Where’s the end? My only friend, the end…
Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Dobara
Director: Milan Luthria
Actors: Akshay Kumar, Imran Khan, Sonakshi Sinha
By Mayank Shekhar
Walk very gently into this film, if you must. There is enough plywood used for the sets and so much plastic around for performances that if you’re not careful, the whole picture might just collapse on your head. I think it did mine, still reeling as I am 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 Mumbai when there was a don, whose name was Shoaib, he was not a terrorist, but pretty much a door-knob, who liked a woman, who was a movie starlet and an insufferable bore (Sonakshi Sinha).
I am not sure if she liked him back, though it did seem so. 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 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. (Bombay is known for Shoaib, besides the Arabian Sea).” He would also refer to Bombay like his personal pet: Bambai yeh, Bambai woh, “Bambai huss rahi hai, Kumkum se Kimi Katkar ki tarah 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 cabbie to hoodwink the cops. Soon thereafter he conveniently forgot about the man he had to kill and the police he had to hide from. He would walk around freely, chilling at Gateway of India, committing murder on a busy street in broad daylight, nursing a drink at a film awards’ night, living the good life.
This don also had a trusted assistant Aslam (Imran Khan), in stone-washed jeans, wearing long side-burns, looking dumbfounded at everything around, which you couldn’t blame him for. He was also friends with the same starlet – that big fat bore, much like this film — who his boss fancied. 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 heads. It must’ve been thrilling to do that. Given how well a certain second-rate romantic-action-comedy is doing at the theatres right now, a wit told me, that train passing over their head was Chennai Express!
While my report is still fuzzy, you roughly know what this film is about. Two guys like the same girl, that sort of dead tiring rivalry thing, I guess. Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai, this movie’s supposed first part, is much easier to recall. Filmed by the same director Milan Luthria (The Dirty Picture),the prequel 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 part in that movie. Devgn had also played the main role inspired by underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, like the one here, in Ram Gopal Varma’s phenomenal Company. Those insouciant, cool kind of characters suit him because he doesn’t try too hard. You ought to first behave cool when playing cool, I suppose.
In this picture, Akshay Kumar plays the Mafiosi. 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. You’re not sure if his character is a cartoon or a don. He talks as if he fishes out a book of poor rhymes and bad poetry when he has to even say hello: “Naam bataya toh pehchan bura maan jayegi… Daan kiya toh dhanda bura maan jayega… Jisne doodh mein nimbu daala, paneer uski.”
But that is true for everybody else here. The drawl is infectious. But when Akki man pauses to parts his lips, you hold your breath for his next impersonation of Jeevan ‘The Rabert’ from Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), 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!” How can you not crack up? People in my hall did. The joke was sadly on the hero. So was the film. Each appearance of his on the screen is designed like a grand, elephantine entry.
Talking of entries, to be fair the other one, Aslam, had warned you in his first scene itself, “Abhi toh meri entry hui hai. The End aane mein bahut time hai mere dost. (I’ve just entered. The end is really far, my friend).” Masla wahi hai (that’s the issue), screw the masala, there are 160 minutes of this to sit through. Where is the end? My only friend, the end.