Movie Review: Shootout At Lokhandwala A Cop Out?

July 04, 2007
Aditi Nadkarni

There was a time when Bombay's underworld had a presence that could put the Italian mafia to shame. Right from the slum thickets of Dharavi to the posh locales of Lokhandwala, the bhai-log reigned. They wielded pistols, AK-47s and at times even the hooked Ram Puri. A single call from Dubai executed threats, quick extortions and even death sentences. Money was delivered in "petis" and "khokas" and the "ghoda" arrived tucked under the belts of trigger-happy men who figured that a hafta would pay their bills better than the humble salary of a hawaldar.

From the paan-wallahs' tiny shanties to the builders' air-conditioned offices, all fractions of Bombay quaked at the mention of bhai's name. I remember a time when a few struggling young men would, one fine day, buy a flat in one of Bombay's elite complexes and within a matter of months move their families out of the shoddy chawls where they had spent their frustrated lives.

While everybody wondered about how they had made it big, their naive mothers spoke of how their sons' fortunes had changed overnight ever since they joined the "company". Restaurant owners, bhajiwallahs and even jewellers offered their goods for free when bhai's family went window shopping. It has been difficult since then to guage who really makes or marrs the law in Bombay.

Shootout At Lokhandwala brings us the story of Maya Dolas (played by Vivek Oberoi) and Dilip Kokak alias Bhuva (played by Tusshar Kapoor) who were killed in a Lokhandwala encounter in 1991. Controversy still shrouds this encounter and like most police encounters, its legitimacy and intent is questioned every now and then.

Inspired by true events but highly dramatized as is expected of the Bollywood factory, this film surprisingly evokes neither empathy nor awe. It brings us a farcical version of Bombay underworld dramas like Satya and Company. What was director Apporva Lakhia thinking, I wondered through several exaggerated scenes.

I rolled my eyes when Amitabh Bachchan banged his desk rudely bellowing "Shut Up!" for no apparent reason. Thankfully it shut-up Suniel Shetty whose sluggish dialogue delivery, I concluded in hindsight, might've been the reason for Mr.Bachchan's sudden outburst.

Sanjay Dutt's role was elevated to that of a police demigod. Dramatic background scores played as Sanju Baba walked in slow-mo towards the site of the shootout, nudging away a bullet-proof vest offered to him by officers. Stray, half-done snippets were scattered throughout the storyline as a poor substitute for windows into some of the characters. These attempts barely scratched the surface and left the plot seeming even more inadequate than it would've if these peeks had been left out altogether.

A single bosom heaving session in one odd drunken song could've been left out for a relevant scene but no! A Bollywood film without the right doses of naach-gaana is like bhai-giri without a pistol.

The story narrated from the one-dimensional perspective of the police officers being interviewed in an enquiry session brings no insight into the complex personas of the three most interesting characters that this film could've potentially explored further: Maya, Bhuva and Maya's mother Aai.

Vivek Oberoi sports not only the same unshaven look but even the exact disposition that brought him fame with Company. He is somewhat of a natural at being the bhai though. Tusshar Kapoor does very little justice to what is known through police files and crime records about Dilip Bhuva, one of the most ruthless and cold blooded henchmen of the D-Company in Bombay. His gruff appearance did very little to mask the high-pitched, boyish voice and one wonders if his acting efforts were hampered by the film partly being a mummy-didi home production. Also, I had trouble deciding which one of the two was wasted, Amrita Singh or the character of Aai which could've used a few more poignant shades.

Honestly, a few years ago I would've been thoroughly impressed by Shootout At Lokhandwala simply because it wasn't yet another love/ wedding story and because it atleast tried to capture a true story. In the intervening years, however, films like Black Friday, Satya and Company have raised my expectations of films based on Bombay's underworld. Scenes of a car being blown up, a hundred rounds of ammo being fired and a script garnished with foul language just doesn't evoke any acute emotion. Meaningless action falls off one's pysche by the sheer lack of a storyline.

Come to think of it, what could've been more powerful than the true story of ruthless gangsters all under the age of 30 who were so taken by the conscienceless life of the underworld that they did not see their own doom over the glitzy horizon? But overdramatization, the trademark of mainstream Hindi cinema, is a cruel cop out that takes away the raw and moving realism that is characteriztic of stories inspired by true events.

Sadly, dried blood being sweeped off the Lokhandwala complex and the bodies of dead gangsters piled up after an encounter does not tell the audience what to feel. The goosebumps stayed locked in the stories behind the dead faces; the stories that were left unexplored by this film.

Aditi Nadkarni is a cancer researcher, a film reviewer and a poet; her many occupations are an odd yet fun miscellany of creative pursuits. Visit her blog for more of her articles and artistic as well as photographic exploits.
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July 4, 2007
01:45 AM

To be honest, I loved the film and do not agree with your review, who cares if there was over-dramatization, the fact is that Vivek Oberai is looking very ruthless and so is Tushar (Bhuva), the film can atleast be called entertaining!!

