Dawood Ibrahim, the world that built him and the world that remained after his prime, has always been a fascination for movie makers. Multiple versions of the same story, spinoff-like movies from the perspectives of characters in that world, etc., have come as movies in the past. The latest addition to that is the new Amazon Prime Video original Bambai Meri Jaan, which I believe is the first long-format fiction based on D Company. By making it a father versus son conflict, Shujaat Saudagar and Rensil D’Silva manage to give the series a gray dimension, and that’s perhaps the reason why Bambai Meri Jaan manages to hold your interest through those 10 episodes, despite the beats being very familiar.
The story we hear is coming from the perspective of Ismail Kadri. He used to be this young and enthusiastic cop who wanted to take down the crime in the city of Bombay. But honesty never really resolved their poverty, and circumstances made him make compromises on his principles, eventually making him jobless. Even though Ismail managed to hold things together by doing something he once hated, the whole situation had a significant role in shaping the attitude of his kids. Dara, his second son, realizes what power can provide. What we see in Bambai Meri Jaan is the ethical conflict between the father and son as Dara rises to become invincible.
When you watch movies around the characters in the Dawood era, you do get a feeling that in order to show the scale, the movie format has high limitations. I think that is one reason why the arc feels very interesting. In the climax, when Habiba sits on Dara’s chair and Ismail looks at her in disbelief, you are sort of reminded of the first episode where you saw the birth of Habiba. The masala high narrative style we had seen in Milan Luthria’s Once Upon a Time in Mumbai is also being followed here. But they are not skipping through too many things; thus, the audience manages to register the characters’ growth.
The screenplay is not even in terms of the way it places dramatically high moments. In the initial episodes, where we see more of Ismail’s journey, the storytelling is very shallow, with the honest police officer stereotype dominating that space. It was actually by the third episode, where Dara and his gang get shaken by a tragedy; we get to see the storytelling finding some grip in making things engaging for the viewer. The routine format of the Rise of a Don gets a fair bit of masala and parallel drama to make that phase look compelling.
Once the series establishes Dara as the biggest crime boss, the unpredictability takes a back seat, and what we see is a more emotional tale that sort of gives a perspective to the audience on what it is like to be someone in that Kadri house. The ego, the deaths, the attacks, etc., shape the family differently to give the series a melodramatic approach to the gang war. Even though the dynamic within the family looks dramatically compelling, the equations among the gangsters and their way of dealing with situations are crafted in a largely filmy way. The cinematography uses familiar color palettes to register different decades, and the dark shades are primarily on the higher side, considering the series’ theme.
Kay Kay Menon, as Ismail Kadri, brilliantly depicts the evolution of a loud torch bearer of justice to a silent and helpless witness of violence. Since the series has these elaborate episodes showing the progress happening over decades, you get to feel the journey of Kadri, and Menon makes sure you will empathize with Kadri. Avinash Tiwary, as Dara, works fine. He is not overtly loud, even as the younger and aspirational version of the character. Dara’s arrogance, confidence, desire for power, etc., are portrayed convincingly by him. Kritika Kamra as Habiba was really good, especially compared to what Shraddha Kapoor had done in Haseena Parkar.
Saurabh Sachdeva plays the mostly calm Haji convincingly. Nawab Shah plays the role of the hotblooded Pathaan in the typical way. Dinesh Prabhakar plays the role of Anna (it is great to see them opting for authentic casting options). Jitin Gulati, as the elder brother Saadiq, gets to play an overtly theatrical character, and he was good in that role. As Dara’s mother Sakkina, Nivedita Bhattacharya was good in her role. But somewhere, it was a bit like seeing Richa Chaddha as Nawazuddin Siddhiqui’s mother in GOW. Other major names in the cast include Vivan Bhathena, Shiv Pandit, Lakshya Kochhar and Sunil Palwal. Sumeet Vyas was pretty impressive in his special appearance as Manya Surve inspired Ganya Surve. Amyra Dastur has very little to do here as Dara’s love interest.
It is kind of interesting that both Shoot Out at Wadala and Bambai Meri Jaan are based on one book, Dongri To Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia. While the John Abraham starrer was about Manya Surve, the Amazon Prime Video series has that character hardly for 20 minutes in a special appearance. Bambai Meri Jaan is engaging, and it has a lot to do with how it presented the bloodshed and gore rather than the freshness in storytelling.
Bambai Meri Jaan is engaging, and it has a lot to do with how it presented the bloodshed and gore rather than the freshness in storytelling.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended