Shootout at Lokhandwala: A gritty action drama
By MovieTalkies.com, 25 May 2007
It's been a film that has been much awaited and much hyped. And at the end of the slightly more than two hour fare, one can truly say that it lives up to all the hype surrounding it. The Sanjay Gupta produced Apoorva Lakhia directed Shootout At Lokhandwala is a gritty action drama that builds quickly and races towards a nail-biting climax. But the film, which is based on a true encounter between the cops and the underworld ganglord Maya Dolas and his men, somehow fails to convey the drama that one would expect such an encounter to have. When one talks of drama, one is not talking about the last sequence, the actual shootout, which sees a galore of bullets, noise, tomato ketchup and dead bodies. Lakhia fails to create moments in his film. It's somewhere in the telling of the story that the film loses its punch. So even though he has managed to assemble a great cast, courtesy Sanjay Gupta, Sanjay Dutt and the Bachchans, he fails to capitalize on it.
The film's story is common knowledge. It dates back to the nineties when Mumbai city was in the grip of the underworld. Real estate was booming and, the biggest mover & shaker of the city's underbelly was controlling all from faraway Dubai. Into this crime infested landscape, arrives the new kid on the block, Maya Dolas. He begins life as one of 'Bhai's' men and then starts harbouring ambitions of making it on his own, and thereby plots his own downfall. The film also sees the rise of the ATS, the special force created by ACP Khan (Sanjay Dutt in the film), which cold bloodedly decimates Maya and his gang.
The film moves in a flashback with the officer and his men – Dutt (ACP Khan), Suniel Shetty (Inspector Kaviraj Patil) and Arbaaz Khan (Constable Javed Shaikh), sitting before a one-man inquiry committee, headed by none other than Amitabh Bachchan, playing the retired judge, who successfully fights the case of Khan and his men (the ATS faced legal charges of human rights violations and an inquisition from their own department). The story behind the encounter and its protagonists is then revealed in bits and pieces by the three cops. We are introduced to each of the three cops, among the many handpicked by Khan to form the ATS. The spurring incident is the death of one of Khan's own officers, Abhishek Mhatre (Abhishek Bachchan), at the hands of Khalistani militants in Mumbai. Khan, the man with a mission, forges his unit after decimating the terrorists and even gets live coverage for the event!
On the other side, we are also told about the rise of one Maya Dolas and his gang --- Dilip Buwa (Tusshar Kapoor), Phattu (Rohit Roy), and RC (Shabbir Ahluwalia), a closely knit group who hang out together and commit extortions and murders for Big Brother. Maya has been brought up by his mother (Amrita Singh), who was a victim of domestic violence. Maya saves her life by killing his father. We have the typical tapori gangsters, getting drunk, dancing in the same bar with the same girls for three songs in the film, and occasionally going on a killing spree. ACP Khan is after their life and in his bid to flush them out from their hideouts, he and his men start applying pressure on the families of these gangsters. Finally, receiving news that they are holed up in Swati Building, flat No 32B, Lokhandwala, the ATS surround the building, and it is war to death from then, for the gangsters, that is.
On the surface level, the story works fine as events follow events. But it is in his bid to add subtext that he fails. The result: his characters do not rise above the stereotype. And the situations are also quite stereotypical. We have ACP Khan plagued by marital problems as his wife (Neha Dhupia) feels he is neglecting her and their daughter. There is the typical birthday party scene (how many times have we seen it before?), where he is forced to report for duty, thus sacrificing his personal life. We have the good, upright secular Muslim cop, (Arbaaz). And finally we have Suniel Shetty, who does not fit the bill for any cop, but he plays himself, and that kind of works for him.
The other scene which comes to mind is when the gangsters realize that they are doomed as the cops have surrounded the building. While the scene where Maya's mother rings him from a payphone nearby, kind of works because of its emotional quotient. The one that follows of Buwa ringing up his bar dancer girlfriend (Aarti Chabbria) and professing his undying love for her, followed again by Phattu ringing up his parents and apologizing for all the trouble that he has caused them. The scenes kind of follow one after the other and one wonders at the monotony? Surely, we can reveal the inner life of the man behind the gangster, in many other ways? Without meaning to compare, one can't help but think of Sanjay Gupta's Kaante. It was stylish and caught the other face of the men behind the guns so well. One can even name Ram Gopal Varma's Company for that matter. These films scored with their excellent screenplays, which Shootout lacks.
But where the film does score is in the acting department. Vivek Oberoi as Maya, again emerges from the dead to remind us how talented he is. It's good to see him back with a searing performance. He reminds you of his Company days. Of course that script had more in it for him, but given his brief, he does a very good job. A certain look here, a swagger, he has it all, body language, expressions. He is well supported by Rohit Roy as Phattu. As for Tusshar Kapoor, this is the first for him in such a role. One has to credit him with the effort that he has put in for the role. He tries his best to look menacing and succeeds in a couple of instances. But generally, he is a little hard to accept as a hardened criminal. On the side of the cops, Sanjay Dutt is a force to contend with. And the director has used him well. The Bachchan father and son duo have really nothing much to do in the film which merits comment.
The last word has to be reserved for Amrita Singh. This actress snatches the scraps that are left for her and creates magic. In the context of the film, she is outstanding in her two scenes opposite Sanjay Dutt. The first is where she spurns his offer to inform on her son, and the last, when she pleads with him to spare Maya. Both actors rise above the written word in these scenes.
Apoorva Lakhia has a long way to go before he masters the art of detailing and layering, but this actioner is a great effort and superior to his earlier films. Scores high on the thrill quotient!