Gangster flicks -- especially the ones depicting the underbelly of Mumbai -- aren't new. Films like DEEWAAR [Yash Chopra], PARINDA [Vidhu Vinod Chopra], AGNEEPATH [Mukul S. Anand], DAYAVAN [Feroz Khan], SATYA [Ramgopal Varma], COMPANY [Ramgopal Varma], VAASTAV [Mahesh Manjrekar], GANGSTER [Anurag Basu], SHOOTOUT AT LOKHANDWALA [Apoorva Lakhia] and ONCE UPON A TIME IN MUMBAAI [Milan Luthria] have left an indelible impression on the minds of cineastes. Now Sanjay Gupta enters the dark alleys of 1970s and 1980s with SHOOTOUT AT WADALA, which is partly based on a book ['Dongri To Dubai', penned by Hussain Zaidi]. It chronicles the lives of gangsters, gang wars and also talks of the first encounter killing of a gangster.
Not surprisingly, while Gupta retains the essence, he ensures he adapts the book delightfully, adding layers and fictionalized episodes, so that the outcome isn't dry, dark or depressing. Nor does it come across as a documentary. SHOOTOUT AT WADALA primarily focuses on that one man [Manya Surve] who took on the powerful gangsters in his prime. Much has been written about the dominance of several gangsters. But not much is known about Manya Surve. SHOOTOUT AT WADALA is his story. His rise to power. His dominance. His death.
Although Gupta has attempted volatile subjects in the past, SHOOTOUT AT WADALA is his most accomplished work as a raconteur. He finds his voice with this film. He returns with a vengeance after a sabbatical of almost eight years [after ZINDA in 2005, although he directed a couple of short stories in DUS KAHANIYAAN in 2007, SHOOTOUT AT WADALA is his next full-length feature]. The saying, 'Form is temporary, class is permanent' holds true for Gupta, as he makes a scathing statement with his newest venture, taking rapid strides as a storyteller, coming up with a fare that balances form and content admirably.
SHOOTOUT AT WADALA narrates the story of Manya [John Abraham], who gets implicated in a murder case and is sentenced to life imprisonment. Manya flees the prison, returns to Mumbai and forms his gang. The cops launch Operation Manya Surve to curb his dominanceâ€¦
Besides encapsulating the rise and fall of Manya Surve, SHOOTOUT AT WADALA talks about the lesser-known aspect of his life: His love interest. And it is this attribute in Manya's personality that sets it apart from other gangster movies. It brings to the fore the humane aspect of a gangster who sent a chill down the spine in his prime. While Gupta is synonymous with depicting machismo with flourish, tender moments such as these have been neglected in his movies, post HAMESHAA [Saif, Kajol]. But the sensitivity and ease with which Gupta balances the explosive and hot-tempered attitude of the gangster [with his rivals] and the soft and affectionate persona [with his lady love] gives the film that extra edge. The second half of the film and more specifically, the final moments leave you awe-struck.
The screenwriting [Sanjay Gupta, Abhijeet Deshpande, Sanjay Bhatia] is watertight. Although it takes time to settle down, the solid writing in the second hour keeps you on the edge. In fact, the turn of events in the second half takes the film to its zenith. A large chunk of SHOOTOUT AT WADALA is devoted to high-voltage action sequences. Unlike some recent films, the action here is raw and real, reminiscent of the films of the 1980s. The action -- brutal, unrepressed and energetic -- is clearly a notch above the recent films that depict the hero bashing up rogues like we swat flies and mosquitoes. Unquestionably, it's one of the highpoints of the movie [Tinu Verma].
Another aspect that stays with you is the dialogue [Milap Milan Zaveri]. The lines leave a remarkable impact without crossing the familial domain. Every dialogue is delivered as a punch and there are times when you cheer and applaud the effort. It won't be erroneous to state that the dialogue is one of the pillars of this enterprise. Although Gupta and Milap have worked several times in the past, SHOOTOUT AT WADALA is Milap's best work so far, after KAANTE.
Since the gangster flick is set in the 1970s and 1980s, the soundtrack [Anu Malik, Anand Raaj Anand, Meet Brothers Anjaan, Mustafa Zahid] is reminiscent of the music of that era. However, it's the items songs that catch your attention. 'Babli' [filmed on Priyanka Chopra], 'Laila' [filmed on Sunny Leone] and 'Aala Re Aala' [filmed on Sophie Choudry] are foot-tapping and the presence of curvaceous women only acts as an eye candy. Editing [Bunty Nagi] is skillful. Despite a run time of more than 2.30 hours, you never lose the narrative for a second. Background score [Amar Mohile] blends with the on-screen happenings wonderfully. Cinematography [Sameer Arya; additional DoP: Sanjay F. Gupta] is top notch, with the bygone era being depicted with flourish.
Gupta is known for extracting inspiring performances! Leading the pack is, without doubt, John Abraham, who makes the character of Manya Surve come alive on screen. It's a drastic transition for John as he has several heavy-duty scenes to perform and the actor does the switch from an action hero to an able performer with much delight. Call this a coincidence, whenever John has been cast in a negative role, his performance has always stood out [ZINDA, DHOOM and RACE 2]. Now SHOOTOUT AT WADALA will prove to be the talking point.
Anil Kapoor reinvents himself yet again. So good is the veteran that you never get enough of him. Watch him lock horns with varied actors in the film and you realize, he's one of those rare actors who cannot be overpowered. Ever. Manoj Bajpayee glides into his character effortlessly and delivers a magnificent performance. Tusshar Kapoor springs a big surprise, making you believe in the character he's portraying on screen. He adds tremendous credence to his character. Sonu Sood is electrifying. In the post-interval portions specifically, Sonu gets some meaty scenes to sink his teeth into and he grabs the opportunity instantly. Ronit Roy is another actor to watch out for. He makes his presence felt in a noteworthy role. Mahesh Manjrekar doesn't get much scope, while Akbar Khan, Ranjeet and Jackie Shroff appear in cameos.
Kangna delivers a wonderful performance [especially towards the final moments] and stands her own despite the presence of actors with challenging characters. Sanjeev Chadha is effectual in his film debut. Siddhanth Kapoor is confident in his first outing as an actor. Karan Patel makes his presence felt. Arif Zakaria is alright. Raju Mavani is perfect and so is Raju Kher.
On the whole, SHOOTOUT AT WADALA is a fire-brand, paisa vasool entertainer. Brutal and electrifying, it is one of those theatre-going experiences that has a plot, is packaged well and has content [drama, action, dialogue, songs, performances] that works big time with the avid moviegoer. Sanjay Gupta delivers a solid punch!