Two things got me super excited about watching Shootout at Wadala. First, it was based on crime reporter S. Hussain Zaidi’s book Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia; I am a sucker for the Mumbai noir genre. Secondly, when the first promos hit the Internet, we found out that the characters Manya Surve (John Abraham) and Dawood Ibrahim (Sonu Sood) were audaciously addressed by their real names. This was unheard of in Bollywood, as in the past, filmmakers have always used aliases, especially when it came to Ibrahim’s name, even though it was implied in film titles such as D-Company.
Imagine my disappointment, when Dawood Ibrahim had been turned into Dilawar Imtiaz Haskar. The reasons behind this sudden change remain unknown. But it is speculated that Ibrahim’s name did not sit well with some, and to avoid complications, the producers had it changed, along with cop Isaque Bagwan’s name to Afaaque.
Manya begins as a college student who envisions a bright future for himself. Circumstances change for him the day he gets wrongly arrested on the charges of aiding his criminal half-brother in a murder. In jail, his brother is stabbed to death, and Manya is forced to defend himself with the help of a new-found friend Munir (Tusshar Kapoor). Together they escape prison, rob banks, and soon form their own gang. New to Mumbai’s crime ring, Manya tries to establish a name for himself through extortion and murders, challenging other gangsters and promising to become the don of the Mumbai underworld, aka “Bombay ka Baap.” This, of course, rubs others the wrong way and sparks a gory rivalry between Manya and the Haskar brothers.
The impressive star cast includes the never-aging actor Anil Kapoor as the daring Afaaque. Manoj Bajpai plays Dilawar’s older brother Zubair Haskar, the fictional name of Shabir Ibrahim Kaskar and brother of Ibrahim. Much has been said about John Abraham, who has buffed-up (more than usual) to play the part of Manya. He starts out as a lovable guy trying to make an honest living and ends up becoming a rivals, goes to kothas (brothels), and rapes his wife (Kangana Ranaut) when he pleases.
Director Sanjay Gupta’s attention to detail is laudable as he recreates Mumbai circa 1970—right from the alleys of the slums to the colourful costumes and an overload of Contessa and Padmini Premier cars. Shootout at Wadala aims to differentiate itself from other movies of this genre and succeeds, but not without a few deal breakers. For instance, Manya and his gang break out into a song and dance a few times, throwing the audience off from the gripping storyline.
The music wasn’t that great, either. It was attention-grabbing only because the Central Board of Film Certification went crazy over the lyrics of one of its songs, “Laila Teri Le Legi”, which had to be changed to “Laila Tujhe Loot Legi”. The film also features the sultry Sophie Choudry in “Aala Re Aala” and a surprise item song “Babli Badmaash” with Priyanka Chopra swaying in a micro bulb-lit cat suit reminiscent of Amitabh Bachchan’s outfit in Yaarana.
Overall, it is a fun movie to watch if you enjoy gangster films. Go in with an open mind, and you won’t be bored on a Saturday evening. —REENA KARIM
Published in Masala magazine, June 2013
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