Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Shootout at Wadala: A Worthy Attempt but an Unsatisfying Compromise. Yet Again.

Acclaimed French director Jean-Luc Godard famously said that all you need to make a movie is a ‘gun and girl’.

Quentin Tarantino took him at his word and now his Bollywood clone Sanjay Gupta (‘Kaante’ ‘Musafir’) follows fashion yet again.

Gang warfare in early 80’s Bombay (now Mumbai) is the subject of this attempt at gritty political cinema.

Based on true events, this charts the rise and eventual killing at Wadala, a Bombay suburb, by the police of ‘Manya Surve’ (John Abraham) the most notorious gangster at the time.

It charts his development from hard working college kid (he wants to better himself; does not like cheating in exams) to ruthless crime boss.

Told largely in flashback, it opens with botoxed cop Anil Kapoor’s capture post the shootout of the title of gangster Abraham. Both explain their roles in the events which culminate with the (see title).

When he is falsely beaten and imprisoned for a murder, Abraham is sent to prison where he encounters his new best buddy Munir (Tusshar Kapoor). They both escape from jail and decide to form a gang. These new kids on the block have to contend with the existing gang comprising of Manoj Bajpaj and Sonu Sood who have already established a firm grim of the maximum city. They eventually all shoot each other dead until the cops pump over twelve bullets into Abraham in the final encounter.   
Since this is a mainstream Bollywood film, do not expect any serious attempt at an exploration of the socio-political backdrop of the era or a character study as to the circumstances which can cause an angry young man to turn to crime.

Gupta whacks us with gore galore (the film is rated 18 in the UK) with endless bloody shootouts, fist fights, stabbings, sex and violent rape sequences. This is often filmed in rapid edit shots or slow motion or even black n white sequences.  

After the guns, Gupta brings on the gals with the inclusion of three unnecessary saucy ‘item’ dance numbers. The first features a real life busty porn star with serious cellulite problems (Sunny Leone).

The second is from a former Miss World turned wannabe pop songstress (Priyanka Chopra) which is inexplicably cut short. An ageing lesser known diva (Sophia Chaundry) completes the trilogy.   

Performances from a veteran, largely male cast vary with Abraham proving yet again that he is more brawn than brain. Let’s face it: Abraham cannot act.

Perhaps aware of this, Gupta gets his steroid-rich hero to run around topless as much as possible especially in a chase sequence when he has to rescue Munir from being killed.     

As Indian cinema celebrates one hundred years of production this month, this unduly violent film represents its current confused state. A worthy attempt at a serious subject-matter remains constrained by the trappings of the ‘masala’ formula, and a director more focused on the ample assets of his female ‘cameos’ than on telling a realistic tale.

The result is yet another unsatisfying compromise.

- Anil Sinanan

Dr Anil Sinanan is a graduate of Oxford University and a specialist in European Law.  He is the Bollywood film critic for Time Out London.  He also appears on the Nikki Bedi Show on BBC London, dissecting the latest Bollywood as well as Hollywood releases, every Friday at 10 pm.



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