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Bambai Meri Jaan review: This retelling of Dawood story has few moments of novelty

There have been so many versions of the rise and rise of the dreaded D Company, and its top boss, Dawood, that yet another requires it to be a fresh lens on an an oft-told tale. But there’s very little in the 10-episode web series based on ‘Dongri To Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia’ by S Hussain Zaidi, that prolific profiler of the Bombay underworld, that we haven’t seen before.

The Dawood story in ‘Bambai Meri Jaan’, directed by Shujaat Saudagar, is so lightly fictionalised that it might as well have used the characters’ own names. The infamous trio of Karim Lala, Haji Mastan and Varadarajan Mudaliar who had divvied up Bombay in the 70s, and who ran their illegal enterprises like well-oiled machinery, are Haji Maqbool (Saurabh Sachdeva), Azeem Pathan (Nawab Shah), and Anna Mudaliar (Dinesh Prabhakar). And Dawood is Dara (Avinash Tiwary), complete with those sideburns and the big shades, wreathed in cigarette smoke and danger.

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The series cuts back and forth in time, showing us the backstories of these goons who rose to prominence with the collusion of the authorities and the police-on-their-payroll. But the chief conflict from which the series derives most of its strength is the one between honest cop Ismail Kadri (Kay Kay Menon) and his always-taking-a-short-cut son Dara. The scenes between the father and son are reminiscent of so many similar face-offs in our movies, going back to Amitabh Bachchan and Dilip Kumar in ‘Shakti’: the playing out off this filial relationship against the backdrop of the rising crime graph of the city makes us recall many similar films which a faced similar challenge — how do you not romanticise the allure of the gangster and his power when you are intent on keeping it real? Which side is the film on? Is it akin to the fandom Ram Gopal Varma displays for his bad boys in ‘Satya’ and the outstanding recreation of the D Company tale in ‘Company’? Or to Anurag Kashyap’s trenchant docu-drama eye in ‘Black Friday’? Or an out-and-out crime thriller like Milan Luthria’s ‘Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai?’

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Watch | Trailer of Bambai Meri Jaan

The slight tension that Kay Kay and Tiwary bring to the fore is dissipated in the familiar re-telling devices the series uses, with a voice-over joining the dots, and the circling back to the opening scene, when Dara and family are on the verge of making a radical departure. In the middle of all the men making their moves– Tiwary as Dara/Dawood is excellent, Kay Kay brings a wounded father’s soul to his terrific performance, Sachdeva lifts off the screen—the series works hard to give its women things to do. Nivedita Bhattacharya as Ismail’s wife and the choices she has to make, as well as Kritika Kamra as Dara’s sister who looks quite as capable as controlling an empire as her formidable brother, both catch the eye; Amyra Dastur, as Dara’s childhood sweetheart doesn’t fare as well. And while we understand that hoods have no use for vanilla in their language, the constant barrage of cuss-words comes off annoying.

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Ultimately, the moments that give us novelty are far and few in between. The rest of ‘Mumbai Meri Jaan’ is standard-procedure.

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Bambai Meri Jaan cast: Avinash Tiwary, Kay Kay Menon, Nivedita Bhattacharya, Amyra Dastur, Kritika Kamra, Saurabh Sachdeva, Nawab Shah, Dinesh PrabhakarBambai Meri Jaan director: Shujaat Saudagar

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