'Bambai Meri Jaan' review: Exploring the criminal echoes of Mumbai
  • Release Date: 14/09/2023
  • Cast: Kay Kay Menon, Avinash Tiwary,Kritika Kamra, Saurabh Sachdeva
  • Creators:Renzil D’Silva and Shujaat Saudagar

Exploring the Criminal Echoes of Mumbai with its “Prince of Crime”

“Bambai Meri Jaan” is partially based on one of the most informed, detailed, researched, and impactful books on the Mumbai Mafia ever written: “From Dongri to Dubai” by S. Hussain Zaidi, who also happens to be a producer of this show. Zaidi’s book has been used in many Bollywood films and series and has received various treatments in its numerous renditions, making it synonymous with everything gangster-related in Indian cinema.

While this draws attention to the immense appeal and respect for Zaidi’s work, it also underscores the fact that his book is so well-known and has been delved into so extensively that there is very little that has not been adapted before. Moreover, there is very little left to surprise the audience in a story about Dawood Ibrahim, his family, and his humble beginnings, culminating in his transformation into the world’s biggest terrorist and criminal. So, what could Renzil D’Silva and Shujaat Saudagar do differently to not only captivate the audience’s attention but also explore a side of the story that has not been touched upon before?

As I watched the series, I couldn’t help but notice that I was familiar with many of its plot points, as they had been approached in some films or series before. However, what Renzil D’Silva and Shujaat Saudagar were able to achieve here was to provide a different direction and perspective to these key events and plot points. This not only offered us a fresh viewpoint on scenes that had been previously handled differently but also allowed the characters to experiment with their interpretations of these moments.

'Bambai Meri Jaan' review: Exploring the criminal echoes of Mumbai

It’s worth noting that this series is as much a tale of Dawood’s meteoric rise to power and notoriety as it is an exploration of his relationship with his father and other family members. In most other stories and renditions, Dawood’s father has merely been a footnote.

However, in “Bambai Meri Jaan,” his character is thoroughly developed, and we get to see a side of him that we didn’t know existed. We witness how he is muscled into submission, transforming from a true warrior for the good to becoming a pawn for the very men he despised and hoped to see face the consequences of the law. What was truly moving to observe was the impact of these choices on him as a human being and how he gradually withered away, burdened by his choice to align with the devil and distance himself from the teachings of his religion.

Kay Kay Menon is undeniably one of the most gifted actors that we have in India today, and he once again showcases his talent by delivering a simmering performance as Dawood’s father, renamed Ismail Kadri. The character’s journey and all that unfold before his eyes are portrayed with heart-breaking drama and realism by Menon, making it impossible to overlook the impact and power of his portrayal.

There are numerous scenes deliberately underplayed yet brimming with power and emotions. Menon’s interactions with the character of Haji Maqbool, based on Haji Mastan and portrayed by Saurabh Sachdeva, are absolutely fantastic. We witness the two characters’ dynamics evolving throughout these scenes as Haji gradually gains power over Ismail due to circumstances thrust upon him by his wife, her brother, and their actions.

Another aspect of the character that Menon makes memorable is Ismail’s acceptance and reactions to his failure as a father, as his son transforms into the most dreaded gangster, a stark contrast to Ismail’s identity as a patriot, an honest cop, and someone who once had the power to stand up against the mafia. Ismail’s understanding, acceptance, and surrender to this fact, portrayed through key scenes, were some of the highlights of Menon’s scintillating performance.

Avinash Tiwary portrays Dawood Ibrahim, rechristened as Dara Kadri, with a vengeance. I am confident that he might not have been the first choice to play this character in a series of this nature. Typically, there may have been an inclination to hire a more popular or seasoned Bollywood face. Tiwary did have a career-defining role in Netflix’s show “Khakee: The Bihar Chapter,” but that alone may not have been sufficient to secure such a juicy and key role in such a high-profile series. However, after his stellar performance here, I am confident that we will see a lot more of him in different formats of the entertainment industry.

Tiwary not only effectively brings out the brutality and over-ambitious nature of the character but also realistically portrays the family dynamics and the role he plays in a dysfunctional yet loving family. His relationships with his parents and siblings constitute an extremely important part of the narrative, as they shape him as an individual and influence most of his decisions. The creators also make a point to show his inclination towards getting his way and considering his own ambition and image as more important than anything else. Therefore, when he is caught off guard and faces human losses, his reactions and renditions of these scenes become a lot more dramatic and entertaining. Avinash Tiwary hits all the right notes for the character, even though he looks nothing like the real man.

The level of violence depicted in this series is something quite unusual, rarely seen in recent times. The most striking example of this is a brutal rape scene where nothing explicit is shown on screen, but the implied act, combined with the accompanying visuals, sounds, and reactions of the characters involved, will leave a haunting impression. Personally, I have a strong aversion to the portrayal of graphic violence against women in films and series, and I tend to fast-forward through such scenes when I have the option. I did the same here, but even the brief glimpse I caught of the scene will forever remain etched in my memory.

In another particularly gruesome scene, a man kills another by brutally stomping on his head, causing his skull to rupture and gradually disintegrate. The camera doesn’t shy away from showing the full extent of the violence. If that weren’t enough, in the same scene, another character shoves a knife through another man’s buttocks, extracting his entrails.

Here too we are given a full view of the expression of the two men as they each reach the crescendo of the said act of violence. No matter how distasteful, I feel that this was the only kind of violence that could have justified the nature of the content of the series. Many of these acts are inspired by actual accounts of barbaric violence that was unleashed by the Mumbai Mafia on each other and hence no matter how stomach-churning it may seem, it makes complete sense.

This series is by no means perfect. “Bambai Meri Jaan” has its share of flaws as well. Despite being informative, the family scenes and character dynamics, at times, become repetitive and boring. We enjoy gangster films and series because of the larger-than-life crimes and actions of the gangsters. We are less interested in seeing them haggle over family matters or engage in lengthy, contemplative conversations about their existence and relationships with each other.

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While many of these elements are well-crafted and portrayed in the series, they do overstay their welcome on more than one occasion. The character of Manya Surve, renamed as Ganiya, is portrayed by Sumit Vyas in a cameo role that feels extremely out of place, marked by antics that seem more in line with a Hollywood film and less compatible with the grounded and gritty tone of the series. Unfortunately, this misalignment leads to one of the most important and dramatic parts of the series falling flat and lacking impact.

Despite its well-executed aspects, “Bambai Meri Jaan” does feel repetitive in many sequences and key plot points. It’s also noticeable that the series attempts to justify Dawood’s actions, portraying him as a product of the system and placing blame for his meteoric rise on police corruption and economic disparities in society. I don’t agree with this perspective and believe it to be a common misconception. It’s time for us to acknowledge and accept criminals for what they are. From a pure entertainment standpoint, “Bambai Meri Jaan” scores heavily. I’m confident that anyone who starts this series and has the patience for slow burns will complete it and be suitably rewarded for investing time and patience in a story that is well-known but still offers additional elements and nuances that make it worth your time and attention.

Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

The views expressed in this article are that of the reviewer and do not reflect EastMojo’s position.

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