Both have violence and politics (and lots of it) at their core. They have their rags-to-riches tales, and the lust for power as chief inspirational forces. They have very interesting and often quotable commentary on loyalty. Their attempts to justify wrong-doing (let's face it, the protagonists are, after all, criminals) are unabashed and unapologetic.
In their own words, they hope to bring viewers to the point where we root for a criminal (albeit the lesser evil, at least in most cases). And since they apparently are targeted to appeal primarily to those in my age and gender demographic (the 18-35 male, booyeah!), they also have rather pretty women for whom, it turns out, most of my kind would apparently give up our lifelong earnings and peace of mind, no matter the risk. Right. (Okay, we aren't heartless, after all.)
Along their production cycles, both faced speculation they're based on high-profile, real-world personalities (whether it be celebrity Mumbai gangsters Haji Mastaan and Dawood Ibrahim, or face of a political party, Sonia Gandhi), which arguably help them. Both do more than enough to dispel that speculation. Although we often find what we seek and where, let's please treat these movies as fiction for the purposes of this discussion, while appreciating they're close enough to reality to have been inspired by it at some level.
So how could they possibly go wrong? Good news is, they don't, thanks to the several outstanding performances that define them. Yet, one outshines the other in terms of completeness of script, dialogue, music, and overall packaging, so let's begin there.
MUMBAI GOES REWIND
That would be the latest release, Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai. The city's underworld needs no introduction, including from a Bollywood perspective. And boy does this movie do a good job of translating it to screen or what! It's almost an outlier in its genre, because while the much of the sleaze inherent in addressing the theme is avoided, the avoidance means there's enough room to focus on much else. Much else like the nuances of relationships -- father-son, boss-subordinate, mentor-protege, law-criminal, criminal-God, mole-gang, insecure-wealth/power, and many many more -- including those involving the lead criminals played by Ajay Devgan and Emraan Hashmi, and their love interests played by Kangana Ranaut and Prachi Desai respectively.
The movie revolves around these four and a leading cop, ACP Randeep Hooda, who narrates the story in what is a flashback. And it's fun to see them all do their thing. There are few as reliable in this genre as Ajay Devgan. And we've known for a while that Hashmi is more than capable of the fine job he's done here, and a lot more than he's been assigned. This should up his stock, and it's about time those who've managed to avoid him take note! (Should you want to give his past works a chance, see Awarapan (2007).)
If you're a fan of either actress, too, you'll find the script affords them more screen time than the average gangster movie. And that's a good thing. They're both really, really good, and not just in the looks and grace departments! Yes, more than just looks...
...and sheer grace and class. 8)
'Mumbai gone rewind' is laden with some excellent dialogue (Rajat Arora; plenty of effective keepers, ably delivered) and some good music (Pritam "I don't need to vouch for my integrity" Chakrobarty). The art direction (Nitin Desai) is superb. As one would expect, it has some classic references to Bollywood icons of the time (think Dimple, Helen, the Bachchan), and also has a smooth pace throughout, at a little over two hours of run time, culminating with a dramatic and suspenseful end.
Not much else I ask for in a movie of its genre. What is shown is not new or different. How it's shown, is. Give Ajay Devgan an emotional core in this kind of film -- he'll go against what the law permits, but not against what his conscious does -- and give Emraan Hashmi the reckless abandon to execute to win at all costs, and you have the makings of a fun gangster movie with what is required to make it tick. Four stars then, for Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai. I'm trying to keep my enthusiasm for it in check, so I won't compare it just yet to the likes of my other favorites Company (2002) or Deewaar (1975), but after one viewing, I know it certainly deserves to be mentioned alongside them. This one's a keeper.
Movie rating: 4/5 (Excellent!)
Yes, I'm a sucker for gangster movies and yes, I like this cast, but this one's good regardless. :)
Music rating: 3.5/5 (Very good!)
'Pee Loon' by Mohit Chauhan is a keeper.
My classification: R (For theme, violence)
That's a conservative rating; should be okay for 15+, really.
Official website (and picture source):
How's this for a cast? Arjun Rampal, Ranbir Kapoor, Naseeruddin Shah, Nana Patekar, Ajay Devgan, Manoj Bajpai, Katrina Kaif, and yet some more good supporting actors. Whew! They're great, side-by-side. Rampal and Kapoor step it up a few notches just to keep up with their veteran counterparts, who are, as always, excellent. (There's that guy Devgan again!)
Rajneeti would have been better off without the songs, which don't move the story forward and add to the length of an already long film, at almost three hours. Its second half is essentially a Godfather rehash when it didn't need to be. And there's a reliance on redundancy that is often unexplained and unnecessary in that context.
Yet, there's lots more to like about it. The dialogue is as good as in any 2010 film, and so is the background score. Plot's intriguing, and the suspense is adequate. The cinematography is brilliant, as is the art direction (Ranbir's wardrobe!).
It's not often that Bollywood characters favor the American woman (Sarah Thompson; we need better foreign acting talent!) over the Indian, and it's refreshing to see one (Ranbir's), no matter how cunning, keep that commitment. Of course, Katrina Kaif is stunning throughout, and that love square they have going is an interesting distraction to tone down on everything else happening elsewhere.
And it really is 'everything else'. The political rivalries, camp mentalities, sleaze of all sorts, ruthlessness, hypocrisy, show-and-tell, all while, while manipulating a nation which has more poor than the continent of Africa. (Which is, in reality and as the history of the world has shown, not too difficult to do, in context.) Democracy has its pitfalls, and Rajneeti -- the study of politics -- does a fine job of illustrating how those pitfalls can be and are being exploited.
Close to four stars, then. It's a pity some of the letdowns are significant enough to impact the overall perception of what is otherwise an effort worth lauding. If it weren't a half hour too long, it could be an easy four. There's too much that's right with this to ignore it, definitely worth one watch.
Movie rating: 3.75/5 (Very good!)
Music rating: 3/5
Great background score. Good soundtrack.
My classification: NC-17
For theme, language, violence.
Official website (and picture source):