Let me start off by saying ‘Bravo’ to Ekta Kapoor and Milan Luthria for attempting a film like Once Upon A Time In Mumbai. It wasn’t an easy job considering that the film is set in Mumbai of the 70’s, but they have pulled it off in great style. Once Upon…is based on the true story of Haji Mastan and Dawood Ibrahim who were the first gangsters to receive celebrity status.
The film is narrated in flashback from the view point of ACP Agnel Wilson (Randeep Hooda) who holds himself responsible for the destruction of Mumbai at the hands of the mafia. The story starts with the arrival of Sultan Mirza (Ajay Devgan) on the shores of Mumbai as a kid and follows his tremendous rise to power as a smuggler and a underworld kingpin. On his way to the top, he flatters a bollywood heroine Rehana (Kangna Ranaut) with his charm and guts, helps the needy and gains their blessings. Soon enough enters Shoaib Khan, an arrogant and stubborn man who wants to become just like Sultan but in half the time. Differences crop up between Sultan and Shoaib over what’s honourable and that’s when Mumbai starts to lose.
The narrative is fast paced and helped by some crisp editing makes sure that the film never becomes boring. The art direction is commendable which successfully gives the film a very 70’s feel and provides the authenticity that a movie like this requires. Pritam does a great job with the music and the background score is also top notch reminding us of another great score from Amitabh Bachchan’s Don. Another aspect that truly stands out are the dialogues which have a lot of analogies, my favourite being a dialogue by Hooda, “Kya Khan, bees saal mein kabhi prashad nahin khaya, aur aaj seedha bhagwaan hi badal dala”….Superb.
Among the performances, Ajay Devgan proves yet again that he is by far the best underworld don in bollywood. Just like ‘Malik Bhai’ in Company, He is totally kickass and carries off his character in trademark style. Kangana looks better than she has ever looked and has improved her dialogue delivery as well. Imran Hasmi does really well as Shoaib because the role required the three and a half expressions and those handful of emotions for which Hasmi can now get patent. Prachi Desai is competent as Mumtaaz but the surprise package is Randeep Hooda who gives another sincere performance after D and Risk and hopefully, this one will get him some quality work that he deserves.
The ending is one highlight of the film that stays with you even after you come out. The buildup to the final faceoff between Sultan and Shoaib is terrific. Milan Luthria deserves loads of applause as he is succesful in making your heart go out to Sultan. This one is indeed…….. Mumbai’s greatest betrayal.