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The curious case of an over-the-top sequel

Anuj Kumar
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Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha in a still from “Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Dobaara”, which fails to live up to the original.
Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha in a still from “Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Dobaara”, which fails to live up to the original.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN MUMBAAI DOBAARA

You can’t fault director Milan Luthria for his candour. The title prepares you for the same route all over again. The problem is that the elements which made the original compelling, a revisit to the crime drama of the 1970s, are missing here. What is left is a rather simplistic shadow of the Ajay Devgn-Emraan Hashmi starrer and a background score that sets the pulse racing.

The original worked for me because Devgn and Hashmi owned heavy duty lines and Luthria imbued the drama with several intriguing layers.

However, after The Dirty Picture he has come up with a dated picture, where words speak louder than action. When the film’s dialogue writer tries to be the hero, you know the film is going to be loud. Once upon a time Kader Khan suffered from this aspiration. Here, Rajat Arora is trying too hard to be noticed.

While the original was a natural piece of smart writing, the sequel seems to be designed for Akshay Kumar. A committed actor indeed, but by no stretch of imagination is he suitable for a role played by Hashmi. Redefining over-the-top, Akshay eagerly reels out the dos and don’ts of a Bollywood villain of the 1980s and Luthria and Arora are so busy recycling the mood that they have either forgotten or haven’t cared to write something persuasive. Akshay should have asked them: “The lines have weight. Now, what will I have to do to justify them?”

We know here the bone of contention is not Mumbai, but a girl. But that doesn’t give Luthria the licence to plod over an overwrought script. Strident and shallow, it provides plenty of opportunities to laugh at.

The title demands that Shoaib (Akshay), who had shifted base to Dubai by the end of the first part, should return to Mumbai, but his reasons are far from convincing. As he seeks revenge from a stooge (Mahesh Manjrekar), he gets distracted by young actor Jasmine (Sonakshi Sinha). Meanwhile, his knight Aslam (Imran Khan) also comes across the simple Kashmiri girl trying to fit in the metropolis and in true Bollywood colour; the girl develops separate chemistry with the two guys.

Yes, she doesn’t understand the true feelings of the don. Instead, she feels he is doing charity by buying her awards and expensive gifts! Revenge and all are conveniently forgotten and what we get is a prolonged lesson in dialoguebaazi . Arora does come up with a few gems, but when it comes to characterisation, all the figures seem to have been cut from the same cloth. There is hardly any distinction in the language of the characters. Everybody seems to have grown up on a rich diet of Hindi pulp fiction novels available at Wheelers at railway stations in North India. Akshay seems unusually pleased to be the villain of the piece. He keeps on telling us what a bad man can do, but seldom does anything really sinister. He doesn’t evoke the fear of a man who rules Mumbai. After a point the lines begin to sound like empty bluster and his loneliness a stupid excuse. Even when love threatens to break the hard nut, the emotional turmoil is superficial.

Not cut out to be a street urchin, Imran gives a decent account of himself considering Akshay, perhaps drawing from Shoaib, seems desperate to steal every scene.

Sonakshi, once again, gives a good account of herself as a naive girl with a heart of gold. She lives up to the image that Jasmine’s director (Akash Khurana) presents to Shoaib, “ Yeh woh ladki hai jo Ravan se bhi Ram Ram kara de .” It is these moments that make Luthria a worthy successor to recreate the massy potboilers of the 1970s and 1980s, when melodrama was not necessarily a bad thing. It is apparent in the scene where Shoaib, full of himself, decides to enter a police station but finds to his surprise that nobody notices him as his identity has been reduced to a dated picture.

It also comes forth in the hilarious situations that he has created between Aslam and Jasmine as they get to know each other or when Shoaib’s consort Mumtaz (Sonali Bendre in a cameo) pleads with him with the hope of finding a hint of hero in the don. However, the moments don’t add up to something wholesome as the film hops like Aslam’s best friend Dedh Tang (Pitobash).

Nonetheless, it is not a film meant to debate the socio-political ramifications of depicting a girl, who is so ignorant that she doesn’t understand the difference between intermediate and intercourse, and who is so daft that she doesn’t realise the middle-aged man she is getting friendly with is the country’s biggest don. It addresses the entertainment needs of an India where half the audience doesn’t know the distinction between the entry and exit gates in a theatre and most boys consider themselves the Shoaibs of their neighbourhood. They respond with “ oye ! bete ” every time Akshay spits out a one-liner. It is their Independence Day treat. For the rest of us, it is an opportunity to take home some PJs, laugh at some situations and sound condescending in an academic gathering.


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