John Abraham as gangster Manya Surve is the highlight of the film, while Anil Kapoor puts his heart and soul into reliving the honest ACP Aafaque Bagraan
Bollywood’s fascination with the underworld and glorification of real-life villains (of 1970s and 1980s particularly) on the silver screen is known to all. The underworld has been a source of inspiration for several filmmakers who have sketched meaty characters based on dreaded gangsters, especially Dawood Ibrahim. Unlike most renowned gangster flicks, Sanjay Gupta’s Shootout at Wadala (SAW) doesn’t majorly focus on Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar (who is one of the prime characters), but another ruthless gangster not known to many – Manya Surve – who decided to take on Dawood and challenge his supremacy over Mumbai.
The story of Manya (John Abraham) starts in a flashback narration when he recites his tragic tale to ACP Aafaque Bagraan (after surviving not less than 8-10 bullets!) of how he transformed from a college boy Manohar Surve to gangster Manya Surve. It showcases how the focussed Manohar gets wrongly accused of a murder that drastically changes his life for the worse, as he gets imprisoned for life. In jail, Manya befriends Sheikh Munir (Tusshar Kapoor) who helps him escape and Manya forms his own gang – Hindu gang, to be precise – and challenges ruling underworld bhais – Dilawar Imtiyaz Haskar (Sonu Sood) and his brother Zubair Imtiyaz Haskar (Manoj Bajpayee). In between, Manya and his cronies drive all over Bombay during the night, smoking, drinking, dancing, dancing, dancing (there are three item numbers – Priyanka Chopra, Sunny Leone and Sophie Choudry) and uttering mc-bc words.
Based on a true 1982 encounter between Aafaque and Manya in the premises of one of the city’s oldest colleges, SAW obviously takes considerable liberty with its storyline. What’s more interesting is the unabashed glorification of the ruthless criminals and the rather desperate ineffectiveness of the helpless cops portrayed aptly by Anil Kapoor, Mahesh Manjrekar and Ronit Roy. This combined with an over-the-top amount of gunfire and brutally intense physical violence makes SAW as troubling in certain parts as surprising. Having said that, it makes it one of the most realistic representations of the famous encounters the Indian judiciary or the police records have ever witnessed.
The first half of SAW is relatively slow but considering it’s a multi-starrer, due credit to Gupta for keeping the screenplay and script precise and establishing his characters deftly. The second half is more engaging with the actual one-upmanship game between Manya and the Haskar brothers, and the actual shootout plan devised by Aafaque.
Gupta has religiously followed From Dongri to Dubai – the book on which the film is based – and taken great care to ensure his movie looks set in late ’70s and ’80s. Everything is authentic – right from the trousers worn to the car used to the buildings shown. SAW successfully takes us back to the bygone era. Also, writer Milap Zaveri does a good job with the dialogues and the actors have done an equally good job delivering them. There are quite a number of powerful dialogues deserving whistles and claps… even better than Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai like ‘Zung hathiyaaron ko lagta hai, iraadon ko nahi‘ or ‘Itna marunga ke aisa dard hoga body mein ke dard ko bhi samajh mein nahi aayega kahaa se baahar niklu‘! But be warned, there’s a big dose of cuss words that will make you cringe.
SAW has great performances from every actor, making it an engaging watch. John is superlative and is as overbearing as his character Manya demands; this is one of his career-best performances after Zinda and Taxi No. 9211. The movie belongs to him completely. His partner-in-crime Munir’s role has been performed brilliantly by Tusshar Kapoor who puts his heart and soul into a dark character again. As usual, Anil delivers a power-packed performance. Sonu essays the role of Dilawar to the T. And Manoj once again emotes expressively with his eyes as the powerful and dominating Zubair. Siddhant Kapoor, son of onscreen baddie Shakti Kapoor, is also a young talent to watch out for. Vidya (Kangna Ranaut) has less scope to perform in this male-dominated flick – this time just helping Manya garam (hot) his bistar (bed) every time he sees her.
SAW is an entertainer worth a watch for the settings, performances and dialogue baazi. It’s a well made film. The script and screenplay are terrific. Our verdict: During the interval, we heard people whispering – single screen mein toh dhamaal kar degi, masses will certainly love it… Need we say more?
Reviewed by Dhiren Trivedi
**** Very good