When it comes to crime dramas, Bollywood has been accused of glorifying gangsters or glamourising the underworld. Milan Luthria’s Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai may be subject to the latter to some extent, but it definitely doesn’t justify smugglers and mafias in its narrative. To all those expecting a Martin Scorsese or Anurag Kashyap style dark themes might be disappointed. But Luthria has captured 70s Bombay with subtle nuances by adding a retro feel to the music, sets and costumes. Manoshi Nath and Rushi Sharma have done a commendable job with Ajay Devgn, Kangana Ranaut, Emraan Hashmi and Prachi Desai’s wardrobe. Kangana and Prachi’s outfits and hair style created a retro trend once again at the fashion scene. Prachi’s infamous blouse and mid thigh skirts inspired by Dimple Kapadia’s Bobby look once again became a rage among the youth. Luthria’s crime drama was lauded more for its music, recreating 70s fashion and cabaret sequence and giving a realistic period effect to the film.
Rajat Arora and Milan Luthria made a smart and calculated attempt in 2010 if not a brave one. At a time when Anurag Kashyap, Vishal Bhardwaj, Imtiaz Ali and Dibakar Bannerjee had initiated a new wave of script oriented filmmaking, Arora and Luthria reintroduced a 70s style crime drama based on Haji Mastaan and Dawood Ibrahim. Like every Bollywood crime saga shying away from taking real names, this one also replaced Haji with Sultan Mirza and Dawood with Shoaib Khan played by Devgn and Hashmi respectively. The storytelling is entertaining and engaging from an aesthetic point of view. Apart from a cinematic spectacle all actors on board have convincingly played their parts. Arora’s vision and Luthria’s craftsmanship makes it easier for the actors to imbibe their characters.
Devgn brings his charisma and swag in depicting the larger than life persona of Sultan Mirza. His walk, mannerisms, one – liners and the trademark intensity in his eyes makes for a paisa vasool crime saga. Be it Sultan’s rage, empathy, vulnerability or sensitivity, Devgn is believable in every single frame. But Hashmi surprises with his edgy, unapologetic portrayal of the most hated gangster in Mumbai underworld till date. OUATIM was a stepping stone in the actor’s career, post which he proved his acting abilities beyond the serial – kisser tag. Kangana and Prachi have limited screen space. However, both female leads have enacted with utmost artistic finesse. Kangana and Prachi’s on – screen chemistry with Devgn and Hashmi fills up for the much needed love story of gangsters. Kangana has a pivotal role as her character Rehana is said to be inspired from Sona, Haji Mastan’s love interest. Apart from stylish wardrobes Kangana has showcased her exceptional artistry and acting prowess in her scenes with Devgn and Randeep Hooda. Perhaps OUATIM is one of her most underrated yet game changing performances post Fashion. Prachi looks fresh and confident in her big leap after ‘Rock On!’ and has done justice to her role. Luthria has amicably utilized the actor’s girl –next – door image in daily soaps while portraying a middle class simpleton. Hooda as Agnel Wilson gave one of the finest yet underrated performances of his career. The actor stood out among Devgn, Hashmi and Kangana and gave an honest character portrayal of a police official. Ten years of OUATIM and still Hooda, Hashmi and Desai haven’t got their dues. Hopefully with OTT and other creative disruptions these actor might be offered better scipts in the near future.
The music composition by Pritam and background score by Sandeep Shirodkar is the soul of the film. Aseem Mishra has done a decent job with the cinematography. Editor Akiv Ali gives his best to make sure the film is engaging. However, at certain points a predictable plot doesn’t dazzle the audience. OUATIM is not the best film on underworld but a must watch for the performances, music, costumes and the 70s action and thrill. The film is not a documentary o r research thesis on Mumbai gangsters or D company. A cinematic treat for movie buffs that makes for a decent one time watch.