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One more gangster drama set in Bombay

Bambai Meri Jaan2023★★★☆☆3/5Director:Shujaat SaudagarCast:Kay Kay Menon, Avinash Tiwary, Kritika Kamra

The Mumbai film industry is unwilling to let go of its romanticised portrayals of the city’s thriving underworld in the 1960s and the ’80s.

In the latest attempt to dramatise the story of organised crime, fictionalised versions of real-life figures like Varadarajan Mudaliar, Karim Lala, Haji Mastan, Dawood Ibrahim and Haseena Parkar take centre stage.

The tired Mumbai mafia cliches are all here— evil begets good, and a poor migrant with big dreams turns smuggling into international trade in the city of dreams. As his terror earns him respect, he turns black money into legitimate fortune, creating a wave of imitators.

The writers have again attempted to capture the vitality of erstwhile Bombay, which has long served as a muse to people of all stripes — from poets, novelists, and filmmakers to even the mafia.

The production is typical of Hindi cinema, and the series brims with melodrama. At times, it feels like one is sitting through a Hindi film that runs for eight hours, unlike other crime thriller series such asSacred GamesandFarzi, which are also based primarily in Mumbai.

Nonetheless, the series offers a new spin to a well-known narrative, thanks to the work of its cast, particularly Kay Kay Menon and Saurabh Sachdeva.

In the initial episodes, it seems like a story that’s already known. But the charm of recounting a story is that with each retelling, a new insight is revealed—and in that regard, the series has succeeded admirably. Putting aside the upbeat period musical sequences, this could be a nerdy treat for fans of crime fiction and thrillers.

This time, the mafia lords aren’t portrayed as if they are playing Robin Hood. This version emphasises their shallowness, and not their ambitions and their hardscrabble upbringing, as indicated by the dialogue: “There are two kinds of wrongs. One between God and man, and the other between man and man. The Almighty is merciful, he forgives… But man is not God.”

(Published 15 September 2023, 21:00 IST)

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