Movie Review: Once Upon Ay Time In Mumbai Dobaara!
Walk very gently into this film, if you must. There is enough plywood used inside to build the sets and so much plastic around in terms of performances that if you’re not careful, the whole film might just collapse on your head. I think it did mine. I am still reeling under the heavy assault of fake dialoguebaazi and even faker 1980s to think and write clearly about exactly what happened once upon a time in Bombay when there was a don, whose name was Shoaib, he was not a terrorist, but pretty much a dodo.
He liked a woman (Sonakshi Sinha), a movie starlet, who was an insufferable bore. I am not sure if she liked him back, though it did seem so initially. I thought they had even made passionate love. But maybe I was dreaming, or they both were. Despite hanging out with him for days on end, she apparently had no clue that he was a huge gangster. Yet, every few minutes he would tell his audience that the whole of Bombay lived inside his pocket: “Samundar ke baad Bambai Shoaib se jaani jaati hai.” He would also refer to Bombay like his personal pet: Bambai yeh, Bambai woh, “Bambai huss rahi hai, Kumkum se Kimi Katkar ki terah lag rahi hai!” But I don’t think anybody knew him in Bombay.
My memory is hazy on this matter, but I guess he had come back from one of the Gulf countries to find his arch-enemy (Mahesh Manjrekar). The police was after him. After landing in the city he had to pose as a taxi driver to hoodwink the cops. Soon thereafter he conveniently forgot the man he had to kill and the police he had to hide from. He would walk around freely in Gateway of India, commit murders in busy streets of South Bombay in broad daylight, chill out at film award nights, live the good life.
This don also had a trusted assistant Aslam (Imran Khan), in stone-washed jeans, wearing a long side-burn, looking dumbfounded at everything around, which you couldn’t blame him for. He was also friends with the same starlet–the big fat bore—that his boss liked. To kill time, this boy and the girl, when not making inane conversations, would sit in a mud-pit underneath a railway track while the train passed over their head. It must’ve been thrilling to do that. Given how well a certain romantic action comedy is doing at the theatres, a wit told me, that train passing over the head was Chennai Express!
While the details are still fuzzy in my head, you roughly know what this film is about. Two guys who like the same girl, that sort of dead tiring rivalry thing, I guess. Once Upon A Time In Mumbai, this movie’s prequel remains more vivid in public memory. It was a loud, thoroughly entertaining homage to Salim-Javed scripts of the ‘70s: high on drama, breezy with one-liners, packed with masala. Ajay Devgn had played the central character in that movie. Devgn also played a role inspired by the underworld don Dawood Ibrahim like the one here in Ram Gopal Varma’s phenomenal Company. Those insouciant, cool sort of characters suit him because he doesn’t try too hard. You ought to first behave cool when playing cool.
In this picture, Akshay Kumar plays the Mafiosi. Maaf kijiyega (sorry to say), but you’re not sure if his character is a cartoon or a don. Long collars jutting out of his jacket, wide goggles over his eyes, he blows a pall of smoke instead of inhaling the tobacco in his cigarette, and always appears with a backlight and a half shadow over his face. He delivers lines as if he fishes out a book of poor rhymes and bad poetry whenever he has to even say hello: “Naam bataya toh pehchan bura maan jayegi… Daan kiya toh dhanda bura maan jayega… Jisne doodh mein nimmbu daala, paneer uski.”
But that is true of everybody else in the film. The drawl is infectious. When Akki man pauses to parts his lips, you hold your breath for his next impersonation of Jeevan ‘The Rabert’ from Amar Akbar Anthony, say it slowly, “Dactarrr, agar isko kuch hua toh tera post mortem pucca,” “Mein woh hoon jo sabki maa behn karna chahta hoon, Aslam. Villain hoon mein. Villain!” Cracked up? Paisa vasool! The joke is sadly on the hero. So was the film. Each appearance of his on the screen is designed like a grand entry.
Talking of entries, to be fair the other one, Aslam, had warned you about the film in his first scene itself, “Abhi toh meri entry hui hai. The end aane mein bahut time hai mere dost.” Masla wahi hai (that’s the issue), screw the masala, there are 160 minutes of this to sit through.