Sometime in the film, a character goes to a local don asking for work. Asked what work he can do, the character replies, "Murder, kidnapping; rape bhi karunga agar item acchi hui to." (I can murder, kidnap; I'll even rape if the girl is good). This is a joke in the film. So funny, right?
While the nation has been protesting against sexual violence against women, the makers surprisingly cock a snook and put a rape joke in the film. Yes, it's that kind of a movie.
Subtlety has never been Sanjay Gupta's (Alibaug, Zinda, Kaante) style. He produced Shootout At Lokhandwala in 2007, and is back with Shootout At Wadala as co-producer and director.
The slickly-shot film is set in the '70s. The story begins with Manya Surve (John Abraham) writing a college exam and refusing to help his girlfriend (Kangna Ranaut) when she wants to copy an answer. 'I don't want to do anything wrong in my life', he proclaims; but then goes on to assist his brother (although unintentionally) in a murder.
Jail time makes him a different person, and the police only aid his taking the crime route. In this film, the police is as much the villain as the gangster. Who's worse is left for the viewer to decipher.
We witness the rise of Manya Surve from a simpleton who wouldn't let someone copy from his test, to one of the most dreaded gangsters of Mumbai. This drastic transformation is hardly explained.
The film is unabashedly manipulative. There is a strong effort to make the audience consistently root for Manya. For example, even when he does become a gangster, we don't see him commit any reprehensible crime for money. All we see him do is kill the rival gang members.
Surely, as a mafia kingpin, he's making money through other means. What are they? Gupta never puts all the cards on the table, so we continue to think of Manya as a good-hearted guy.
In fact, you have the gangster mouth dialogue like, 'Even a prostitute is a woman, and she has the right to say no.' This is when he saves a girl from a leery cop, and doesn't take the money offered to him by the girl's boyfriend.
Of course, somewhere down the film, Manya forgets the 'consent of a woman' principle, as he pretty much molests his own protesting girlfriend (and, of course, she submits).
The dialogue is unapologetically written for seetis and claps. It's replete with unnecessary word play and makes you wonder who talks like that. Here's an example: "Khakhi ki izzat karta to khak mein nahin milta." Or "Usmein itna muscle hai, ki kisi ko bhi masal ke rakh de."
Then you have the noble dialogues about the police vardi (police uniform) and sacha musalmaan (true Muslim). Not to forget that each conversation is filled with the most cringe-inducing Hindi abuses.
The film has an interesting story, adapted from crime journalist Hussain Zaidi's book Dongri to Dubai. And there are a few gripping moments. But overall, the execution so violent, full-of-abuses, and pandering to the lowest common denominator that you feel suffocated.
It's like watching murders, abuses and artificial dialogue on a loop.
What works for the film are the performances. John Abraham brings out the coarseness and vulnerability of Manya Surve earnestly. Usually cast as an urban pretty boy, Abraham shows he can do gritty as well.
Anil Kapoor as the cop out to get Manya is very good. Manoj Bajpayee shines in his role as the gangster Zubair.
Kangna Ranaut is compelling. Sonu Sood, Mahesh Manjrekar, debutant Siddhant Kapoor (Shakti Kapoor's son) and the supporting cast do very well, playing a huge hand in elevating the film somewhat.
The Indian audience has always loved the gangster film. From Deewar to Parinda to Company and Satya – none of these films felt the need to put in sexist jokes and offensive abuses to portray the underworld.
The fact is you don't need to offend and insult and put in three item songs to make a gangster movie.
It's unfortunate that despite such a great cast, what you get is a mediocre, offensive film. Watch Shootout At Wadala only if you must.
Rating: 1.5 stars