Sometimes you walk out of a film and you can clearly tell if it will flop. Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara! will definitely fall flat on its face. A good opening is imminent but it will come to a screeching halt when the bad word of mouth spreads. Just last weekend we saw a commercial film done right. This weekend we see a commercial film done horribly wrong. It doesn’t entertain, nor does it offer an escape. Certainly no plot to behold.
Apart from the fact that this could really be the strangest sequel ever, this is also the strangest title for a sequel ever. Grammatically appalling, yes, but there is also a “Y” added after the “A”. Once Upon “Ay” Time. For a moment I thought it’s a nod to Akshay Kumar’s catchphrase from Housefull 2 (2011) which is a sound that goes “Ayyy” coupled with an amusing facial expression. After realizing what I’d been thinking, I held a tiny funeral for intelligence in my head.
The film opens with a Deewar (1975) like beginning where a kid from the slums is taken under a gangster’s wing. The gangster being Shoaib played by Akshay Kumar. I’m a sucker for corny dialogues delivered in filmy style but here they just sound awkward. Mostly because of Akshay Kumar. At a point I laughed out loud when Akshay Kumar gets up saying “Ghanta!”. I realized I wasn’t laughing because it was funny, I was laughing at Akshay Kumar.
This brings me to the casting. Akshay Kumar is so horribly miscast as Shoaib. I’m not wondering why anyone would cast him in a movie, but why he would accept such a role. There is hardly anything to like about the character. He is not cool, he is not evil neither does he have any redeeming qualities. For a villain to truly work we must love to hate him. Here we don’t even hate to hate him. I would give this film half a star because of one moment which annoyed the hell out of me. However, you can’t judge a film on the basis of one scene, which made me stay my hand. The scene I’m talking about is where Akshay Kumar slaps Sonakshi Sinha. I’m sorry but you may be the biggest star in the world but you do not slap a woman on screen. You simply do not. Shootout At Wadala may have been a machismo machine reeking of misogynistic sentiment but this is a graver mistake. It is different when a supporting character or a villain physically abuses a woman but a much bigger deal when a beloved star does it.
Imran Khan is the other side of horrible casting where I blame the casting director. He tries extremely hard to be convincing but it just doesn’t take place because he isn’t the right person to play the part. Sonali Bendre deserves a better comeback than this so let me not call it one. There's also an extremely strange cameo by Vidya Balan.
The film is a crime drama and a love story. The crime part of it is absolutely redundant. Mahesh Manjrekar is wasted and remains on the outskirts of the action. The love story consists of two men falling for the same woman and fireworks follow. It isn’t that the love story is predictable, it’s just that there isn’t much for you to care for. A few moments between Imran Khan and Sonakshi Sinha are convincing sometimes but that’s probably because the film has nothing else to offer. The amount of times the film shifts the tone makes you wonder what could save it. There is one song called Bismillah, which even shifts to a different time period. Dream sequence, sure, but no thanks.
Yes, there are a few good things about this film. Two songs – Ye Tune Kya Kiya and Tayyab Ali strike a chord. Sonakshi Sinha rises above the male actors. She has been growing on me after she impressed my pants off with her performance in Lootera. I also admired the look of the film. Milan Luthria can create a fictional retro age, which he has been doing successfully in his past two films – Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai (2010) and The Dirty Picture (2011). Only he had better scripts before.
There are certain films where I just don’t care how they will end. It’s not a question of boredom but of sheer indifference. With a bad film, you try and wait till at least something worthwhile happens but in some cases, you just don’t have anything to hold on to. This film is definitely that case. The first hour or so may not be extremely rewarding but the final act completely blows.
I’d like to end this review with a small appeal.
Dear male Bollywood superstars,
Do NOT slap a woman on screen. Ever.