Movie Review: Shootout At Lokhandwala A Cop Out?
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.
Movie Review: Shootout At Lokhandwala A Cop Out?
- » Published on July 04, 2007
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Author: Aditi Nadkarni
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