Cast: John Abraham, Mahesh Manjrekar, Amol Gupte, Prateik Babbar, Emraan Hashmi, Kajal Aggarwal, Rohit Roy, Samir Soni, Gulshan Grover, Suniel Shetty
Direction: Sanjay Gupta
Playing in theatres
All backbenchers in schools across cities and ages are bound by an experience and habit unique to them.
Whenever stumped by the deadly combo of not studying at all and a really tough question paper, they first stare wantonly at the toppers writing furiously with their heads down. Then they gaze slightly teary eyed at the wide expanse of their blank answer sheet that needs to be filled.
But, and I say this from experience, backbenchers and their ilk rebound quickly and set out on a mission to fill at least four pages.
Since they know nothing, they write whatever they can recall from whichever subject, but in a cursive style invented by laggards.
In this particular font, let’s call it the Laggard Font, each letter is elongated and the connecting lines linking each letter stretched as far as possible, ensuring that the rule space which usually takes eight words can now take only three. This fills the time and the pages, though it has never ever fooled any teacher.
But, umeed pe duniya kayam hai. And laggards do it again and again, only to irritate, not impress yet another teacher.
Director Sanjay Gupta is a bit like us backbenchers.
He thinks he can fool his audience by elongating shots, by putting everything that he can in slow-motion, hoping they’ll mistake it for substance, or even style. He is wrong.
If you take away all the slo-mo shots of people walking in various types of footwear, of cars and jeeps swerving, of one man bashing, many men flying and blood sprouting, Sanjay Gupta’s Mumbai Saga will become a Mini Mumbai Blip. A pointless waste of precious time, human resources and money.
The film’s story, set in the Eighties and Nineties, is purportedly of a real-life Mumbai gangster, one D.K. Rao, who was an aide of Chhota Rajan but then branched off on his own into extortion, escaped three encounter attempts, including one in which he received seven bullets. He is currently in jail.
But Gupta takes liberties with the story, characters, events. He picks random incidents and people from the long history of Mumbai underworld purely because on their swag.
Mumbai Saga has four main characters and a story that’s been done to death.
There is Bhau (Mahesh Manjrekar) the politician who keeps giving speeches about Marathi Manoos, threatens non-Marathis, talks about renaming Bombay to Mumbai. He also wears a beard, a shawl, and sketches.
Then there’s a vegetable seller, Amartya Rao (John Abraham). He’s a seedha-sadha guy till he is really pissed off by hafta-demanding gangsters. He chops off one guy’s hand. This irks Gaitonde (Amol Gupte), who runs Mumbai’s EMI hafta scheme from his prison cell.
And finally there is Inspector Vijay (Emraan Hashmi) who introduces himself as “Encounter Specialist”, as if Police Encounter were a legit department, like narcotics and accounts.
The plot is about a simple man becoming a don by doing lots of don-giri on the instructions of Bhau. This bit is made up of scenes in slo-mo where Amartya and his minions in terrible wigs do bodily harm to goons with their fists and guns. In between there are some random appearances by irrelevant characters played by Suniel Shetty and Gulshan Grover. There’s also Arjun (Prateik Babbar) and Seema (Kajal Aggarwal) the chatter-box. And for dialogue, there are gems such as these:
“Mard ka kaleja bada hona chahiye, moonchhe nahi.”
“Dumm (tail) toh teri hai hanin, toh Gayatonde ke saamne kya hilate ho?”
The plot contrives and makes its way to one Harvard-educated businessman who strikes a deal with Gaitonde to evict people and sell mill land.
But Amartya warms him, “Teri gaadi bullet proof hai, tu nahin.”
Ganpati Bappa and an item girl make their respective appearances before Encounter Specialist Vijay chases and shoots them all — in a brothel, at an anda-pav stand, at a petrol pump and eventually while fighting off a plane.
There is no reason to waste your time on this nonsense in slo-mo expect for three things: One, Mahesh Manjrekar as Balasaheb is eerily fabulous. Two, to study the camera angles every time Amol Gupte is on screen. He’s always shot from very low angles as if the cameraman was asked to do pocha while shooting him during Covid-lockdown. Three, when some people are doing drugs, the text at the bottom of the screen says, “Give hugs not drugs.”
I swear. Bhai kasam.