The last time Hussain Zaidi wrote a book, we had a masterpiece in Black Friday with Anurag Kashyap at the helm. Shootout at Wadala, adapted from a part of Zaidi’s Dongri to Dubai is nowhere close to this benchmark. A loud and excessive film, Sanjay Gupta relies solely on brawn, buff and violence to appeal to its audience. It is a mélange that does not work.
The film depicts the rise and fall of Manya Surve, the first self-proclaimed Hindu don of Mumbai. Playing the central character, John Abraham is given precious little help by his writers. Most of the interesting “anti-heroes” in film have a strong humane depiction in their character sketch, a certain morality that justifies them beyond the societal good and bad. Their own code, an Omerta of sorts. Manoj Bajpayee’s Bhikhu Mhatre and Amitabh Bachchan’s Sarkaar are relevant examples of central characters who are on the wrong side of the law, yet endear as protagonists. John Abraham’s Manya Surve has none of this. There is a shoddily plotted background story of how he, an innocent youth is pushed to crime for no fault of his. From that point on, there’s a 180 degree change in character, and he becomes a boorish criminal who lusts after power and control of the city, like any other villain. Where’s the sympathy for him?
The screeplay is often uneven and jerky, switching from one track to another with no real motivation. So there’s a great deal of screen time for Manoj Bajpayee and Sonu Sood’s characters, but they really don’t do anything to move the story along; it’s almost like the directors wanted to take a break from Manya’s story, and decided to switch focus. Sonu Sood swears vengeance on Manya Surve, and you think this will be the showdown between the two that the film’s been building up to. Eventually, he has nothing to do with Surve’s downfall. The scene with Jackie Shroff’s cameo dilutes any relevance of this buildup.
The lead and support performances are earnest, but eventually defeated by the script. The dialogue brings back memories of the 80s at their worst; it is needlessly bombastic, peppered with curses for no real reason but to pander, and often downright ridiculous. Gupta’s overuse of slow-mo and DI are attempts to give the appearance of a stylish film, but with no support from the script, this becomes gimmicky and superficial.
Long winded with not much to say, the film leaves you with a few new curses of your own thrown right back at the makers.