Shootout at Lokhandwala

Dir: Apoorva Lakhia
Star: Sanjay Dutt, Sunil Shetty, Amitabh Bachchan, Vivek Oberoi

Cheerfully and unashamedly fascist in its approach towards law and order, this Bollywood film espouses the view that criminals lose their rights by nature of being criminals. If the police want to be judge, jury and executioner, shooting them dead just saves us all the cost and bother of an expensive trial and long jail sentence. These "encounter killings" were - indeed, are - very much a real thing in India, particularly with regard to potential terrorists. This is based on a real event from 1991, the protagonists being extremely thinly-disguised, e.g. the top cop is S.S. Khan (Dutt), based on the real A.A. Khan, who gets a cameo in the film, just in case there was any doubt! The story is framed in an investigation into Khan's practices by prosecutor Dingra (Bachchan), covering both his creation of a SWAT-style unit of elite officers, and his efforts to neutralize Maya (Oberoi), the local leader of an operation run out of Dubai, who wants to go into business for himself. Those efforts culminate in the titular siege, which ended with Maya and his associates all gunned down.

"If a man is standing outside your house with a gun in his hand, who do you want that man to be? Maya or ACP Khan?" That line from the movie largely sums up the philosophy here, which considers Dirty Harry a limp-wristed liberal wuss. While I can respect the brutal, non-PC approach, the threat is weakened significantly by the typically Bollywood song and dance numbers into which only the bad guys break. So, this is like watching the Backstreet Boys playing the part of gangsters; it doesn't quite convey that the ends Khan uses justify the means, and you could certainly rework this same story to reverse the heroes and villains. Still, it doesn't hang around, nor does it feel the need to shoehorn any significant kind of romantic subplot, into what is almost entirely a super-macho world. I can certainly see why the film describes itself as "based on true rumours," yet the lack of political correctness here is entirely refreshing, and it's hard to imagine this kind of film being made in Hollywood, especially these days. Ironically, star Dutt is currently in prison on arms possession charges, for weapons linked to 1993 bombings in Mumbai - carried out by the same organized crime group involved here. You can't make this shit up, folks.

[October 2015]

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