The Mumbai underworld has been a fascinating and intriguing chapter in the history of the Maximum City. Sanjay Gupta has already made two films in this space – SHOOTOUT AT LOKHANDWALA [2007; as producer and writer] and SHOOTOUT AT WADALA [2013; as director, producer and writer]. And now he’s back with MUMBAI SAGA.

It features Emraan Hashmi and John Abraham together for the first time. Both have a strong presence amongst the masses and hence, this film has aroused excitement for viewers and even exhibitors.

So does MUMBAI SAGA give the audiences an entertaining time? Or does it fail? Let’s analyse.

MUMBAI SAGA is the story of a gangster and his rivalry with a cop. In the mid-80s, Amartya Rao (John Abraham) lives with his family, comprising of his father (Rajendra Gupta), brother Arjun (Harsh Sharma) and wife Seema (Kajal Aggarwal) in Mumbai.

His family sells vegetables on the streets and are harrowed as they have to pay ‘hafta’ (bribe) to the goons of Gaitonde (Amole Gupte). One day, Arjun argues with one of the goons who then throws Arjun off from a bridge. Amartya saves him in the nick of time before Arjun gets crushed under the train. Amartya till now had decided to not get involved with gangsters.

However, he loves Arjun to death and the attack on him enrages him. He single handedly assaults Gaitonde’s men and even chops off the hand of one of the goons.

Gaitonde, who operates from the jail, tells the police to get Amartya arrested. Moreover, he puts Amartya in the same jail as him. Gaitonde’s henchmen attack Amartya in the prison. Yet again, Amartya single handedly defeats them. Gaitonde now realises that Amartya is too dangerous. The next day, Amartya is released on bail.

This is made possible by Bhau (Mahesh Manjrekar), the unofficial king of Mumbai. Bhau offers Amartya to work for him and to find a solution to Gaitonde and his menace. In no time, Amartya learns the tricks of the trade. He also usurps Gaitonde’s territory, between Dadar and Byculla. Gaitonde has no choice but to accept defeat.

The story then moves 12 years ahead. Arjun (Prateik Babbar) has now grown up and Amartya sends him off to UK to protect him. Meanwhile, Sunil Khaitan (Samir Soni) is an industrialist who owns a mill, built by his ancestors. He wants to fire all the mill workers, demolish the mill and sell the land for an astronomical price.

He takes the help of Gaitonde to evict the mill owners. Bhau tells Amartya to stop the Khaitaan Mill from materializing so that he can get the votes of mill workers. Amartya meets Sunil and warns him of dire consequences. Sunil complains to Gaitonde about Amartya’s trend. In retaliation, Gaitonde tries to kill Arjun when the latter is in Mumbai on a short visit.

Arjun escapes unhurt. An angry Amartya then finishes off Sunil Khaitan in broad daylight. His widow, Sonali (Anjana Sukhani), goes to the police headquarters and announces that she’ll reward Rs. 10 crore to the cop who kills Amartya. Vijay Savarkar (Emraan Hashmi) gets interested in this offer and decides that he’ll kill Amartya, come what may. What happens next forms the rest of the film.

Sanjay Gupta's story is interesting and full of thrills and even twists and turns. The film is inspired from true events. Moreover, it is based on those people who many might not know about.

Robin Bhatt and Sanjay Gupta's screenplay is effective. The writers try their best to ensure that the focus remains on the main plot and that viewers don’t get bored even for a second. Hence, the film moves at a supersonic speed.

A few moments are exceptional in the film and are very well thought of. Sanjay Gupta's dialogues (additional dialogues by Vaibhav Vishal) enhance the film’s mass appeal. Some one-liners are sure to induce claps in the theatres.

Sanjay Gupta's direction is appropriate. He treats the story in a very dramatic and entertaining manner and tries his best to cater to the lowest denominator. As a result, he peppers the narrative with massy moments in abundance.

The characters of Amartya and Savarkar especially are strong and are well fleshed out.

On the flipside, a few characters don’t get the deserved screen time. Sanjay Gupta also should have made the second half, particularly the climax sharper. The length in the second half is also a bit of an issue.

MUMBAI SAGA begins on a rocking note which depicts the politician-gangster nexus in Mumbai a few decades ago.

The film wastes no time as it soon comes to the point as to why Amartya became a don. The scene where Amartya attacks Gaitonde’s men on the railway bridge begins unexpectedly and is sure to be loved by the masses. The second action scene, in the prison, takes the fun forward. Amartya’s rise seems too quick but thankfully, there’s lots happening in the film to keep the interest going. Sunil Khaitan’s assassination is highpoint. T

he intermission comes at a superb juncture. Post interval, the cat and mouse chase between Amartya and Savarkar keeps viewers on the edge of their seats, as also the sudden twist in the tale in the pre-climax. The climax, though could have been better, is worth watching.

John Abraham is in top form. He looks every inch a dreaded gangster and he is fantastic in the action scenes. At several places, he flashes his dimpled smile briefly and that adds to his character’s charisma. Emraan Hashmi has a late entry and that might make his fans unhappy. But the moment he enters the narrative, he is rocking. Not just with action, he also steals the show with his one-liners. His dialogue on the police uniform will create frenzy in cinemas.

Mahesh Manjrekar is too good as the shrewd politician. Amole Gupte is superb. Prateik Babbar looks a bit off but manages to leave a mark. Kajal Aggarwal and Anjana Sukhani get limited scope. Same goes for Tithi Raaj (Neelam; Arjun’s wife). Gulshan Grover (Nari Khan) looks stylish and is decent. Rohit Bose Roy (Baba) is fine as Amartya’s right hand man.

But his motive in the second half seems a bit unconvincing. Samir Soni, Shaad Randhawa (Jagannath), Vivaan Parashar (Sadashiv) and Harsh Sharma are okay. Suniel Shetty (Sada Anna) is fine in a special appearance. He looks quite stylish.

Music has limited scope in a film like this. Thankfully, there are only 2 songs in the film. 'Danka Baja' is foot tapping. 'Shor Machega' is well shot but seems out of a place in a period film. Amar Mohile's background score is dramatic and thrilling.

Shikhar Bhatnagar's cinematography is sans complaints. Priya Suhas and Sunil Nigvekar's production design and Nahid Shah's costume are authentic. Anbariv's action is one of the highpoints of the film. Nube Cirrus's VFX is good at some places. Bunty Nagi's editing could have been crisper in the second half.

On the whole, MUMBAI SAGA is a film that deserves to be experienced on the big screen. It is embellished with massy moments, clap worthy dialogues, sudden twists and loads of style. At the box office, it’ll find patronage in the theatres and bring the smiles back on the faces of distributors and exhibitors.

Review: ****

A Forum Films release in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji: https://forumfilms.co.nz/movie/mumbai-saga/