Bollywood’s obsession with the dreaded D-gang refuses to ebb. Only, now the fever has spread to OTT too. In a way, ‘Bambai Meri Jaan’, inspired by S Hussain Zaidi’s ‘Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia’, is more of the same. Gang wars and the rise of another don of the underworld is not new to the celluloid world. Without a doubt, it’s the good old story that you have seen unfurl on screen an umpteen number of times in films like ‘Once Upon A Time In Mumbai’ and ‘D Company’.
Yet, the 10-episode series is buoyed by some splendid performances by Kay Kay Menon and Avinash Tiwary. Add to it tight direction and authentic period look, and this gritty relook at Bombay’s underbelly of crime and smuggling manages to make its place on the list of binge-worthy series.
The opening sequence is a dead giveaway on how things will pan out as the gangster drama goes back in time. But, instead of going back and forth, once it leaps back, it follows a simpler and linear graph. Ismail Kadri (Kay Kay Menon) is a cop on the right side of the law. He is part of the special task force Pathan Squad, out to bust the reigning lord of mafia who goes by the name of Haji. Though names have been tweaked a bit, you don’t need to wear the sleuth’s cap to know who’s who. Especially after the name ‘D Company’ surfaces, you can easily connect the dots all the way to Dubai. Yet, despite the familiarity of the tale, the storyline keeps you invested for the most part. Even in the predictable turn of events, director Shujaat Saudagar builds in a sense of trepidation. In the alleys of crime run by ruthless and scheming men, brutality, to the point of bestiality, reigns. Indeed, certain scenes of murder, rape and sex are far too repugnant and overdone for shock value. An overdose of profanity is off-putting as well.
Drenched in blood, gore and gaalis, the series doesn’t just succeed in telling well the ‘been there, seen that’ tale, but in building individual characters too. Menon, as Ismail, is the narrator and the moral compass, even though his own choices are not always governed by principles, but compulsions. Nevertheless, his voice consistently tells us who the demon is, even if he lurks inside his home. For a while, you anticipate the Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan-starrer ‘Shakti’ kind of conflict between the father and the son. But here the differences are more internal and Menon truly embodies the anguish of a distraught father. Avinash Tiwary, whose intensity we saw in ‘Laila Majnu’, impresses as the petty thief-turned-menacing betaaj badshah of Bombay. Just as he did with his gangster part in ‘Khakee: The Bihar Chapter’, he breathes life and nuances into his role of Dara. Only, here the screenplay is kinder to him, even glorifying him as both stoic and heroic. His is certainly not a single-note performance of a gangster but many-hued. In the initial episodes, he brings a devious charm to his character that slowly transforms into a bloodthirsty avenger who will go to any extent to wreak vengeance. His style and mannerisms are straight out of the copybook of the man who is right now on India’s most wanted list. Yet, here he is the D man we don’t abhor so much.
Despite his criminal activities, Saurabh Sachdeva as Haji has those kind eyes that are just right for the man who would broker peace than pull the trigger. Other actors, be it Kritika Kamra (Habiba, sister of Dara), Vivan Bhatena (Abdullah) or Nivedita Bhattacharya (Sakina), fit into the template with ease. Jiten Gulati as Sadiq, the elder brother who feels overshadowed by Dara, is spot-on.
The look and feel of the show is unerringly faultless. From the pillow covers to sofa sets and cars, everything feels real. The sepia tones of cinematography and background score add to the experiential feel of the times in which it is set. Only Sumeet Vyas’ part as a smooth mercenary seems out of place and more 21st century than 1980s’. The Prime Video original series, however, does not seem to be ending with just recounting the ’80s decade of mafia-infested Bombay. Yet another season is a strong possibility. Will that throw more surprises or take the ‘Haseena Parkar’ route as the ascent of Habiba on the crime scene seems imminent? Right now, familiarity does breed interest.
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