There has been no dearth of gangster films in Hindi cinema. But it’s one of those genres that never goes out of fashion. The underworld and the legends related to it make for an interesting yarn provided the novelty is maintained. However, Shootout at Wadala takes the middle path by trying to strike a balance between recorded history and fictionalised events. In the process, it showcases personalities on both sides of the law belonging to a bloody era. In retrospect, there are moments when it manages brilliantly and there are instances where it falls flat.
The entire movie is based on a conversation between a cop (Anil Kapoor) and a criminal (John Abraham). Although this period film begins on a romantic premise, it takes a steep turn towards evil. As the plot moves forward, more and more characters — some of them grossly redundant — are introduced.
The criminal in question never wanted to lead a lawless life in the first place and the cop who is questioning him just happens to be upright. There are no shades involved. Once set on their separate courses, it’s either black or white.
After all, the film is set in the late ’70s when slums in Bombay carried a thick shadow of mafia. With fear rampant, the police force was considered ineffective (apparently not corrupt as is the case today) and people with criminal patronage had vain aspirations. No wonder the real-life protagonist in this story could dare to dream of owning the city with his gang and their guns.
Nonetheless, so many things about this film by Sanjay Gupta just clicks with the audience. Milap Zaveri’s razor-sharp dialogues peppered with vintage wit raises the tempo of the whole narration. Even though the expletives seem forced in, they aren’t as out of place as the three item numbers — featuring Priyanka Chopra, Sunny Leone and Sophie Choudry — are. It might make sense from a commercial point of view but what’s the point in deranging a film with unnecessary songs? Also, the film could have been a lot shorter and more crispier.
Performance-wise, Kapoor, Manoj Bajpai and Sonu Sood are amazingly within their characters — laced with memorable dialogues — thus delivering a splendid act. Abraham’s bulked up physique does justice to his onscreen persona but his acting leaves so much to desire. He has his win moments but being loud for the most part worsens his case as the lead actor. Tusshar Kapoor is a surprise package as he confidently portrays a sidekick with a comical leaning. Kangna Ranaut is barely there as the good old lover.
If it weren’t for the anti-hero’s early innocence, this tale could have been easily written off. So, yes, it has something new to offer and something to whistle for but as usual, it should have been far better than it turned out.