The rumors that the film was based on the real-life affair between gangster Dawood Ibrahim and starlet Mandakini, the stylish promos with a ravishing Sonakshi, a different Imraan Khan and a distinctly evil looking Akshay Kumar, were appetite-whetting and the film did not disappoint, even though the story was nowhere as gripping as the original Once Upon a Time.
Shoaib (Kumar), the wily kingpin returns from Dubai to seamy Mumbai to set right an underling (Mahesh Manjrekar) who has dared to defy him and could become a major threat. To bring him to book, he appoints his right hand man, Aslam (Khan), whom he trusts as much as one can in that treacherous world. Enter the chirpy Jasmine (Sinha) who has come to Mumbai with starry aspirations but unwittingly becomes the bone of contention between Aslam and Shoaib. Whether love changes the rotten-to-the-core Shoaib for better and whether the friendship will survive this tough test is the somewhat predictable plot of the story.
What saves the movie is the deft way the director Luthria handles the two love-stories. The quirky one with Kumar keeps one glued to the seats. And the way Kumar turns on his evilness when Jasmine scorns his overtures is worthy of applause. Kumar’s unabashed flamboyance remains endearing despite his dark character.
Khan does justice to the goon character despite his chocolate-boy looks which don’t quite hide behind the new facial hair that he sports. Kudos to the director for excellent casting.
Sinha is breathtakingly beautiful and cast in the perfect mold of heroines of the bygone era.
She delivers as the naïve newbie and then as the tormented soul. A surprise package is Bendre, in a small but effective cameo, as Shoaib’s long-suffering once-upon-a-time mistress.
The movie, when compared to the original, lacks in pace. However it makes up with excellent cinematography and the period setting which includes movie-posters and Fiat taxis, of the Bombays in the 70s and 80s.
The music is not even close to the songs of the original film which had topped all charts. But Rajat Arora’s dialogues are as melodramatic as they were in Luthria’s earlier pot-boilers Once upon a time in Mumbai and The Dirty Picture.
All in all, worth a watch if you enjoy old world unapologetic Bollywood. And never mind the lack of logic—it never was important those days!
Madhumita Gupta is a freelance writer and a teacher.