Gang warfare in early '80s Bombay (now Mumbai) is the subject of this latest Bollywood attempt at gritty political cinema. Based on true events, it charts the rise of the notorious gangster Manya Surve (John Abraham) from hard working college kid to ruthless crime boss, culiminating with his killing at Wadala, a Bombay suburb, by the police.
Since this is a mainstream Bollywood film, do not expect any serious attempt at studying the socio-political backdrop of the era, or a character study exploring what drives an angry young man to crime. Director Sanjay Gupta proves that he still has his Tarantino hangover. He whacks us with gore galore (the film is rated 18 in the UK) with endless bloody shootouts, fist fights, stabbings, and violent rape sequences. After the guns, Gupta brings on the gals with the inclusion of three unnecessary saucy ‘item’ dance numbers including one featuring a real life busty porn star. Performances from a veteran largely male cast (including ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ quizmaster Anil Kapoor) vary, with Abraham proving yet again that he is more brawn than brain.
As Indian cinema celebrates one hundred years of production this month, this violent film represents its current confused state. A worthy attempt at serious cinema remains constrained by the trappings of the ‘masala’ formula. The result is yet another unsatisfying compromise.