The film is the stylized, dramatized, hyperbolized adaptation of S Hussain Zaidi’s book Dongri to Dubai which, even though I haven’t read it, certainly had no room for item numbers. But then Sanjay Gupta is a director who values style over substance, edge over depth, excess over restraint. So we have this blood and gore fest involving goons, dons and cops, laced with action-packed sequences, torrid romance, item numbers, high-decibel background score, and an explosive culmination with the encounter of the protagonist Manya Surve, played by John Abraham who puts more force than thought into his portrayal of a man wronged by law.
Yes, wronged by law. Manohar (John) used to be a bright student. But he’s falsely framed in a murder case and sent to jail where he turns into a hardened criminal. Ironic, eh? His budding romance with a simple college girl (Kangna Ranaut) too is nipped in the bud.
In jail, Manohar turns into Manya. He works out like a man possessed, and befriends other criminals, including Sheikh Munir (Tusshar Kapoor). The duo breaks out of the prison and returns to Mumbai to rule the underworld. Manya Surve is ready to take on the might of the ruling dons Zubair (Manoj Bajpayee) and Dilawar (Sonu Sood). The only person who can throw spanner in Manya’s plans is the inspector Afaaque Bhagran (Anil Kapoor).
The story of Shootout At Wadala is told in flashbacks as Gupta flips out the final card (Manya Surve’s encounter at the hands of the cop Afaaque) at the outset and takes the story backwards and tells it through the perspective of a bullet-riddled Manya.
Subtleties and nuances are the last things to expect from a Sanjay Gupta film and Shootout At Wadala doesn’t even attempt to proffer either. Nor does Gupta believe in moderation. So everything has been boiled and stewed to a point where a viewer has his fill and groans “Ab bas. Aur nahin”. For instance, all the action sequences have been revved up to high-voltage level. The dialogues are more filmi than real, and one even goes like “Inki tehzeeb mein bhi tezaab hai.” The songs flow in one after another without any relevance to the narrative, and it’s really odd to see John as the incendiary, simmering gangster one moment, and a flirty teaser gawking at Sunny Leone’s deadly curves the next.
As far as performances go, John Abraham tends to give it his all, but it’s nothing that would fetch him a National Award. From the sidelines, Anil Kapoor, Manoj Bajpayee and Sonu Sood steal your attention in the second half. Tusshar Kapoor is never unfit as the second fiddle. Kangna Ranaut features in a few intimate sequences with John.
All in all, Shootout At Wadala is not the best underworld film by any stretch of imagination, but it certainly is worth giving a shot if you fancy John Abraham’s transformation into a rugged, beefy gangster and Sanjay Gupta’s brand of stylized action.