Release Date: 19/03/2021
Cast: John Abraham, Kajal Agarwal, Emraan Hashmi, Rohit Roy, Mahesh Manjrekar
Director: Sanjay Gupta
Rating: 2/5 (2 out of 5 Stars)
I have always been of the opinion that a director should only make a film that is either essential or is a passion’s project for him. It must have a story that needs telling and should be entertaining, enlightening, or both. A film that feels like a recycled product made out of all that was left out of concepts and characters of a maker’s previous films will neither do him/her any good nor the cinematic landscape of Bollywood. This happens to be my biggest issue with Mumbai Saga, a film directed by Sanjay Gupta who previously made films like Shootout at Lokhandwala and Shootout at Wadala. The two films mentioned above served a specific purpose and were stories of men who remain in infamy because of their exploits.
These two films also culminated in climaxes that were based on events that were terrifying and remained etched in the memories of the ones who had the bad luck of being at the site of the actual event on that fateful day. Sadly, Amartya Rao’s story has neither the earth-shattering quality of being one that will shake its viewers to the core nor does it have any shock value associated with how the story culminates and hence ends up being a product that feels more like a fictional story that only has a few real-life inspired encounters or face-offs peppered in its runtime to earn it some credibility and reverence.
Amartya Rao (John Abraham), a vegetable seller from Dadar chops off the hand of a goon who endangered his dear brother in a fit of rage. This goon worked for the local enforcer Gaitonde (Amole Gupte) and now Gaitonde comes to all guns blazing after Amartya for his audacity. His way of doing it is by bringing Amartya into the jail that he inhabits and then have him killed by his cronies in Jail. Amartya beats them off effortlessly. In the meantime, he also grabs the attention of Nari Khan (Gulshan Grover) who helps him escape death in Jail, and Bhau (Mahesh Manjrekar) — a character very similar in tone and style to Balasahab Thackeray — who wants to use him as muscle to forward his political agendas. Amartya in a matter of days becomes the king of Dadar replacing Gaitonde.
Things turn interesting when Amartya kills a super-rich businessman and the deceased’s widow announces a bounty of 10 crore rupees for any police officer who guns him down. Vijay Savarkar (Emraan Hashmi) a flamboyant police officer enters the picture, starts taking out Amartya’s men one by one and ultimately delivers some telling blows on his life that forces Amartya to come face to face for a final showoff.
John Abraham is the only good thing about this film. He has a towering screen presence and persona. He renders every scene with the same deadpan expressions on his face. Every time he has to do anything more than look intense, he retorts to shouting his lungs off with the trademark shaking of the face and tears rolling down his cheek. He gives the right vibes for the character. Here is a character that is more physical than anything else and it suits his mammoth physic and mannerism. The fact that the director knows how to present him in the most heroic manner possible and give him some of the best dialogues of the film further elevates his essay and makes him a thing to watch out for.
Even the action sequences are designed keeping John’s physicality in mind and it works for the most part. I just loved a sequence towards the end of the film where he pummels Emraan Hashmi’s character Vijay Savarkar. I didn’t expect the director to go the distance and make the fight such a mismatched affair owing to how the two-hero dynamics work in Bollywood films but he did and it was hilarious to watch the massive John literally demolish Emraan by his sheer physicality. The qualities of the film end there and the rest of the film is a downhill ride on a bicycle without breaks.
One of the most annoying aspects of the film is the character of Arjun Rao (Prateik), Amartya’s brother who is always the precursor for something sinister happening in Amartya’s life. He is almost always the cause of any uncalculated decision that Amartya takes and he is one of the lamest brothers in a Bollywood action film that I have seen in a while. Not only is his character poorly written but is also styled atrociously. When he says he is 20, he looks more like 40. The same can be said about another villain who says that he is 31 but looks well above 50. I literally fell off my chair laughing at the sequence where he shouts out his age.
The film is so devoid of logic and believability that it is impossible to take it seriously. Amartya could have sent his brother back to London within hours of him arriving in India but he lets him stay and wreak havoc with his stupidity. If that was not enough, Amartya is asked to leave the country by Bhau and he instead appoints Arjun as the one to look after Amartya’s enterprise in his absence. Amartya, who had kept his brother away from all his wrongdoings, does nothing to stop this from happening.
One of Amartya’s closest aides decides to sacrifice himself to save Amartya from the police’s heat but is then unceremoniously forgotten in the very next scene. I could go on and on about the film’s inadequacies but that would be unnecessary reading. It suffices to say that the director filmed what might have been the first draft of the script as there was a lot of work to be done in terms of reason, logic, character motivations, and character development.
Mumbai Saga is awfully predictable. While the Shootout films had some thrills associated with them, this one is bland and starts becoming boring towards the last act of it. A few characters changing sides and a ridiculous twist involving the character of Vijay Savarkar that effectively destroys everything that he was shown doing only contributes to making the film even more inefficient and somewhat laughable. Add to that the layout of the film and how Sanjay Gupta executes it, the viewer is sure to be bugged by the feeling of Déjà vu from Gupta’s previous Shootout film; especially Shootout at Wadala. I couldn’t help but notice that Vijay Savarkar’s manner of holding the pistol and shooting Amartya was almost similar to how Afaaque Baagraan (Anil Kapoor) shot Manya Surve (John Abraham) in Shootout at Wadala. Even the colour scheme of the film felt precariously similar to many of Gupta’s previous films and robbed it of any novelty whatsoever.
A film Like Mumbai Saga has no reason to exist. It isn’t entertaining enough. It isn’t well made enough. It doesn’t have the kind of performances to make the viewer go back to it for more. Hell! It isn’t bad enough to be remembered as a film that was so bad that it was good.