Bambai Meri Jaan is mafia saga with a difference



Let’s have clarity at the outset. This is a mafia saga with a difference: first, because it has created a broad world of characters based on real people, whose names have been changed here, and also because the series involves their family lives and emotional side even as the utter ruthlessness of some of the principal people is simultaneously highlighted.

But there is one powerful downside to this: the 10 episodes become too long overall: we are looking at a 450 (give or take some)-minutes-long orgasm of violence—in words and actions. Expletives, of course, are, as always, strewn left and right in a marathon spree of “authenticity” in the lingo of the gangsters and cops, and even some of their women.

The writers and director, and if not them, the editor, should have been equally ruthless with the amount of footage. The blood and gore is also very, very explicit, much like other thrillers in this genre, and could have been curtailed more than a tad in the name of decency.

As mentioned multiple times before, the makers of such fare on OTT should curb themselves. Otherwise, they will have no right to protest if censorship is imposed, and mind you, that will adversely affect other socially-vital genres and issues as well.

The film begins with Dara (Avinash Tiwary), son to cop-turned-don’s man, Ismail Kadri (Kay Kay Menon), leaving for Dubai, thanks to a tip-off from Inspector Malik (Shiv Panditt), who is on his “payroll”. The commissioner has ordered that Dara, now the uncrowned king of crime in Mumbai, is arrested by Malik after a bloody gang war that has erupted in the city.

Dara, his brother Ajju (Lakshya Kochhar), his loyal deputy Abdullah (Vivan Bhathena) are all fleeing the country. But Ismail will have none of it—he and his much-harangued wife, Sakina (Nivedita Bhattacharya) will remain here, no matter what the consequences. Dara’s sister, Habiba (Kritika Samra), as brave and ferocious as her siblings, decides to stay back. Not just for her parents but also to complete her brothers’ unfinished mission to kill a man who has harmed them.

The story is narrated from the beginning. How Ismail, relentlessly honest and upright as a cop, is gradually victimized by the don, Haji (Saurabh Sachdeva), into shedding his principles, is just one aspect. Little Dara (Manthan Darji) has always been ambitious. A pirbaba (holy man) has predicted a fabulous future for him, so he is admitted into an English language (and expensive) school, though Ismail, with his meager monthly salary of Rs. 54 (in 1964!), cannot afford to send the eldest son, Saadiq (Jitin Gulati) to such a school. Dara emerges as a spoilt child who also steals when he feels it is necessary. He is morally ambiguous from the start.

Soon, Haji and Pathan (Nawab Shah) join forces with Anna (Dinesh Prabhakar) to rule Bombay (as it was called then) jointly as dons. At one point, Ismail asks Haji to let him free and the soft-hearted Haji agrees. But alongside, Dara, now an adult with high tastesm has not only became excessively ambitious but also greedy. The trio of dons has no choice but to agree to his terms and conditions that he will join forces with them with a percentage share of the city’s ill-gotten spoils. But his ambitions don’t stop there. The dons have to finally order his killing from a trained assassin, Ganiya (Sumit Vyas). But Dara is made of a different kind of mettle.

The interesting aspect here is that a lot of the characters are dramatized versions of real and big names in the criminal world, as the story is adapted from S. Hussain Zaidi’s book, Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia. Thus, Dara represents Dawood Ibrahim, Ismail is Ibrahim Kaskar, Habiba is Haseena Parkar, Pathan is Karim Lala, Chhota Babban is Chhota Rajan and Ganiya Surve is Manya Surve—among others.

The performances, as always in recent times in web series, are of high caliber. Avinash Tiwary’s Dara is intense, his eyes mirroring emotions when needed and being inscrutable when that is justified: I would love to watch him in a lighter role. Kay Kay Menon as his father is superb, in his variations from being a resolute cop to a helpless husband and later father. His real-life wife, Nivedita Bhattacharya, is outstanding as his long-suffering wife and the stressed-out member. A sterling performance comes from Vivan Bhathena as Abdullah.

Saurabh Sachdeva as Haji is restrained and delightful in his essay of Haji. Kritika Kamra provides an interesting essay of Habiba, the bold woman who is not a whit less than her brothers in grit or guts. Aditya Rawal as Chota Babban and Tanaya Khan Jha as Chitra, a prostitute, impress, as does Sumeet Vyas in his wry cameo as the hit-man Ganiya.

The cinematography could have been a whit lighter and brighter without entering the level of old Hindi films, the editing less indulgent and the background score devoid of some sudden gimmicky numbers using Rap, which sounds so incongruous.

Shujaat Saudagar’s direction needed, as said earlier, restraint in his depiction of the degree of violence and pace in his narration and his cinematic interpretation of the script. I liked the way he treated some crucial scenes like the sequence when Pari comes to offer condolences to Dara, or the earlier sequence where she defends her father against Dara. Another extremely well-executed scene is of Dara’s first confrontation with his father, Ismail.

Overall, Bambai Meri Jaan, does have some scoring points over the routine gangland drama, but it could have balanced the necessary emotional parts and languid narration in a much better way.

Rating: ***1/2

Amazon Prime Video presents Excel Entertainment’s Bambai Meri Jaan Created by: Rensil D’Silva & Shujaat Saudagar  Produced by: Ritesh Sidhwani & Farhan Akhtar  Directed by: Shujaat Saudagar  Written by: S. Hussain Zaidi, Rensil        D’ Silva, Sameer Arora, Abbas Dalal & Hussain Dalal  Music: Rohan & Rohan Starring: Kay Kay Menon, Avinash Tiwary, Kritika Kamra, Nivedita Bhattacharya, Ashwani Kumar, Karmveer Choudhary, Amyra Dastur, Saurabh Sachdeva, Nawab Shah, Dinesh Prabhakar, Jitin Gulati, Vivan Bhathena, Shiv Panditt, Sumeet Vyas, Lakshya Kochhar, Sunil Palwal, Jai Singh Rajput, Rajat Kaul, Kamaljeet Rana, Kannan Arunachalam, Mohammad Khaliq, Navin Talreja, Divyani Gandhi, Tanaya Khan Jha, Ashwani Kumar, Manthan Darji, Mashhoor Amrohi, Imran Farooq & others



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