Shootout at Wadala: Film Review

Shootout at Wadala - H 2013
Eros International
The ‘80s-set Bollywood cops vs. criminals tale sets new standards for brutality.

Director Sanjay Gupta’s Mumbai-set crime drama stars John Abraham as a man trying to rise through the underworld ranks.

Shootout at Wadala does indeed depict a lengthy, bloody shootout at Wadala, preceded by a knife fight at Dadar, a thrashing at Lower Parel, and a particularly gruesome death-by-fruit juicer at Antop Hill.

These neighborhoods of Mumbai in the early 1980s are the setting for director Sanjay Gupta’s cynical and exhausting action drama starring John Abraham, Anil Kapoor, Manoj Bajpayee and Tusshar Kapoor as some of the men that made up the first officially sanctioned “encounter” between Mumbai police and real-life gangster Manya Surve.

The film’s sex and violence — though coming as no surprise to those familiar with Gupta’s previous work, such as Kaante and Zinda — will set it apart from typical Bollywood family fare; and top-liner Abraham (a bulked-up former model), though on his way up, hasn’t yet become a must-see box office draw, so box office prospects are limited both in India and overseas.

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Shootout is a prequel of sorts to the 2007 Indian crime drama Shootout at Lokhandwala, which detailed another police action that took place in 1991 and was written by Gupta for director Apoorva Lakhia.

This film’s story, by journalist S. Hussain Zaidi with Gupta, finds honest young college student Manya Surve (Abraham) unjustly accused of a crime and sentenced to life in prison. Jail hardens Manya, so he escapes with a jailhouse friend in a thrilling scene featuring death-defying stunts atop and under a speeding train. He settles in Mumbai and swears to become the “lion” of crime there. Of course, the established crime bosses vow that this will never happen, and a long and confusing progression of setups, betrayals, massacres and acts of revenge takes place until the film’s bloody ending.

Zaidi’s nonfiction book Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia, was the inspiration for Shootout at Wadala, but its basis in reality is undermined by Gupta’s overly stylized approach and too many camera tricks, though the ‘80s costumes are striking and the actors wear them well. Performances are broad, but effective, throughout.

The inclusion of three sex-soaked “item songs,” starring adult film star Sunny Leone, Bollywood’s Priyanka Chopra and British actress Sophie Choudry (sporting some unnerving plastic surgery), also lessen credibility. But Gupta has always been what you’d call a man’s director. His films are a model of machismo — women are only there to entertain, and occasionally to cry over their boyfriends’ corpses.

Production company: White Feather Films

Cast: John Abraham, Anil Kapoor, Tusshar Kapoor, Manoj Bajpayee, Sonu Sood, Kangana Ranaut

Director: Sanjay Gupta

Screenwriters: Sanjay Gupta, Sanjay Bhatia, Abhijit Deshpande

Producers: Sanjay Gupta, Anuradha Gupta, Ekta Kapoor, Shobha Kapoor

Executive producer: Manoj Mittra

Directors of photography: Sameer Arya, Sanjay F. Gupta

Production designer: Sunil Nigvekar

Costume designers: Karishma Acharya, Karishma Gulati, Puneet Jain, Kunal Rawal

Music: Anu Malik, Mustafa Zahid, Anand Raj Anand, Nadeem Saifi, Anjjan Meet

Choreographer: Ahmed Khan

Editor: Bunty Nagi

Unrated, 155 minutes