Manohar Arjun Surve. A bright student, who scored 78% in his college examinations but was never able to live the life of a respectable serviceman that he had envisaged for himself. The life-trajectory of this bright young boy is tragically altered and he is left with a newer, heavier avatar – that of the dreaded gangster Manya Surve.
Sanjay Gupta’s story, with snippets from S. Hussain Zaidi’s ‘Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia’, resurrects the events leading to the formation of this figure of the Hindu don of Mumbai – the Bombay ka baap, as the film says. With characters picked straight out of history – and that too, of not very long ago – is a daunting task, no doubts about that. ‘Shootout At Wadala’ does not delve deep into the psyche of the gangsters nor indulges in a fact-finding exercise, but what it does is beyond imagination. It firmly stamps the presence of the forgotten Manya Surve on the minds of its viewers.
Add to that a boiling cauldron of Milaap Zaveri’s dialogues. Every single sentence that has emerged out of the quill of this man is capable of conjuring up either a laugh riot or a veritable tornado in the theatres. One will clap, whistle, be shocked and stand up in adulation for the sheer temerity with which these unabashed dialogues are penned. There are expletives galore, slangs used to punctuate every sentence and so on.
When Manohar (John Abraham) is falsely implicated in a murder charge by a bribed policeman, his fate is changed forever. He is jailed for life, along with his step-brother Bhargav, and it is inside the prison walls that the birth of Manya Surve takes place. Along with a trustworthy aide Sheikh Munir (Tusshar Kapoor), who later turns into his best friend, Manya escapes out of jail. He slowly forms his gang of five and strives towards replacing the Haskar brothers – Zubair (Manoj Bajpayee) and Dilawar (Sonu Sood) – who rule the Bombay underworld. In this constantly shifting tussle for power and the endless cat-and-mouse games with ACP Afaaque Bhagraan (Anil Kapoor), Manya Surve slowly rises up towards being unstoppable.
‘Shootout At Wadala’ boasts of a power-packed cast. Every performance is worth unfathomable praise. As Manya Surve, John Abraham breaks the notion that acting is not exactly his strongest point. He does it all with a hitherto unseen rawness – be it while mouthing cuss words or emptying bullets – and does justice to almost all of the screen time that has been allotted for him. If as the ruthless gangster, he kills with passion, he beds his ladylove Vidya (Kangana Ranaut) with even more of that. The latter (Kangana), meanwhile, fits well as the gangster’s moll. She is appalled at the transformation of her Manohar into Manya, but loves him way too much. Kangana’s character here is reminiscent of her role in ‘Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai’, and she acts along ably.
Anil Kapoor in the shoes of ACP Afaaque Bhagraan is a live electric wire. The man infuses life into Afaaque’s frustration of not being able to do justice to his khaki uniform and deserves a hearty salute. Manoj Bajpayee is spectacular in the little time that he appears on screen. Even in the detestable character of Zubair, Bajpayee can make women swoon over him. Sonu Sood’s performance is extremely praiseworthy. Along with Bajpayee, this brother-duo is definitely worth an ear-splitting applause. Tusshar Kapoor, Siddhant Kapoor, Ronit Roy and Mahesh Majrekar – all make for an able supporting cast and helps bring to life the life of Manya Surve on celluloid.
The sepia-tinted shots of the 70s-80s gift the film with an old world charm of nostalgia. The props, the polka dots and the shades – are all crafted to perfection. Along with that, the background score is custom-designed for that era.
The music of the film caters mostly to a person’s guilty pleasures: it is aesthetically carnal – and the song ‘Laila’ being a case in point. One knows for a fact that the elite sensibilities will shun it, but one sings along: enjoys, nevertheless. ‘Babli badmaash’ and ‘Manya ala’ are the two other item songs in the film, which could have been done away with but are perhaps better included. ‘Yeh junoon’ is a croon-worthy, pleasant number.
Let go of all your snobbish inhibitions. Go watch ‘Shootout At Wadala’ at a single screen theatre this weekend… you won’t be disappointed. Three stars for the film and an extra half for Zaveri’s dialogues from me for Manya Surve’s unforgettable resurrection!