What happens when a director who always revels in creating two characters and makes them fight with each other tries his hand on a story which has shades of reality in it? Out comes a movie called, “Once Upon a Time in Mumbai.” Milan Luthria is the director and he attempts a story which many recall to be the real story of two most powerful dons of Mumbai, Haji Masthan and Dawood Ibrahim.
The story starts out with ACP Agnel Wilson (Randeep Hooda) attempting a suicide and when interrogated by his superiors, he comes out with events which happened two decades ago. He reveals about a certain Don named Sultan Mirza (Ajay Devgn). Sultan is a man who loved the city of Bombay. He does good for the society in his own illegal way and has the entire city and its waters under his control. He divided the city into his friends, who earlier were his foes. His philosophy is simple, try to make things easier to happen with friendship than make them hard to achieve with enemity.
Sultan is loved by the people who are the receiving end of his generosity and Sultan loves them back. But deep in his heart he harbors a dream to meet Rihanna (Kangana Ranaut), a star in Bollywood. He meets her with a costliest guava on earth and flatters and floors her with wit and charm. Soon the couple are all over the place. A heady mix of crime and glamour takes the city for a ride.
But this is what the police do not want. They do not want the younger generations to follow the footsteps of Sultan. But they are very late to know that many of them are already following Sultan. Shoaib Khan (Emraan Hashmi) is one among the hundreds.
Shoaib is the son of a police inspector but loathes him from childhood. He is a daring man who smooches his girlfriend Mumtaz (Prachi Desai) in the corner of a jewellry store. He is a sort who does not mind to gift his girlfriend a bottle of whisky as a gift. He has one goal in his heart. To rule Bombay like Sultan.
Soon things happen quickly such that Shoaib becomes a protege of Sultan. He rises to be his deputy in such a short notice that his pace worries many. But the difference between Sultan and Shoaib is glaring. Sultan has a conscience and heart, but Shoaib has only victory in his sights and conscience and heart do not matter to him. Things reach a crescendo when Sultan wishes to change his lanes and become a politician. He hands his seat to Shoaib for the time being. What happens next? Will Shoaib let go off the opportunity which he has been dreaming of? Will Sultan be able to make his debut in politics correctly with the help of those he loves? These answers should be found in the Big screen only.
Talking of the performances in the film, Ajay Devgn is surely the heart of the film. With a twitch of his eye and smirk he changes the emotions of the scene. Catch his performance during the interval episode. Or else the way he smokes his cigarette. He is the soul of the film and no other actor in the current generation could have played this complex role to the hilt.
Emraan tried his bit as Shoaib but he has to master the art of acting. He certainly gave his best shot but when at the other end, there is somebody who is living a character, it is rather hard to just continue acting. Emraan surely must have had the privilege of learning from Ajay, the finer nuances of acting. It would be helpful for his future.
The story of the film, penned and directed by Milan Luthria, though is not foolproof. It has certain flaws and holes in it. For instance, the character of Sultan behaves on the borderlines of stupidity. Ditto with Shoaib Khan. And would not any mafia don keep a tab on the activities of his kingdom? There are certain questions which arise in an average movie goer’s mind which are left unanswered. The climax episode which should have been an emotional high never reaches to that scale and instead comes off as a bland episode. Certainly more depth in the characterisations would have helped in elevating the mood. But what did the director want to extract out of Randeep hooda’s character? It certainly does nothing than wag in self pity at being at the receiving end of Sultan and Shoaib.
The cinematography and the art-direction are of top-notch quality as they have created the Bombay of 70s to come alive right in front of our eyes. Even the styling of the characters needs a mention. The technicalities of the film were too good that the producer, Ekta kapoor needs a pat on the back for the effort. But one complaint though with regard to the dialogues, there are too many punch lines which diilute the characters. The Editor seems to have forgotten that the movie should move rather than just talk.
On the whole, Once Upon a Time in Mumbai is an effort which could have become a classic if there was more action in the film rather than just talk. A classic case of a CLASSY EFFORT becoming just a GOOD EFFORT.