Saturday, May 04, 2013

Shootout At Wadala 

Gangs Of Mumbai

Sanjay Gupta’s Shootout At Wadala, pulls off a very clever trick.  It piques viewer interest, by publicising the ‘real’ story aspect of the film (based on parts of S. Hussain Zaidi’s book Dongri to Dubai) —the first recorded encounter of a gangster in Mumbai, back in 1982.  But instead of a Scorsese-like study of socio-economic conditions and racial tensions (wrapped up in period grandeur) that built the gangs in the US, Gupta proceeds to make a rabble-pleaser, with three ‘item’ songs, dialogue peppered with cusswords, a sprinkling of sex, lots of violence, terrific chase and killing sequences, plus the Greek God physique of John Abraham. Why won’t the target audience of goggle-eyed men, enamoured of gangland legends flock to it?

Gupta’s realism is, of course, selective and manipulative.  By turning his protagonist Manohar ‘Manya’ Surve (Abraham) a nice chawl boy in love (Kangna Ranaut as the vapid girlfriend) wanting to study and escape that life, into a victim of police brutality, the audience’s sympathy shifts towards Manya and stays there. Also, the role of then powerful gangster Varadarajan Mudaliar in getting Manya killed is conveniently dropped.

The other real life characters are given fictitious names, which gives Gupta leeway to take liberties with the actual rise and death of Manya—the daring escape from prison, for instance, was not so spectacular in real life; Manya had been taken to hospital from where it was easy for him to run away. 

There are also the standard scenes of the innocent in prison, building his body, thrashing the bully and becoming the leader.  A film like this, made with the purpose of mythologizing a man who was a bandit, extortionist and crook, automatically calls for grandiose confrontations with rival gangsters, a lot of dialoguebaazi and muscle-flexing.  The two men who take a backseat in this film--but there’s a movie about them in the making-- are the Kaskar brothers, called Haskar here—Dilawar (Sonu Sood) and Zubair (Manoj Bajpayee), obviously Dawood and Sabir.

For audience with good memories, this sort of gangster film is one big cliché,  so many scenes are lifted from other films, it’s hard to keep track—Satya (of course!) and Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai come immediately to mind.  But Gupta adds large dollops of cinematic swagger to the scenes—for instance, Manya’s bare-chested, BEST bus-hijack to save his friend Munir (Tusshar Kapoor). The director and his DOPs also capture the by lanes of Dongri and the Muslim core of Mumbai with an expert eye for detail.

The encounter cops are represented by Anil Kapoor and Ronit Roy, who are frustrated at being shackled by the law, when gangsters run around freely.  In a silly device, Gupta has a Manya Surve with a dozen bullet holes in his body, tell his story to the accompanying cop (Kapoor) and even recalling scenes in which he wasn’t present. 

Shootout at Wadala will work wonders for John Abraham. He easily eclipses better actors than himself, by his magnetic presence. Even if he doesn’t win acting awards, his work in this film, will take his career to a higher plane.


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