Shoot-out at Wadala

3 & 1/2 stars out of 5 (between Good and Excellent)

Director : Sanjay Gupta

Hindi (English subtitles available), 2013


Good taste dies in "encounter", Intensity survives.

I didn’t experience ricocheting excitement when I first heard the title "Shootout at Wadala’. Apoorva Lakhia’s "Shootout at Lokhandwala" -a foolishly bombastic blow-up of the real-life events - had biased my view towards titles of this genre.But Gupta’s CV (much of it copied from his better-gifted colleagues) also has "Kaante" in which he had done a decent job of stealing from Tarantino’s knock-out pic. Hopefully he’d be able to capture some of that power and pizzazz in this film too. Reading Khalid Mohamed’s superb review sealed the deal for a booking.

"Intense" is the word that defines this movie. Pic is based partly on S.H.Zaidi’s book "Dongri to Dubai" and the preface helpfully tells us that the film is a "hybrid of fact and fiction". Though it has been emphasized in Hindu movies umpteen times before, Gupta is nevertheless effective in re-conveying the hard-hitting point that it is a corruption-plagued system that provokes criminality in so many cases- not natural tendency. His hero Manohar Arjun Surve (John Abraham) would have been a scholastically excellent, hard-working chap, but Bombay’s movers and shakers yank him out of college and throw him into the bloody offices of criminal transactions.. He tries to escape from prison, but ends up in the criminal Underworld ’s dungeons. Gunning for supremacy of this terrain, he battles powerful gangs and bays for unremitting blood until the Bombay Police in 1982 decide to open the era of " Encounter s"- criminals are court-bypassed by being shot dead on the spot and thus declared casualties of urban war.

The director’s trademark palette of a sepia slant is given to this movie too- the good news is that with the help of Sameer Arya, he is able to give sprawling stark flamboyance to this canvas. Baroque artwork and a slowly zooming lens deserve particular mention in a charged staircase scene featuring Manoj Bajpai,Anil Kapoor,Ronit Roy and Sonu Sood. Technically this is a superior movie with world-class credentials.A fist-fight-plus-wrestling match on prison grounds shows Gupta’s yen for hyper-kineticism interwoven with slow-motion captures, but instead of being gimmicky it somehow ends up being presentable.Static captures are notable too- the most noble achievement in this regard is the framing of Kangana Ranaut’s face -I can’t recall her having looked more beautiful than this.When out-fitted as the Bharatiya Nari wearing a bindi and unfrizzled hair, she is exquisitely pulchritudinous and one feels bonafide sympathy for this lady who suffers endlessly for the hero. His fate and antics drive her frantic with angst.

Some critics have panned John Abraham for one-tone acting,others feel he has done well. I agree with both. Abraham sports a tortured look of controlled anger throughout -you’d have no trouble guessing that this dude has unresolved issues. But more facial dynamism, an orphan smile, some extra charm, a little lessening of guard would have better rounded out this angry young man.

I don’t think Sanjay Gupta can do it, so Manoj Bajpai should take him aside and give him further training. Bajpai -with lesser screen-time- proves why he is amongst Indian cinema’s greatest actors, and it is heartening to that the industry is sane enough to give more opportunities to this man. He can’t seem to escape his fate in gangster films- here he plays the ruthless Zubair Imtiaz Haskar - in 70s suits with a flung-open collar. When he is there with his dear brother Dilawar (a one-dimensional Sonu Sood), he does enough acting to cover for Sood as well. This gangster does not need to use a knife, he can do it with his droll dialogue delivery and screen-scorching intensity . With him around, you know who is the boss; when he is gone, you know that the boss has left the scene.

Anil Kapoor has been given ample screen time as the Honest Cop who wants to go on Rampage, and who loves a good story-telling session. He delivers all his whistle-worthy lines nicely and though he doesn’t perform badly (he’s a born actor) more modulation is expected from a actor of his stature. "Nayak" shows him in a more rousing varied light.

Dialogues by Milap Zaveri are zingy, lewd and consistently juicy. They burst like crackers throughout this shameless film, and will give plenty of exercise to the front-benchers.But a line wrongly tells us that eunuchs are produced by nature. Eunuchs are males who are attacked by criminal syndicates who chop off their testicles, thereby cutting off the production of the male hormone. So though they are not created by nature, they fall prey to the natural rule which decrees that female characteristics develop in the absence of testosterone.

What barrells this blood-soaked crude-mouthed film through to the very end is a succession of powerful scenes , and ingenious ways of hitting back at enemies kick up the narrative. In one face-off, Manya, with his big rippling mucles leans out of a BEST bus like a He-Man, desperate to reach and rescue his pal - that goofy scene would have been an absolute blast if it were choreographed and timed more thrillingly.

Unfortunately, just as there is such a thing as over-acting, there is also overdirection and Sanjay Gupta is a master at it. With this film he shows he has potential for directing outstanding films, and also that he does not have the discipline for it. He pushes gratuitous scenes, shoves sleaze, peddles luridity and trumpets melodrama. What saves him is his faithful direction of a solid script .Gupta also knows that the Baap of Gangster films in Hindi is "Satya" -and he gives a nod to a similar scene in it when the desire-driven Manohar bangs on the door of his beloved and beseeches "Vidyaaaa!!!"

In sex scenes, Gupta has an inordinate fondness for sustained shots showing his men thrusting away in raunchy ecstasy. If vicarious pleasure was the goal, then he should employ POV shots for such occasions. Anyway he partially compensates later by putting Priyanka Chopra in tight black leather when she swings by for an item song . In another item song, he forgets to ensure a catchy tune, and banks generously on the assets of porn star Sunny Leone.

"Shootout at Wadala’’s other huge weakness, apart from the overwrought drama, is also one of the most pervasive blunders in Hindi films - bombastic background music . How can so many people in such a big industry have such bad taste? Perhaps Gupta should take a leaf out of a film that he unsuccessfully copied (Park Chan Wook’s Oldboy) and study from it, about how to give refined yet powerful background music. Also, songs of the caliber of those from Gupta’s previous pics- Kaante and Musafir- would have lifted this film higher.

But the one unmistakable master-stroke is the last line of fact that the film blazons on the black screen. It is a true finisher . After the rivers of blood, hail of bullets, and squads of goons, it shows what could have been.




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