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Subhash K. Jha speaks about Once Upon Ay Time In Mumbai Dobaara!
By Subhash K. Jha, Aug 16, 2013 - 02:50 IST

How do I put this politely? This is arguably one of the most ill-timed gangster dramas with most performances so loud and unassimilated that these characters could easily be contestants in a Eid special segment of Comedy Circus where the theme is 'Gangsta Rap' This is done-to-noisy-death gangsterism done with heartbreaking seriousness. It takes some doing to wrap up such a time-worn love triangle into a pretence of modern storytelling. Milan Luthria's earlier films like Kachche Dhaage and The Dirty Picture had some interesting conflicts between characters who are driven by a desire for revenge but are frustrated in their malevolence by their love for the very same people they want to hate.

The problem with Once Upon Ay Time In Mumbai Dobaara is that the two main characters who love each other to death, literally, are people we've met over and over again. Most notably in Ram Gopal Varma's Company where Ajay Devgn and Vivek Oberoi played gangster and protégé with great conviction and ballsy velocity.

The subsequent spinoffs have gotten seriously diluted.

This one is a sequel to Luthria's 2010 film where Ajay Devgn's imposing personality and gravelly voice had made the pale and sometime unintentionally funny proceedings bearable.

Except for Sonakshi Sinha playing a starlet who talks too hard and too much and gets the male protagonists (who need to be spanked for playing with guns when their IQ level suggests video games would be more apt) into a serious conflict merely because she's too dumb to see they both love her... Dobaara has no redeeming qualities.

Akshay Kumar as a Dawood doppelgang(st)er is inept, to say the least. His dialogues meant to show his mastery over the hoary art of rhetorics, come out sounding like wimpy words of wacked-out wisdom picked up from messages in Chinese cookies, if not from forwarded sms messages.

I'd just like to suggest to the dialogue writer Rajat Arora to go easy on the bumper-sticker wisdom next time. You can't make the hero look heroic by spilling tacky wisdom all over the frames in the hope that audiences would applaud the bombastic words without thinking about their relevance.

This film wallows in a kind of imbecilic irreverence where the protagonists seem bold, brave, sexy and even brazen but are actually cardboard versions of the triangular lovers in Raj Kapoor's Sangam and Vinod Kumar's Mere Huzoor. But at least love triangles of the past were honest about their melodramatic intentions. Once Upon Ay Time In Mumbai Dobaara cloaks its outdated radical ideas in a rumbustious display of trendiness.

Undoubtedly, some sections shine brighter than the rest. Aslam (Imran Khan)'s friend making out with his girlfriend in the car while Aslam gives angrezi lessons to Jasmine (Sonakshi Sinha) is a nicely-conceived moment that loses its sheen in repetition.

One of the 'jokes' that ties Sonakshi's character to her lover-by Imran Khan is his misuse of the word 'intercourse'. The film uses the word (prudishly beeped out by the censor board) over and over again like a school boy that has just found a non-punishable way to say 'sex' in the classroom.

A flavour of flagrant criminality is created through back-projected nostalgia. The film opens with an archival cricket match 'fixed' by the all-powerful underworld don. The sequences seems more 'fixed' by the director than the Dubai-based ganglord would have ever imagined. Fleets of black and yellow Fiat cars ply up and down Mumbai's roads in a show of periodicity. A wanton woman (Sophie Choudry in a seductive cameo) cheats on her unsuspecting husband, making out with the dreaded don in the backroom at a noisy party.

You can almost smell the cheap perfume and the discount-rated champagne trying to pass as the genuine stuff in Shoaib's party. This guy thinks he is menacing. He is actually a joke. And if the real Dawood is anything like the way Dawood-like gangster portrayed here by Akshay Kumar, we have nothing to fear except his cheesy dialogue-baazi.

Where in all this self-defeating noise and activity is the slippery sinisterness on the streets of Mumbai? The gangster-villain (Akshay insists he is a villain, and who are we to argue with an overgrown brat of a guy who keeps smashing up furniture and appliances every time he doesn't get his way?) and his cronies appear to have walked out of 'loin' Ajit den in the 1970s, not quite sure which way they are supposed to head in the present-day milieu of such awe-inspiring gangster epics as Luc Besson's Taken and Amit Kumar's Monsoon Shootout.

This one comes too late. Except for a skillfully-shot train robbery sequence featuring Imran Khan at the start, it has too little to offer in the way action and adventure. The stunts appear stunted. Except for Sonakshi Sinha who plays the self-seeking starlet with earnest air-headedness, Pitobash Tripathy who plays Imran's sidekick with misplaced sincerity and Sonali Bendre who delivers the only truthfully-worded monologue in this verbally-cramped drama, the other performances are all of the watch-me-ham variety.

And really, what this film has done to the Mohd Rafi Qawwalli 'Tayyab Ali Pyar Ka Dushman' would make Manmohan Desai wince if he was alive.

Dobaaraa done. Please please, no third helping. Otherwise, to rephrase one of Akshay Kumar's favourite dialogues in this film, 'Agar ek baar dobaara aur kiya toh sequel ka silsila bura maan jayega'.

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