The Path Not Taken—A Short Review of Once Upon A Time in Mumbai

Posted on August 29, 2010 in Media and Culture

By Anushri Mondal:

A saga encircling two individuals of different generations. The persona of these two individuals might appear to be of similar gloss when analyzed superficially but as someone had said that there is a wide sea of difference between appearance and reality. The saying comes out true when we take a deeper look at the July release, blockbuster movie Once Upon A time in Mumbai. The movie starts with a rewind by taking us to the era when Mumbai has seen its emergence of underworld smuggling deals. But the surprise quotient of the film lies in the definition of the term ‘underworld’ now associated with illegal trades, terrorism, violence and bloodshed. The film compels us to go through a re-visitation of the term and the trades associated with it. In order to portray the real life characters, Director Milan Luthria has given the job of Sultan Mirza to Ajay Devgan and that of Shoaib Khan to Emraan Hashmi. Without mentioning the real life personalities which they are imitating, we can go through a small road of analysis, describing the single path of these two personas that diverted into opposite horizons. Whereas Sultan Mirza , a struggler made orphan in his early childhood, rises the steps of success by his own spirit of determination and hard work, Shoaib Khan , on the contrary, make castles in the air and is only concerned with earning riches without investing time and effort into it.

Sultan Mirza believed in helping the poor and the needy with the intention of receiving their divine blessings. He believed that good thoughts and affection can stand strong in times of crisis. Shoaib had no such sense of achieving success through charitable deeds. He only knew the colour of money and the material goods which can be purchased out of it. He could go to any extent to stain his hands, be it contract murders, arranging blasts, causing blood to shed from the shades of innocent beings just to boost his selfish desire of rising above the masses–becoming extra ordinary among the ordinary. Although, Sultan Mirza had similar dreams but the path chosen to achieve the destination desired was polar opposite to that taken up by Shoaib years later. Shoaib wanted to be a don whereas Sultan Mirza was a justified believer to the title of ‘Sultan’ that he applied on himself. Whereas Sultan was a romantic at heart, Shoaib was a dominant dictator. Whereas Sultan went to the extent of changing his profession and enter into politics when his love, actress Rehaana, played by Kangana Ranaut needed him, Shoaib was perceived to get into multiple liasons as his power increased with the passage of time.

It was Shoaib’s entrance to Sultan’s gang — a mistake made by Sultan Mirza himself,which caused the degradation of the underworld trades. A man devoid of morality, ethical grounds, Shoaib embarked on every money making expedition that came on his way, irrespective of their nature and consequences. Hence, Mumbai came to be ruled under the staunch dictatorial regime of Shoaib subsequent to the death /murder of Sultan Mirza. Well, it will not be completely wrong to say that Shoaib succeeded in achieving the dreams that he dreamt every night.

The moral of the story being, it is not the success or the failure that counts, it is the ‘way’ that counts. No one shall remember Sultan in bitter terms but when it comes to Shoaib, people remain numb and shocked. He is an object of fear whereas Sultan was an object of affection.

The story is relayed in retrospect. It is in the voice of DCP Angel Wilson played by Randeep Hooda. The plot is stretched out in the acceptance of Angel Wilson’s failure as a police officer to obstruct/halt Shoiab’s rising negative ambition, leading to the chaos of the city of Mumbai.

The movie is worth watching for the plot and the roles played out by the individual characters. It is better to leave it to the audiences’ imagination to figure out the authentic characters on which the movie is structured.

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