Once Upon A Time In Mumbai poster

Once Upon A Time In Mumbai

wogma rating: Add to that never-watched 'To Watch' list (?)

quick review:

Once Upon A Time In Mumbai is based on the underworld scene of the 70s, ruled by Sultan Mirza- A character based on Haji Mastan. It's a film that explores the power that Sultan Mirza holds on all Mumbai, his love story with film actress Rehana and his rise and fall with rebel sidekick, Shoaib, who is modeled on young Dawood Ibrahim.

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Director: Milan Luthria
Running time: 135 minutes
Genres: Crime, Romance
More Movie Info

This is a film about Bombay, not Mumbai. It's a story about a smuggler, his lady love and his sidekick, and it's a rather filmy story. The movie is set in Bombay of the 70s, a Bombay that was slowly becoming the financial capital of the country, a Bombay that was home to everything filmy: including the underworld. Everything in the movie is larger than life, the dialogues are almost verse-like, the clothes are loud (it's the 70s!), the heroine's makeup is loud and what is most vivid is the romanticism of being a powerful don. The power play and slick narrative takes the audience in a roller coaster ride of one man's rise, another man's fall and a strong attempt to be stylish at it.

The movie is told to us through the eyes of DCP Agnel Wilson (Randeep Hooda), where he tells us about Sultan Mirza, the most powerful don who arrived in Mumbai with the sea as a small innocent boy, who grew up to become a good-hearted don. It is clear that Sultan Mirza owns the city, loves the city and calls it his Mehbooba. Which is why he helps the poor and becomes a god like figure for them. The character of Sultan Mirza is precise and Ajay Devgan plays it with utmost conviction. He does a good job because we've seen him play a similar character in Company and he still manages to bring a sense of freshness to the character.

Through DCP Agnel Wilson's memory we are told of Sultan's rise to power, how he respects the city by only smuggling material goods and not drugs, his love story with film star Rehana (Kangana Ranaut) and his discovery in Shoaib (Emraan Haashmi). His love story is as filmy as it gets, with a corny courtship period which lasts for 3 minutes, cheesy dialogues and song/dance routine albeit with a mature fading into the larger context of the film. Kangana is demure and looks the part of a 70s film star with all the bling and glitz. Emraan on the other hand, plays a younger Dawood Ibrahim in all sincerity. He is cheeky, arrogant and smooth in his ways, and serves as a good contrast to the mature Sultan Mirza. His determination to rule Mumbai and become the greatest power, gives us a dramatic look into what we see now, in the form of international terrorism via Dawood Ibrahim.

The problem with the film comes when there seems to be not much of a build up between the king and his sidekick, as seen brilliantly in Company. Both character of Sultan and Shoaib are built very well, but the conflict is not acted out much after the intermission. More emphasis is given on punch lines for dialogues, which get tiring after a point. As an audience member, you expect more action than dialogues, and while the first half seems promising, the latter part of the film, including the climax, don't match up to the decently carved out first half. Kangana's character takes a backseat, Ajay Devgan becomes repetitive and Emraan becomes a cheeky slave to power, to a point of no belief.

The performances are immaculate as they go with the overall feel of the film, it doesn't seem stale and convinces you in parts. Randeep Hooda is a raw change, in his confidence as a police officer, Ajay Devgan and Emraan Hashmi are cogent in their parts, but the film loses it edge through a script that creates a void with it's hurried climax and falling second half. Even the though the movie is out and out dramatic, at points the dialogues become too theatrical. Kangana seems sparkly and filled with potential but suddenly loses her screen presence in all the rush to make a drama out of a very narrate-able story.

The background score is appealing, but the music seems a bit forgettable. The movie's obvious strong points are Ajay Devgan, apt characterization and a good story which could have churned out a better climax. Watch Once Upon A Time In Mumbai for the love of Bombay, Ajay Devgan, an entertaining story and don't expect to blown away.

This article is by guest author Swetha Ramakrishnan. Swetha Ramakrishnan is currently living and working in Mumbai. She's a self-confessed film enthusiast and can most likely be found talking to anyone and everyone about popular cinema and her love for SRK. Swetha Ramakrishnan also blogs at http://swetharamakrishnan.blogspot.com/.

