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But, the question that should naturally arise is which shade of Classicism is actually reflected throughout the film. Yes, Ajay Devgan with his grand acting prow asserts masculinity silently yet elegantly. Emran Hasmi transmits vibration through the heart of the whole audience in his exercise of his volatile youth that, as history stands witness, often used to take resort to the depth of darkness prevalent at the then Bombay. Kangna sails through like a grand goose. And Randeep Hooda, excels in the role designated to narrate and connect the whole story. The cinematography, script and background score no doubt achieve the concerted success of making a fast flick that captures the era with both its darkness and glitter. One should not even mind the melodramatic aspect in dialogues, considering the time it portrays and the concept of life that these characters in all probability tended to believe in. Nevertheless, it’s a careful documentation of the lives that were born and seen from an angle ruled, if we forget the question of legitimacy, the era.
But, has this history not been told and retold a several times by now? Have we not been constantly fed by such Underworld stories for almost a decade now? One may argue, that though there have many such films they differ in treatment and presentation. Yes, they do. And of course some of them went to be huge box office success while some others could not see luck. Earlier, films like Vastav captured the rise of a gun tottering gangster, while Ram Gopal Verma’s Company documented a gangster’s journey to become a dreaded don. Further, Verma’s another flick Sarkar sought to legitimize a don’s dominance over the city by portraying him as a messiah. Similarly the film in question also deals with something different. It puts into document the rise of an orphan boy into the glittering darkness of Bombay Underworld, and then gradually proceeds to trace the change or diversion in the character of the dark world itself, where the business involves more than just smuggling a few articles and eventually engages mercenary professionalism and ruthlessness. And there is no denial that in the process it also advocates for the practice of at least a few morals or ethics, though the message may well be overshadowed by the apparent gloss and glitter of the world that the characters are shown to relish round the clock.
Yes all these films do something or the other than just flatly telling the story of a petty gangster. Sometimes they try to trace out the humane aspect in an evil character that automatically generates sympathy for them. Sometimes they impose such larger than life images on them that somehow establish their legitimacy and glorify them, often without the knowledge of the audience at their sub-conscious. One may argue, what’s wrong in that- in portraying the different shades that such people might be possessing? Well none is questioning the fact that even an evil character may well have some shades of humanity, he may well be a messiah for a section of people. Or that he ended up being a gangster by just the cruel play of fate. But, does it suffice as an explanation? He might have been a prey of destiny, but that doesn’t legitimize each and one man who has been deserted by destiny to become an outlaw. One may well be a messiah for a section, but still we must not forget that he has been branded an anti-social only because he violated certain social codes meant for the general welfare and stability of the society.
Yes, there is apparently no harm in documenting an era with all its reality, however bitter they be. But, the way they are being presented must be chosen with utmost care. If we go back into the film ‘Once Upon a Time in Mumbai’ itself, it will be evident that it was the glamour of a smuggler that drew a young stallion into the murky business incidentally to make it murkier, more dreadful, more violent and devoid of the minimum morality that had been present there. That too in an age when the glamour was less magnified by visual and other sorts of media. Concern is the most automatic thing that should arise if we take a pause to see into the depth of darkness under the glitter of such movies, where may lie the potential danger, may be more dreadful than what was shown in the movie.