Testosterone. That’s the first word that came to mind when I watched Sanjay Gupta’s action-packed film-on-steroids. Adapting a story from the book ‘Dongri to Dubai’, Shootout at Wadala builds up to the first ‘encounter’ by Bombay cops against gangster Manya Surve in 1981.
The film begins in 1981 and journeys back to 1970 when, as an innocent student and victim, Surve is framed as an accessory to murder and given life imprisonment. This marks the beginning of his slow and steady decline into a world of crime.
The screenplay hops between Surve’s flashbacks and inspector Afaaque Bhagran (Anil Kapoor) filling in the blanks on how they finally tracked Manya down and riddled him with bullets. Turns out that besides Surve’s lover Vidya (Kangna Ranaut in terrible wigs), rival gangster brothers Dilawar (Sonu Sood) and Zubair (Manoj Bajpayee) have a huge hand in Surve’s downfall.
John Abraham takes a while to find his rhythm as a Marathi speaking lower middle class boy. But the measured build up to the back story of the boy who became a feared man might have given Abraham time to morph into a rebel with a cause, but it also makes the pace sluggish. Further, muscles, screaming and a mustache do not a performance make, so you do have to take Abraham’s role as a street-smart gangster with a dollop of salt.
The post interval half, where Surve’s gang is at full strength with a cast of average actors whose limitations are partially disguised by facial hair such as Tusshar Kapoor and Siddhant Kapoor. It’s the actors playing the cops who bring in some performance highs to the film, led by the reliable Anil Kapoor along with Ronit Roy and Mahesh Manjrekar. As a corrupt cop, Raju Kher is over the top and jarring. Bajpayee and Sood make the most of significantly pivotal parts.
The dialogues are front-bench-pleasing with a heavy reliance on puns; swear words and word play for example ‘Mein woh Bruce hoon jisne aath saal se lee nahin hai’. If that last line amused you, this might well be your kind of movie.
Director Gupta relies heavily on background music but not enough on editing. Some scenes go on beyond imaginable or required length. Of the three item numbers, only the one featuring Sunny Leone fits with the narrative and offers some visual freshness. The other two are superfluous. This is symptomatic of the film’s malaise – balancing the integrity of the script with commercial compulsions.
This is boys-and-their-toys guy film with every action scene being tightly choreographed and executed. Another high point is the production design, with attention to detail to establish a period film.
The compromises he makes on the length and cast, Gupta makes up for with his technical team. If only he had maintained a strong grip on the material too.