ONCE UPON A TIME IN MUMBAAI
Dir: Milan Luthria
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi, Kangna Ranaut, Prachi Desai
WHAT'S IT ABOUT: Fact can sometimes be sluggish and fiction, lop-sided. So when one is attempting a combination of the two, especially within the parameters of commercial cinema, it's never an easy task. Which is why producer Ekta Kapoor and director Milan Luthria need to be lauded for their joint efforts for the heady cocktail called Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai. The eclectic mix of real and reel results in one of the finest offerings on celluloid this year. Set in the '70s, OUATIM tells the story of Sultan Mirza (Ajay Devgn) who lands in the city of dreams as a child, and grows up to become the most feared and respected person in Mumbai's sinister underbelly. For the cops, Sultan is the shrewd Don, and for the masses, he's a messiah. Sultan's 'smuggling' activities are limited to the city's waters and he keeps the streets of Mumbai clean of crime. Enter the son of a cop, Shoaib, (Emraan Hashmi) who hero worships Sultan and wants to emulate him in every way. Shoaib, drawn to the dark side, soon joins Sultan and wins his trust. But while Sultan has his set of ideals even when it comes to crime, Shoaib has none -- he's a man in a hurry to become the undisputed don. This is what leads to the confrontation between the two and with the law-enforcers sitting on the fence for their own motives, it is the city of Mumbai that eventually pays the price.
WHAT'S HOT: OUATIM is a cinematic triumph -- the film is edgy, raw, thrilling and completely entertaining. Milan Luthria captures the vintage look and detailing of 'Bombay' meticulously. Especially the clutter-free skyline of the city, now spoilt by ugly skyscrapers. The story and screenplay by Rajat Aroraa are the film's highlights -- the narrative through the eyes of a senior cop (Randeep Hooda) is a classic touch. Aroraa's dialogues are the best in recent years -- taking you back to the time of loaded punchlines and unrestrained heroism. Luthria's finest stroke comes in the form of the interplay between his lead characters. Just like your heart beats for Sultan and his magnanimity, you're also made to witness a viable perspective from Shoaib's angle. The two stories, at one time, run parallel and the way Luthria effectively connects them at one point, truly defines his calibre as a master story-teller. The way he's also added some sweeping romance in this tale is also praiseworthy. Every moment of Sultan's love story with actress Rehana (Kangna Ranaut) is filled with pathos. And Shoaib's track with his girlfriend Mumtaz (Prachi Desai) has dollops of grey humour and unpredictability. Don't miss the references to film star Kaka; and emerging new superstar Amit "who has eyes just like Sultan"; the banner of a '70s film in a fleeting shot; the Mandakini look-alike who wins Shoaib's affections, and many more. The background score by Sandeep Shirodkar is one of the many highlights of the movie. Pritam comes into form again with some delightful compositions. OUATIM also stands apart for the stellar performances by the film's cast -- Kangna is totally convincing as a yesteryear heroine. Prachi looks charming and delivers her finest performance to date. Randeep as top cop is the surprise packet with his perfect command on demeanour and diction. Emraan, as the ambitious Shoaib, ignites every frame with his presence and delivers his career-best. The heart and soul of OUATIM is Ajay Devgn in a tailor-made role. The dignity he brings to Sultan's character -- the walk, the talk, the brooding eyes -- is unparalleled. Ajay makes Sultan a fictional legend. Quite easily, this is one of the finest performances by an actor this year.
WHAT'S NOT: The one hiccup in this near-perfect script is Sultan's sudden disappearance from the scene to pursue another career, which gives Shoaib the liberty to strategise his own rise. The reasoning seems abrupt just like his tryst in Delhi where he's positioned during that time. It's difficult to comprehend how a man who's created his own kingdom would give up on it so easily and wouldn't even keep a check on it when he's away. The silver lining is that Luthria doesn't waste time on it -- the speed picks up again, racing to a climax that's dramatic as well as disturbing.
WHAT TO DO: One of the best films of 2010, OUATIM takes mainstream Hindi cinema to a new high. Go for it -- now!