Once upon a time, there lived a smuggler called Sultan Mirza who ruled Mumbai (Ajay Devgn, in an act as intense as his eyes). Only that he turned Mirza Ghalib at the sight of his lady love — reigning actress Rehana (Kangana Ranaut, pout intact).
Then there was a boyish criminal called Shoaib Khan (Emraan Hashmi, allergic to razors) who dreamt of becoming ‘the Don’. When the two met, a film was born which, director Milan Luthria vows, is not based on the life of Haji Mastan and Dawood Ibrahim. Lie.
Clothes, cars, music — everything is retro (and moustache is handlebar) — in this flashback fest. And the cast (especially Randeep Hooda, who is back in khaki after a sabbatical) gives its best to “Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai” which would have become a great mafia movie.
But when the baddies spend more time romancing their women, there is less space for the underworld to bare its claws and teeth. Devgn gifts Kangana a guava, Kangana gifts Devgn a watch and a tie, Emraan gifts Prachi Desai (impressive) a Bobby blouse...
The love tracks at times stifle the crime saga and the viewer waits impatiently for some Company-like highs.
This is not to take away the credit from Luthria. He spills very little blood and gives “Once Upon...” its moments. The Devgn-Hashmi chemistry is outstanding. So are the dialogues, which bring an occasional lump to your throat. “Once upon...” is good, but not great.