, his partner Javed (Sarfaraz Khan), and Aslam (Imran Khan), the young foot soldier discovered by Shoaib 12 years ago who is now ready to kill or be killed for him.
After being out of Bombay for some time, Shoaib returns to the city only to be the intended victim of a car bomb, courtesy his former partner Rawal (Mahesh Manjrekar). He makes a lucky escape, but is focused on revenge. While his gang is gunning for Rawal, Shoaib meets Jasmine (Sonakshi Sinha), a Kashmiri girl who is a rookie of the film industry. Shoaib falls for her and the rest is a predictable series of events that makes this film more of a love saga and less of an intense gangster film.
As far as the script is concerned, there are some good one-liners that will leave you thinking. But the cracks show when the film relies so much on one-liners that it becomes more of a competition of words and less of dialogue. The plot is weak and unconvincing — a good example of poor storytelling. The film lingers on too long and if you think it has something more to offer, it disappoints.
Having said that, Akshay pulls off the vintage bad-guy look with style. He definitely has the presence required for such a dominating character. Sinha again plays a powerful lead role with a lot of command and bits of overacting. Imran Khan, unfortunately, is a little too clean for a gangster’s sidekick. Given his character, however, he plays the role of a boy trying to be a man with some success. In a nutshell, the characters lacked detail because they come across as high school kids fighting over a woman and occasionally dancing to some catchy music by Pritam.
Verdict 2/5: It’s neither a gangster film nor a proper love triangle. If you are looking for something in the middle, then it’s meant for you. Otherwise save yourself the time and money.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2013.