49 reviewers(?) - 33 yays 11 so-so 5 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Stefan S, A Nutshell Review : ...Ajay Devgan comes hot off the successful Raajneeti, and his growing screen charisma is never beyond doubt as he chews up each scene he's in... full review

Thumbs up, by Amodini, Amodini's Movie Reviews : .... The story is strong except for a few unfathomable turns, and it is multi-layered bringing in many interesting sub-plots, like that of Rihana’s dwindling filmi fortunes and Shoaib’s patient lover... full review

Thumbs up, by Lipika Varma, AOL INDIA : ...Ajay...his eyes narrate the depth of the character with great appeal. Kudos to the man!... full review

Thumbs up, by Naresh Kumar Deoshi, Apun Ka Choice : ...so little violence and yet such simmering, understated intensity that it was hard to take the eyes off the screen... full review

Thumbs up, by Akhlaq, BollyPlus : ...how can a review be complete without negatives? But such is the precision of the movie that it is almost impossible to point out negatives... full review

Thumbs up, by Taran Adarsh, Bollywood Hungama : ...a fascinating story that talks of how the mafia came into force for the first time in Mumbai.... full review

Thumbs up, by Daliya Ghose, Bollywood Mantra : ...Powerful script, strong screenplay, electrifying dialogue grips the interest level of the audience. Read more: Once Upon A Time In Mumbai Movie Review | Kangana Ranaut | Ajay Devgan | Prachi Desai http://www.bollywoodmantra.com/movie-review/once-upon-a-time-in-mumbai/#ixzz0wwTAE13p ... full review

Thumbs up, desi hits : ...the action packed movie keeps the viewer on the edge of his and her seat until the very end, but at the same time the middle part could have been cut shorter... full review

Thumbs up, filmi cafe : ...The story is built on the line – “behind the myth is the city’s greatest betrayal story’. The screenplay does not give much importance to the betrayal... full review

Thumbs up, Filmi Tadka : ...The costumes reflect vintage fashion comprising elaborate hairdos, Hipster Saris, chandelier earrings for women, or flared trousers, long collar and long hair for men.... full review

Thumbs up, by Deepa Garimella , fullhyd.com : ...Despite the plot being a little too easy-going and simplistic, and the fact that most of its characters have no logical conclusion, it is fascinating to see the simple-minded character-building... full review

Thumbs up, by Pankaj Sabnani, Glamsham.com : ... No matter about the similarity, the bottomline is, it works big time... full review

Thumbs up, by Mayank Shekhar, Hindustan Times : ...Few actors in mainstream films manage a self-assured, under-stated swagger, convey so much silently, sometimes just with their glance and droopy eyes. It’s a camera art. Bachchan perfected it as the ‘angry young man’. Devgn, you can tell, is his fine successor.... full review

Thumbs up, by Kaveree Bamzai, india today : ...Yes, yes, with some changes of character here and there it could be Company. It is not, not even because of Devgn's presence.... full review

Thumbs up, by Gaurav Malani, indiatimes : ...The film presents to you two equally powerful protagonists who are so strongly written charismatic characters that at no point they lose their onscreen heroism... full review

Thumbs up, by Komal Nahta, koimoi : ...OUATIM works for all age groups, for men and women, for cities and towns, for masses and classes.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sanjukta Sharma , Live Mint : ...Costumes, such as multicoloured nylon shirts, body-hugging saris and white bell-bottoms, nightclubs shimmering with disco balls and fuchsia wallpapers, and of course, R.D. Burman sounds—the retro groove is tastefully and arduously evoked.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sarita Tanwar , MiD DAY : ...The one hiccup in this near-perfect script is ... full review

Thumbs up, Movie Talkies : ...one of the major highlights of the movie is its dialogues. ... full review

Thumbs up, by IANS, NDTV : ...Maybe we shouldn't give away the plot. Because the plot never gives itself away. It never betrays a phoney intent of purpose.... full review

Thumbs up, by Ashok Nayak, Now Running.com : ...The music by Pritam is one of the best so far this year. 'Pee Loon' is a chartbuster and goes well with the film. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Sethumadhavan, Passion for Cinema : ...While Ajay has proven on numerous occasions that he is a wonderful actor and has done a gangster movie like Company, Emran looked like the dark horse to me.... full review

Thumbs up, by Ankit Ojha , Planet Bollywood : ...The dialogues are so straightforward that sometimes they may seem artificial, but these dialogues make the movie even more poetic and dramatic, so one could forgive the writer for it... full review

Thumbs up, by Syed Firdaus Ashraf, Rediff : ...Once again, thank you Raja for going on a sabbatical so that I could review this film instead of you.... full review

Thumbs up, by Shilpa Jamkhandikar, Reuters : ...Written by Rajesh Arora, the film is littered with clever gems which will make you laugh and sit up and take note.... full review

Thumbs up, by Noyon Jyoti Parasara, Seeds and Deeds : ...But in an attempt to keep the film easy to comprehend the writer overlooks errors in the screenplay.... full review

