Mumbai Saga (2021) Review!!

Synopsis – The plot of the movie is set in the era of the 80s and 90s which were marked as a transformed period of Mumbai.

My Take – Despite operating in the Hindi film industry for close to three decades, filmmaker Sanjay Gupta isn’t someone known to be associated with making high quality films exactly. His films, both produced and directed, openly inspired by American, South Korean and Hong Kong thrillers, and often belong to the garden-variety, with Kaante (2002), his take on Quentin Tarantino‘s Reservoir Dogs (1992), being a solid exception. Hence, there is a level of expectation set for him that he can deliver an Indianized one time watchable flick anytime.

For his latest, however, Sanjay Gupta claimed would be contain an original tale, an idea which he cooked up with co-writer Vaibhav Vishal, to detail the journey of how the city of Bombay turned into Mumbai, and how gang wars and the police played an important part in it.

With a promising story in hand, Sanjay Gupta also managed to score a likable cast for the film, yet despite his claims of originality, the film offers nothing new and instead follows the same staple set by his preceding production venture, Shootout at Lokhandwala (2007) and directorial Shootout at Wadala (2013), only standing out as the worst of the lot.

The 128-minute film is packed with director’s trademark flourishes like aphoristic dialogue, massive close-ups, slow motion walks, and a yellow filter, unfortunately, it’s his outdated vision and presentation that sends the film into the rut, as he throws in every cliché in the gangster-film handbook into the mix.

Sure, the trailer itself provided a clear idea on what to expect, but the final product reminds you throughout to lower every expectation you may have had. Unless you’re a diehard John Abraham or Emraan Hashmi fan, or one of looking for Mass Mania and can ignore all the predictability solely in favor of brutally action and handy dialogues, this one time watch flick maybe for you.

Set in 80s and 90s in Bombay, the story follows Amartya Rao (John Abraham), a simple hardworking vegetable seller who is forced to retaliate against the goons of Gaitonde (Amole Gupte), the reigning don of the city, when they threaten his 12 year old brother Arjun. With his actions catching the eye of Bhau (Mahesh Majarekar), a political giant, Amartya, aided by his wife, Seema (Kajal Aggarwal) and associates, Baba (Ronit Roy), Jagannath (Shaad Randhawa) and Sadashiv (Vivaan Parashar), finds himself becoming the gangster king of half the city.

However, when his rival dealings with Gaitonde leads to the death of Sunil Khaitan (Samir Soni), an emerging businessman with strong political connections, by his hand, Amartya finds himself the target of the police department, especially Inspector Vijay Sarvarkar (Emraan Hashmi), an encounter specialist, who is determined to pick up the bounty of ten crores offered by Khaitan’s wife Sonali (Anjana Sukhani) for his death. Hence setting up a cat and mouse game which will change the future course of the city.

While the premise may sound enticing, the end result is just a run of the mill affair, so to speak. While the film keeps you busy at best, it is simply jogging from one hurriedly crafted sequence to another without much to tell engagingly. Making a point that despite having the technical skills and sensibilities to put on a real show, director Gupta is simply not interested in offering more than just a rehash of his previous work.

Tales of the unholy nexus between gangsters, cops and politicians always have the potential to be crafted into gripping cinema. But films such as this can only be truly engaging with more rounded characters, ones that you can invest in. There is a great deal of work done to get some of the period details right, but the film could have been so much more if the imbalance between style and substance wasn’t so skewed towards the former.

It falters in the screenwriting because of utter non sense theories and typical 80s thinking as almost 95% of dialogues and 90% of the scenes are predictable, one can even predict the dialogues and scenes just before it happens on screen. The film is also riddled with more clichés than the bullet-holes pumped into people’s bodies in the film.

Sure, the cinematography is decent, the action sequences are fine and the music is somehow suitable to its theme, but the problem isn’t so much the clichés, but director Gupta‘s unwillingness attitude to at least try and package as old wine in a new bottle. Replete with gore, guns and goons, the film fails to tell even a simplistic tale that engages you intellectually. So there’s no point raising the bar of your expectations and hoping to get some nice underworld gangster flick in the end.

Performance wise, John Abraham is in familiar zone, having played a similar character in Shootout at Wadala, and shoulders his responsibility with utmost sincerity and delivers the dialogues with smashing attitude. The same goes for Emraan Hashmi, who despite appearing only in the second half fits into his role seamlessly and is every bit entertaining to watch. Hashmi‘s ease is probably the only saving grace of the film that’s loaded with heavy-duty dialogues.

The supporting cast comprising of Kajal Aggarwal, Mahesh Manjrekar, Amole Gupte, Prateik Babbar, Gulshan Grover, Rohit Roy, Samir Soni, Anjana Sukhani, Shaad Randhawa and Vivaan Parashar do their best in their shoddily written parts. Suniel Shetty is wasted in a cameo. On the whole, ‘Mumbai Saga’ is just another disappointing, loud and predictable gangster thriller.

Directed – Sanjay Gupta

Starring – John Abraham, Emraan Hashmi, Mahesh Manjrekar

Rated – R

Run Time – 128 minutes

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