Philosophies of two principle characters defines them. Sultan Mirza (Devgn) repeatedly quips, “Jab dost banake kaam ho sakata hai to dushman kyu banaye” (why make enemies when you can work out by making them friends?). More of Godfather philosophy. He is a smuggler alright but never peddled anything more than goods like gold. He divides Mumbai in five territories not to make rivals within themselves. each enjoying their part of share, less harm more harmony. Cash keeps flowing in. He is a wise fellow and already Robin Hood like local figure.
Second one is of malicious Shoaib Khan (Hashmi), a small-timer dreaming big, “Zindagi ho to smuggler jaisi, saari duniya raakh ki tarah niche aur khud dhue ki tarah upar“. He may lack wisdom of his master who took him under his wings but not brains nor ambition and has plenty of greed. Power hungry kind. His blood is always up. He smirks at territory marking, “Mumbai hai ya Draupadi?”. He is unscrupulous and corrupt who smuggled not only gold but drugs, guns, started contract killings and emerged as most powerful threats, wanted by Interpol and whose net worth is in billions today.
I liked Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, Milan Lutharia’s 70’s retro mafia flick more of origin story of a master and his protégé alliance and their fall out. Based on Haji Mastan (disclaimer denies that though, more of a wink) and Dawood Ibrahim. Haji was kingpin of Mumbai smuggling syndicate who went into politics eventually while Dawood transformed it into sprawling organized crime citadel. Loaded with one-liners (so much so it hurts sometimes), heavy style and filled entertaining performances feels like the right kind of cinema director had in mind. Gangster lifestyle streams in front of us where nylon printed shirts were in fashion, Mercedes logo entered frame before vehicle, clippety-clop race-courses were gambling hang outs, booze, smoke, glamour parties sporting dance numbers (they chose who else than great RD Burman) evoke that period faithfully.
It also makes room for some old-fashioned romance. Mirza woos bollywood starlet Rehana (Kangana), Shoaib solicits neighbourhood girl Mumtaaz (Prachi). Apart from the romantic angle it brings out their lead characteres itchings. Rehana complains “Log pine ke bad romantic ho jate hai aur tum flashback me chale jate ho” while he broods over his tormenting past when he used to be dock-worker. She suggests there should a film on you which will be instant hit, a homage to Amitabh Bacchan’s Deewar. Shoaib on other hand drinking hard can’t swallow low life at any cost he clears to Mumtaaz. While Hashmi pleases in his flashy role, Devgn plays his role with simmering intelligence. Worth your ticket.
* Bad **Average *** Good ****Very Good ***** Outstanding