Thumbs up, by K N Gupta, SmasHits.com : ...The art director, Chandrakant Desai, equally shares the credit.... full review

Thumbs up, by Janhvi Patel, StarBoxOffice : ...For a change, Kangna Ranaut is not playing an unstable and nuerotic woman. She plays a glamorous, happy girl and looks gorgeous in her different avatars. She has a flair for comedy and her chemistry with Ajay is effective. ... full review

Thumbs up, by K K Rai, STARDUST : ...Though the climax of the story is novel and would be loved by audiences, the second half of the story loses steam midway and it shows in the screenplay.... full review

Thumbs up, by Raghav Ramaiah , Talking Popcorns : ...Milan Luthria's style of story telling is different and is quite evident with Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai and we saw that previously with Taxi 9211 too... full review

Thumbs up, by Pratim D. Gupta , The Telegraph : ...the build-up is smart but loses a lot of the fizz because Emraan’s character is not defined well... full review

Thumbs up, Times of India : ...Interspersed between this titanic tale of a ganglord and his wannabe are the tender love stories of the two fugitives. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Fakir Hassen, TONIGHT : ...Both actors deliver superb performances as they go about their relationships with disastrous results. ... full review

So-So, by Baradwaj Rangan, Blogical Conclusion, The New Sunday Express : ...Once Upon A Time is hampered by disappointingly life-size actors grappling with lines meant for mythical (anti)heroes... full review

So-So, by Bobby Sing, Bobby Talks Cinema.com : ...But all my excitement and expectations were only partly satisfied with few commendable performances in the movie and the rest was nothing great ... full review

So-So, by Pooja Rao, Bolly Spice : ...f you intend to know more about the prime character references in the film, just turn to the numerous Google pages attributed to them... full review

So-So, by Deepa Gahlot, cinemaah : ...Mumbai, the crowded by-lanes of Dongri, the docks and the sleazy cabaret dens of the period come vividly to life.... full review

So-So, by Sukanya Venkatraghavan, Filmfare : ...Ajay Devgn delivers one of his career’s best and gives his Sultan Mirza the required depth dignity and patience... full review

So-So, by Aakash Barvalia, Gomolo.in : ...Milan Luthria proved that he is also a good narrator, by saving the audiences for not getting bored till the very end of the movie... full review

So-So, by Prachi Parekh , J.A.M : ...depicts Sultan as a righteous guy completely undermining his criminal activities, which gives out a wrong message... full review

So-So, Mixed Bag : ... The slow-paced yet engaging screenplay of Rajat Arora has been beautifully integrated with powerful dialogues which attained better substance due to the dim and eloquent eyes of Ajay Devgun.... full review

So-So, by Ajit Duara , Open Magazine : ...The problem is that the movie is too wistful about the good old days... full review

So-So, by Sonia Chopra, Sify Movies : ...The film falls into another well-known ‘cop-gangster movie’ trap: the unreal (though very arresting and entertaining) dialogue... full review

So-So, by filmbear, Upper Stall : ...The film is heavily dependent of the chutzpah of the actors... full review

Thumbs down, by Deepa Deosthalee, Film Impressions : ...Luthria is spot-on with the art direction, costumes, background score (simply brilliant and one of the high points of the film)... full review

Thumbs down, by Manisha Lakhe, Film Impressions : ...The art direction is good and slips only when Kangna Ranaut wears the Breakfast At Tiffany's style Black dress which is 1961 style and not something a star of the seventies would wear... full review

Thumbs down, by Mihir Fadnavis, india.com : ...The saddest thing about Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai is its lame aspiration for grasping the coolness vibes when in fact the film isn't as flippant or slick as it thinks it is... full review

Thumbs down, by Padmaja Thakore, Passion for Cinema : ...Milan Luthria is content with the myth, in fact strengthens it.... full review

Thumbs down, by Khalid Mohamed, Passion for Cinema : ...In actuality, Madhubala’s sister Sona, has protested against the film, in the capacity of the wife of Haji Mastan. Which is to say that the storyline isn’t an exact replica of the characters etched here, but the references are more than apparent.... full review

Twitter reviews for this movie are not available.

2 readers - 2 yays 0 so-so 0 nays

Not Interested in Watching, by Information about China

Yay! Thumbs Up, by sagar

Yay! Thumbs Up, by TimELiebe : Thumbs Up for the acting and first half - DESPERATELY needs a sequel, though!

