What did you expect from the sequel of Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai which came out in 2010? Given that its director and writer are the same, I knew that the clunkily-titled-and-spelt Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara! would tread the same territory: gangsters- muscle-flexing-in-Mumbai-which-used-to-be-Bombay, non-stop rat-a-tat of ’70s style dialogue-baazi, loud background music, and a plot riddled with predictabilities from beginning to end.
What I wasn’t prepared for was just how similar it would be, despite the change in leads (Ajay Devgn and Emran Hashmi have been replaced by Akshay Kumar and Imran Khan, and instead of Kangna Ranaut, there is Sonakshi Sinha), and after a point, just how listless it would turn out to be.
Hashmi’s brash I want-to-take-over-everything Shoaib is played by Akshay Kumar in the new film. The character, fleshed out with nods to the dreaded Dawood (those distinctive dark glasses, and a penchant for cricket and betting) is first seen lording it over in what we presume is Dubai. Shoaib is ruthless and ambitious, and master of all he surveys, but `Bambai’ calls to him because an underling (Manjrekar) who has dared to challenge him has to be set straight.
Once in Bombay, he whistles up his faithful. One of them is Aslam (Khan), whom Shoaib had taken over when he (Aslam) and his best friend Dedh Tang (Tripathy) were youngsters. But before the script turns its attention to these `bhais’ duking it out in Dongri (or wherever it is that they hang out in large numbers), it comes up with a romantic distraction for both the main gents. The spirited Jasmine (Sinha) is new to Bombay, and a wannabe heroine. She is also more naïve than any young woman has the right to be.
Unless, of course, she belongs to a film like this where logic is made to bow before masala and melodrama. Sinha does her by now all-too-familiar ‘susheel’-sassy-sexy act, and swings like a magnet between Shoaib and Aslam, and here’s where I have a quibble. Any self-respecting goody-two-shoes heroine like Jasmine locked into what used to be such a Hindi cinema staple—the triangle– should make her interest clear. Why confuse us? You should see this wench making up to Shoaib, and then screaming: ‘Par maine tumhe uss nazar se kabhi dekha nahin’, or words to that effect. Really? Then what was she doing batting her eyelids at him? And she’s a near-avuncular pal to Aslam before she gets all dewy all of a sudden. Such complexity in a lead actress of a movie like this is most unfair.
I missed Ajay Devgn and Emran Hashmi of the original, who made credible ‘bhais’, and carried off those rhyming dialogues. Akshay Kumar lacks menace and quickens only when those glasses are off his face, which doesn’t happen too often in the film . And his delivery is a drone, crackling strictly in a couple of moments. Imran is too clean-cut to be a goon, especially one that’s meant to be grimy. Nice to see Sonali Bendre back, though, even if in a cameo: as Shoaib’s wife/consort, she is looking weathered, and more interesting .
After all the shoot-outs and bang-bangs are over, you are left with a film which leaves you with so little new that you wonder if there’s any juice left in this style of retro gangsta flick. Or are we heading for a third-time-in-Mumbai-Tibara?