Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Vivek Oberoi, Tusshar Kapoor, Abhishek Bachchan
Direction: Apurva Lakhia
Also at the cinemas this week is director Apurva Lakhia's cops-and-gangsters drama Shootout At Lokhandwala that's more or less based on a true incident that took place in 1991.
The anti-terrorist squad of the Mumbai Police Department led by Inspector A A Khan opened fire on a group of underworld gangsters headed by notorious hitman Maya Dolas in a residential society in Mumbai's Lokhandwala area, putting at risk the lives of hundreds of innocent people living there.
Borrowing this skeletal true story, Lakhia creates the two protagonists of his film -- Sanjay Dutt as Inspector Shamsher Khan, and Vivek Oberoi as Maya Dolas. The rest of Lakhia's film is a sketchy amalgam of fact and fiction, based on recorded statements, media reports and hearsay.
Now there's not very much we don't already know about encounter killings, we've read about so many in the news.
Therefore the only real significance of this particular incident, in my opinion, is the recklessness shown by the cops who chose to put so many innoncent lives in danger by carrying out this operation in a densely populated residential area.
Sadly however, this very important detail is only once touched upon in the film. Lakhia simply doesn't take up this matter and I think I might know why -- because one of the consultants on this film was Inspector A A Khan himself, so can you really expect an objective and honest representation of the facts under these circumstances?
What you get, instead, is another one of those typical Bollywood-ified versions of a true-life story -- think about it, you'll find all the cliches here -- smart-talking bad guys, earnest cops walking in slo-mo, nagging wives of cops who complain their husbands spend no time with the family, the gangster's bar-girl sweetheart, even a gruesome murder scene shamelessly plagarised from the Edward Norton hit American History X.
There's absolutely nothing new about Shootout At Lokhandwala , you've seen it all before and many times over.
Not a patch on such cutting-edge gangster films as Satya, Company or more recently Black Friday, the problem with Apurva Lakhia's Shootout At Lokhandwala is that it doesn't quite know which direction its going in.
Lakhia confuses us completely by telling us too many little stories before he tackles the big one -- like that absolutely pointless story about the police force's best cop Abhishek Bachchan who gets killed by some Khalistani terrorists -- now what was the point of that story?
Also, what is the point of those two item songs, and the constant plot diversions to include the women in the lives of these men? Like Neha Dhupia threatening to divorce her police officer husband because he's hardly ever at home, or Sunil Shetty who keeps giving blank calls to his wife who's filed for divorce, or Tusshar Kapoor's bar-dancer girlfriend?
What is the point behind any of these tracks? What do they lend to the main story? And for that matter, what is the main story? Is it about these fearless gangsters who finally meet with a bloody end, or is it about these honest cops who will do anything to wipe out crime from the city?
Believe me, even after watching this two-hour-plus film, I still don't know what it is meant to be about. And I suspect that director Apurva Lakhia doesn't know either.
There's an upside and a flipside to casting big stars in your film. The upside, of course is that they bring in the crowds.
The flipside is that you often have to compromise on your plot itself to make your actors stand out. And that's another reason why Shootout At Lokhandwala is such an idiotic film.
Amitabh Bachchan's been cast in the film in a small role, as the lawyer defending Inspector Khan and his team in the Lokhandwala shootout case.
Now normally, one would have cast a junior artiste in such a role, but because Bachchan's agreed to do it, you have to pad up the part to justify his presence in it.
But the story itself doesn't need any more of that character. Yet you force it in, by giving Bachchan all these ridiculous lines where he's taunting his clients and virtually attacking them while questioning them. Trust me, Amitabh Bachchan looks embarrassed to be playing such an insignificant part.
Of the central cast, Tushar Kapoor is miscast as Maya's gangster partner, Sunil Shetty still hasn't learnt how to act and Arbaaz Khan overdoes the shudh Hindi.
Vivek Oberoi's performance is nothing to write home about either, but the blame for that must be shared with the film's writers and director for casting him in a storybook villain-like character which amounts to nothing more than a cliche in the end.
It's only Sanjay Dutt who comes out shining, because it's an earnest performance delivered without the usual Hindi-film trappings.
I came out of Shootout At Lokhandwala with a throbbing headache and I'm not sure I can recommend this film to anyone I care even a little about.
It's pointless and it lacks focus, it's meandering and it makes very little sense. So that's one out of five and a thumbs down for Apurva Lakhia's Shootout At Lokhandwala.
It tries to be a boy's picture with guns and gore, but it lacks both style and substance. Because the film has no soul, it leaves you cold and unaffected.
Rating: 1 / 5 (Poor)