This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Not much
  • Language: Dramatic
  • Nudity & Sexual content: Aesthetically presented
  • Concept: Good
  • General Look and Feel: Good

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

Lead Actors:
Character Artists:
Music Director:

Once Upon A Time In Mumbai - Cast, crew, links

Official Sites:
Action Choreography:
Music Director:
Costume Designer:
Art Direction:
Running time:
135 minutes

Comments (8)

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Shweta : A review of OUATIM with just a passing mention of the dialogues just doesn't do justice to the film. The film is the dialogues and vice-versa. Quite understandable that the dialoguebaazi didn't work for you but even then, a mere passing mention is not fair at all.

To sum this one up in short, its full-on Kader Khan redux...a throwback to the 70's...done with style...has its fair share of pitfalls and doesn't offer any solid takeaways...but remains a fun watch well worth the time. Personally, I wouldn't mind multiple watches of this one...like on a Sunday afternoon with some friends for company. I wish I had taken a whistle in the film. Been a long time since I actually whistled in a movie...and in OUATIM, my smoky lungs gave up by the interval.

And I second Pankaj. Meetu...come back soon. You're being missed. Hope you're having a blast on the vacation. :)

Meetu and her humourous, unique style of writing IS missed by me too :)

@ To all:

1. Above posted review is my personal view of the movie. But I must take this opportunity to mention that it's a kind of movie that could appeal to a lot of people. Maybe I am missing the larger context of the movie, and while I admitt the movie is stylish in bits, somehow the entire package did seem a bit forced. I do think the movie was entertaining and promising in the beginning but it lacked majorly in the latter half because, for me, it only deteriorated from then.

2. About the genuineness of the film, again I think the concept is bang on, but the execution of the whole film somehow lost out from the crisp beginning.

3. A critique of the dialogues have been brought out at various parts in the review, and my only point about the dialogues is that even though it IS different, it gets a bit tiring to have the same style of punch-filled dialogues spoken by every character. Maybe it would have a better impact had they restricted it to one character or just a few demanding scenes.

4. The music is decent and I personally like "Pee Loon" a lot, but on the whole, they don't seem like songs that might be remembered for a really long time. I also like the picturization and idea of the "Duniya Mein" remix. See, now that was entertaining and a "throwback at the 70s" in style :)

5. My apologies about not mentioning Prachi Desai. According to me, she looks fresh and fits the part of Shoaib's girlfriend, but even her character takes a backseat by the second half. Although that could have been the intention.

The chemistry between Imraan Hashmi and Prachi Desai is so cool.The movie is nice and Ajay Devgan has proved himself yet again.

I thought this movies was great I loved it. Please if you have not seen it then you see it. you will not regret it. trust me.


Hi all, I missed my movies and writing reviews too. 3-4 weeks is a real long time. And looks like I missed a decent action drama and movie that was begging to be ripped apart. To be honest, I miss the mountains too. The trek around Kailash Parbat was plain awesome. The rigor is as much in getting to the beginning of the trek by road as it is in doing the trek. All much fun, in retrospect. :)
Anyway, now I'm back and have published Aisha and Peepli [Live] reviews. Hope you enjoyed them. And fortunately or unfortunately, no long break on the cards in the near future at least. :)

@Pankaj Thanks and my bad for not briefing Swetha on how serious about 'not giving the movie away' we are. Will take better care next time. I haven't gotten a chance to watch the film yet. If I do, will surely leave a comment here.

@Bollyfan aapne bulaaya aur hum do hafte baad chale aaye :D

@moviebhakt had left a brief note here saying I'll be out, but don't matter no more, because I'm back. And will check out the link in just a bit.

@Swetha thanks for holding fort, dear!

@Sanket he he he. I take that as a compliment.

@lost in confusion yep! you are right. apologies for the error.

@moviebhakt amaa kya yaar?! 'without giving the movie away' waali ko film ke poore 5 minute dikha diye!

That said, it was an interesting watch...aage aage dekhein hota hai kya...

powerhouse acting by Ajay !! this is a must see movie. even the lameduck actresses have done a better job in this movie.

@Shweta - your review was spot-on, IMO: Great performances, nice music, a plot that felt lifted from every "Good Gangster" movie ever made in any country, and what felt like a very rushed and unsatisfying second half! When the film ended, my American Bollywood Watching Group looked at each other and went "Seriously? That's it?"

Just like to take time out to praise Ajay Devgan's performance here, which is amazingly good. You can laugh, but most of our previous knowledge of his acting comes from the GOLMAAL movies and the held-back-for-almost-a-decade turkey MEHBOOBA, so seeing him play Sultan was a revelation to us all.

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