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Bambai Meri Jaan, A Gripping Revisitation To The  Cult Of Gangsterism



Bambai Meri Jaan

Bambai Meri Jaan(Prime  Video, 10 Episodes)

Starring Kay Kay Menon, Avinash Tiwary, Kritika Kamra, Nivedita Bhattacharya, Amyra Dastur

Directed  by Shujaat Saudagar

Rating: *** ½

One thing about the  enduring  interest  in lives of smugglers  and  gangsters: they provided a  lot of employment to Mumbai’s population   back in the 1960s, 70s  and 80s when they were active; they continue to provide employment to  actors and  technicians who are part  of these never-ending sanguinary sagas of  nebulous loyalties and sticky alliances.

Bambai Meri Jaan based on  S. Hussain Zaidi’s Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia is a slowburn crime thriller with criminal characters trapped in a  sordid system that fosters treachery. At  a running time of almost ten hours, it gives us  a lot of time to think for an answer to that ultimate crime conundrum:  does crime pay? How  much did Excel Entertainment make out of this deal. By the way?

For  a lengthy  narrative space, the  criminals  in Bambai Meri Jaan seem  to be doing very well for themselves. Back then  in the 1970s , gangsters were known as  smugglers in Mumbai. Haji Mastan who made  a pivotal  appearance  in Yash Chopra’s Deewaar  and later Milan Luthria’s Once Upon A  Time  In  Mumbai, is here played by Saurabh Sachdeva, who is happily typecast as dark villainish  characters  . His Haji Mastan is  seen as a benevolent crimelord who repeatedly  saves an honest  but suspended  cop Ismail  Kadri(K K Menon) from the wrath  of  Sultan(Jay Singh Rajpoot) who is  vicious and sadistic  and vengeful.

So let’s get this  straight. There is the Benevolent Don and the Venomous Don. And then there is  cop-turned-gangster’s-accomplice-turned-freelance-ideologue Ismail  Kadri, played by that very fine actor K K Menon who for once seems  unable to find  a moral  centre to his ambiguous character.

It isn’t Menon’s fault.  It is the way the wheels move in this  crime drama where the  moral compass moves crazily.Ismail is  lost in the  bloodsoaked  bedlam. Is he  a good  guy forced  to turn almost-bad before regaining lost ground?

 The  moral crisis deepens  with Kadir’s elder son Dara(Avinash Tiwary) whom we are supposed  to  actually like in spite of his habit of bludgeoning his enemies heads to a battered pulp just before wolfing down biryani at  Eid and  other get-togethers.

Speaking of  food, that very fine actress Nivedita Bhattacharya who plays Ismail wife and Dara’s mother  spends most of  time in the ten episodes serving food to her thankless family.

Like or loath them, these are  characters who represent a small but crucial chunk of  Mumbai’s population at  a time when crime was  considered  fashionable  . Blood spilt was  the cool  of the  1970s and 80s, and criminals  chain-smoked without getting cancer.

It is a fuzzy  fearsome world ably created  by director Shujaat Saudagar and his  art director. The editing is  charitable to the  goon gore so  much so that the fare  sometimes  feel like  an insouciant bloodfest. The  cinematography(Midhun Chandran) captures  Mumbai’s  violent  nightlife in tones  that are at once numbing and  nostalgic.  Miraculously even  on the  home medium, one  can see the  characters’ clandestine  activities  during the night time. That’s pretty much what this series does: it lights up the familiar feral rites  of gangsterism with a style  and panache. But please, no more of this glorification of gangsterism.

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