He chews up the scenery with his dangerous frown, flaring nostrils, dark glasses, flicked cigarettes and thunderous dialogue. Shoaib is gleefully evil.
As he says: “Mujhe accha banne ka koi shauk nahin hai.” But the beauty is that underneath the swagger, Akshay also locates the loneliness and heartache of a monster hobbled by love. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed watching him this much.
The rest of the film works in fits and starts. Like Milan’s earlier pictures — Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai and The Dirty Picture — Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara! is full-throttle masala.
Situated some time in the 1980s, the film revels in blaring background music, old-school machismo, glaring loopholes in logic (starting with that strangely spelled Ay in the title) and, of course, reams of whistle-inducing dialogues by Rajat Aroraa, who also wrote those two earlier films.
No one here just talks. Every dialogue is a declaration, saying or metaphor. At one point, Shoaib says something like “Jo doodh main nimbu daalta hai, paneer usi ka hai”.
Some of the lines were so twisted that I couldn’t even decipher the meaning behind the imagery. The pacing is bumpy — too many songs unnecessarily stretch the film to 160 minutes.
The screenplay is clunky and for much of the first half, Imran Khan, who plays Shoaib’s protégé Aslam, is plainly out of his depth. Imran has a naturally sweet, vulnerable presence but the role requires drama and flamboyance.
He makes for an awkward, hesitant gangster but becomes more convincing as the love story takes hold.
What’s interesting is that this is a Mumbai mafia story but what drives it is the love triangle between Shoaib, Aslam and an actress — Jasmine — played nicely by Sonakshi Sinha.
Yes, the film is over-wrought, melodramatic and designed as pulp fiction. But it’s intermittently fun. One of my favourite scenes was Shoaib going voluntarily to the police station.
The cops are so busy trying to set up roadblocks to catch him that they don’t even notice that he’s standing there. It’s absurdly comic. And a special mention here of Sonali Bendre Behl, who shines in the few scenes she has.
Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara! had me cheering for the bad guy. Which, at least in the movies, is never a bad thing. The film gets one extra star for Akshay Kumar, who makes a stellar killer.