July 4, 2007
02:06 AM

" looking very ruthless and so is Tushar (Bhuva)"

Yeah Right!

Did you see Tushar in the movie? He was looking like a kid who had just been handed a pistol and not a ruthless hitman.

T5he story as such was pretty bland, nothing the great but you see the movie wasn't made to inform the people, it was made for entertaining the masses.

I'm so sure its the over dramitzing that made it a huge success not to forget the AWESOME back ground score. I mean it portrayed being a gangster as being something so cool. The movie didn't really tell us of the trauma these guys had to face( yeah expect for that one bloke who kept having recurring vision of zombies).

July 4, 2007
04:58 AM

I've no idea abt the incident or the movie but I really like the way you've worded your article. Good one!

July 4, 2007
09:16 AM

This review is really well-worded. The first two paragraphs for any Bombayite are very reminscent of the whole hafta period where people would avoid buying more than one expensive car at one go even if they had the money to do it, just coz they were worried they'd get an extortion call. Shootout At Lokhandwala was just another commercial film that as you said lacked any insight into the pysches of these young gangsters. It just portrayed them as trigger happy gunmen. Sadly, the film also portrayed Ratnaprabha Dolas (mother of Maya Dolas played by Amrita Singh) as the reason Maya became a gangster but this allegedly isnt true. It is sad that manistream filmmakers would used true events and distort them. It portrays police officers who kill men in encounters as heroes. In the end Amitabh Bachchan asks the court "If there is a man outside your home with a gun, who do you want him to be...a gangster or a police officer?". Having lived in Bombay for so many years I honestly would've said "I don't know, it depends on why he is outside my home".

Daya Nayak, a police officer had allegedly taken suparis from one gang to kill members of another gang. A.A. Khan played by Sanjay Dutt was also accused of doing something similar and unless Apoorva Lakhia knows for sure what the truth is I don't think he should've portrayed either party as a hero.

Anyways I've said too much. Really nice review Aditi!

July 4, 2007
09:36 AM

Naresh's opening remark made sure I read the first two paras of aditi's review with extra care. Yes, she seems to have pride in their past and sounds nostaligc for that hoary past!

As for the movie: a story squandered. Much more could have been done with that. And others have made more gripping movies out of meidocre story settings.

But then, just as i was about to yawn at the end of the movie, which seemed too long a-coming, i saw it was a true story and that made me sit up. But that was justs too late!

Aditi Nadkarni
July 4, 2007
10:05 AM

@Raj: Thats ok. People can disagree about what kinda films they like. I won't argue with you about your own personal taste in movies.

@Rishabh: I do have to agree with the "Tusshar Kapoor looked like a kid who had been handed a pistol". More than anything Dilip Bhuva was known for his acute reflexes and his ability to shoot people miles away. He was the D-Company's best shooter and legend has it that when the actual shootout at Lokhanwala was in progress a phone call came in asking not to let anything happen to Buva. In this film, I didn't know who to blame, Tusshar Kapoor or director Lakhia for not being able to do justice to whats known about Buva.

@Desigirl: Glad you liked the review! :)

@Naresh: I do remember the whole hafta period and the fear that gripped the city. I'm sure fractions of that past still exist. Glad you liked the review. Your answer to Amitabh's question, I thought was hilarious and so true :D


You said: "Yes, she seems to have pride in their past and sounds nostaligc for that hoary past!"

Pride, nostalgia?!! I tried to give as neutral a picture of the Bombay underworld in the 90s. I spoke of the fear that had descended over the general public and the young men who were lured into the dangerous business. The sentence in my review which said "It has been difficult since then to guage who really makes or marrs the law in Bombay", I had hoped would've been indicative of my own take on that phase. I am not sure how that translates into pride or nostalgia? One cannot possibly be proud of that era unless they are a an ex-bhai themselves.

But as far as the film goes, I guess we do agree on the "story squandered" inference.

July 4, 2007
10:09 AM

You are a tad too touchy! Where is your sense of humor!

Aditi Nadkarni
July 4, 2007
10:18 AM

My sensa humor is out looking for a better joke :D

I didn't wanna give the impression that I was proud in any way of that whole chapter in Bombay's underworld glory and hence my response. Guess I am touchy when it comes to that.

July 4, 2007
10:28 AM

(Bows low and curtesies): I apologise for having characterised you as an insensitive person who sees glamour in crime...

(leaves the room walking backwards, bowing all the while)

And no, not being cheeky in putting it like this. just in that kinda mood, with the rain and all that sort of thing outside my window.....

July 4, 2007
06:35 PM

Very nicely written and detailed review. Didnt like the film but review is good and accurate. I think Ab was totally wasted in the film.

July 4, 2007
10:45 PM

Hey Aditi,
Thanks for saving me, I was just thinking of checking this out!
Very well written review, I mite add. As a fellow Bambaiyya, the first paragraphs touched a chord.

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