What is it all about?
Milan Lutharia who gave the absorbing 'Taxi No. Nau Do Gyarah', comes with a killer concept which delivers as it promised on paper-destined to rule not only Mumbai but the entire India, the flick is a toast to Bollywood gangster flicks and undoubtedly rewinds the 70's, 80's nostalgia where you loved 'Deewar', 'Dharmatma', 'Ooche Log', 'Scarface' and still do. Concentrating equally on the production, drama, writing, acting and music, 'Once Upon....' is a loaded Bollywood gun that fires the right bullets at the right time.
The Story...of course
Meet the bhai's of the seventies, the long locks with bellbottoms and shapely carved boots (wonder if the late Haji Mastan - the reference for Ajay Devgan had ever wore them, white is fine but the fur cap is missing. Anyways.... It's the time when gold was the no.1 hot item for the bhais and drugs have still not entered.
The don with principles Sultan Mirza (Ajay Devgan) ruled the city, the film presents the rise and reign of Sultan over the city and his tempestuous relationship with his biggest fan-turned-foe, Shoaib Khan (Emraan Hashmi) who joins him as a gangster, only to outplay him and take over his empire.
What to look out for?
The film has its strengths, It is fastidious in its quest to recreate the styles, manners, talk and cultural minutiae of the 70's 80's the 'Deewar', 'Dharmatma', 'Oonche Log' type of goonda movies we loved in our childhood and still do. There's a real spirit of using the film to transport the viewer into the past. It gives you an exhilarating sense of the similarities and differences between then and now.
The earrings, the long locks, bell bottoms, the care free decade which had guns, girls, cabaret are in details, the movie has some replay moments like the character introduction of Ajay Devgn and Emraan Hashmi from childhood, Ajay's train sequence at the very start, during the end when the beggar accuses her messiah the Robinhood godfather Ajay for killing his son, the childhood scene of Ajay when he gives his one rupee coin to a old lady.
And the one when Kangana Ranaut tells Ajay that a movie can be made on him and a newcomer Amit (read Amitabh Bachchan) can deliver the goods, he has very expressive eyes like you... instantly you go back to Big B in 'Deewar'.... Bingo! That's what every writer, director and actor dream to achieve, make the viewer think and react the way they want to and that's a rare cinematic achievement. Very select few have been able to achieve this feat and Milan Lutharia proudly adds himself to the esteemed list.
Script and dialogues by Rajat Arora are absorbingly tight and comes with depth. Milan Lutharia's major triumph is in showing us the diversity in the ganglords of Mumbai, Ajay's character which draws reference from Haji Mastan is a god fearing don of principles, a god father who was able to rule because he followed his heart and got respect, Emraan character which draws reference from Dawood Ibrahim is of a cunning shrewd person who only follows his desire, who wants to win and power is his only motto, he fears no one.
Milan Luthria's narration is smooth and he gets superb support from the art design of Nitin Chandrakant Desai to paint his vision on the screen. The movie is in sync with the 70's retro look. Technically slick with smart editing by Akiv Ali and first rate production values.
As it happens with the lucky Emraan, this movie also has one potential hit number "Pee Loon", the background score is awesome and the remix of RD and Lata's exceptional "Duniya Mein" from 'Apna Desh' is finely done and the lens work of Aseem Mishra is outstanding.
The performances are topnotch.
We all know Ajay Devgn is superb in such role and Sultan is a tailor made role for him but with 'Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai', the actor goes beyond himself. In those whites and 555 pack of cigarettes and those lighters, his calmly spoken voice with a slight baritone dash with dialogues that reach straight to your heart easily help the marvelous actor to get into the skin of the character with perfection to give a knock out performance. The actor with the most expressive eyes in Bollywood measures the scale of the role and the film finely and lifts it to a new height, the charisma of Ajay as Sultan in the film works as the backbone of the film.
Emraan Hashmi is brilliant as the shrewd, luccha, ambitious, power hungry goonda, his one liner "Kal karonga toh aaj bura man jayega" should go well with the masses. His romantic encounter with Prachi has also come out well.
Kangna Ranaut is pretty and looks desirable, her chemistry with Ajay Devgn is natural and sweet. The lass brings the much needed glamour in the bhai story.
Prachi Desai is an actress par excellence and she delivers with panache. Her expressions can make any season actress run for their money and her chemistry with Emraan is bubbly, lovingly and amazingly aggressive.
Randeep Hooda does a fine act and manages to make his mark in this bhai story which stores maximum glory for the lead actors Ajay and Emraan.
Supportive cast chips in with quality support, Avtar Gill as the home minister, Naved Aslam as Patrick, Mehul Bhojak as Emraan's friend Javed, Ravi Khanwilkar as Vardhan do a good job and Gauhar Khan provides the required oomph in the cabaret.
Why start from the Mumbai serial blast and narrate it from the cops angle yaar, should have been straight from Ajay's childhood, it demanded more action and aggression. The second half should have run with some more pace.
Kangana's illness and Ajay's proposal of marriage in the hospital was uncalled for. The conflict between Ajay and Emraan when Ajay comes back to Mumbai could have been more aggressive and intense.
Conclusion: 'Once Upon A Time In Mumabaai' is a stylish, spirited, nostalgia with power packed performance; Miss it at your own risk.