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Bambai Meri Jaan: 5 gangster films to watch before the Prime Video series

Movies based on the Mumbai mafia have often delved into Maximum City’s dark underbelly and presented nefarious characters through a rather unfiltered lens.

Bambai Meri Jaan: 5 gangster films to watch before the Prime Video series

List hai toh hit hai

  • Nikhil Kumar

Last Updated: 03.48 PM, Sep 12, 2023


Movies based on the Mumbai mafia have often delved into Maximum City’s dark underbelly and presented nefarious characters through a rather unfiltered lens. While these outlaws, who are often based on real-life figures, commit despicable crimes, they are also depicted as victims of their circumstances – and their choices thus seem only inevitable if not fuelled by their survival instincts. These morally ambiguous stories of gangsters who are equally feared and respected make for a compelling watch. And these movies trace their life from their humble beginnings leading up to their devastating and tragic ends.

Satya (1998)

Considered one the most iconic Hindi films based on the Mumbai mafia, Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya is also one of the early films to recognise Manoj Bajayee’s acting prowess as he slips into the legendary screen gangster Bhiku Mhatre with much conviction. Written by Anurag Kashyap, Saurabh Shukla and Kona Venkat, Satya furnishes the city of dreams as one where trigger-happy gangsters perenially prey on the city’s privileged for ‘hafta’ or protection fees. And when things go sideways, bullets are inevitably punched into bodies without a care as these fearless convicts couldn’t be bothered about life and limb in pursuit of what they believe to be a better life. Satya was praised by critics for presenting an unfiltered portrait of the domestic lives of fierce gangsters – it is a perspective that was often overlooked in Hindi films at the time. So we were introduced to a gun-slinging gangster who is also a husband to a nagging wife and a doting father. This authentic lens rendered a distinct relatability and consequently, drew much empathy when a certain character was eliminated in a ruthless manner. The film stars J.D. Chakravarthi as the eponymous Satya along with Urmila Matondkar, Saurabh Shukla, Makarand Deshpande, Paresh Rawal, Govind Namdeo among others. Bajpayee bagged the National Award for Best Actor for his flawless portrayal of a high-spirited gangster who wore his heart on his sleeve.


Ab Tak Chhappan (2004)

Some may argue that Ab Tak Chhappan is more about Mumbai Police’s controversial outfit comprising Crime Branch officers than about Mumbai’s underworld. But Shimit Amin’s 2004 directorial depicts the mangled relationship that those in law enforcement shared with the poster boys of organised crime. Headlined by Nana Patekar, the film introduces us to the country’s first encounter squad – a team of cops who were tasked with eliminating gangsters and mafia members in a discreet and tactical manner– making it seem less premeditated and more  procedural based on circumstances. This unique department manages to curb crime by taking out several key figures who worked for dons operating from overseas. But the nature of their job also sometimes reduces them to lackeys for politicians who’d utilise their services for their ulterior motives. The film also stars Revathi, Yashpal Sharma, Mohan Agashe among others. A must-watch for fans of taut action-thrillers and the climax packs an unpredictable turn that you definitely wouldn’t be able to predict.

Black Friday (2004)

Based on Hussain Zaidi’s Black Friday: The True Story of the Bombay Bomb Blasts, the 2004 Anurag Kashyap directorial delivers one of the best police procedurals to be ever made in Indian cinema. The film depicts the series of events following the 1993 bomb blasts that rocked the city of Mumbai. Kay Kay Menon plays Rakesh Maria, the DCP with the Mumbai Police at the time, who was tasked with getting to the bottom of the terror attack and apprehend those responsible. Turning over facts, testimonies and evidence, Maria and team manage to identify the perpetrators of the crime, even though nabbing them seems entirely implausible as they had already fled the country. The film packs thrilling chase sequences, bone-chilling interrogations and also presents multiple perspectives – what the cops endure in their pursuit of criminals and how the stooges of terror masterminds are often left to fend for themselves after an operation is completed.Unlike most films on terrorists, this one also takes us into the lives of those who were enlisted and radicalised by anti-social figures to execute the attacks. And thus we’re able to ascertain that they are actually gullible and naive and could hardly estimate the drastic devastation that they inadvertently inflicted. The film stars Pawan Malhotra, Aditya Srivastav, Gajraj Rao, Zakir Hussain, Imtiaz Ali among others. An interesting trivia about this film is that its release was postponed by 2 years as the courts wouldn’t allow for the film to be screened. One of the major reasons for this is that the film not only mentioned that it was based on real events, it also retained the real names of those involved. Surely, one of the most compelling police procedurals ever made in Hindi cinema.

Company (2002)

Gangster movies occupy a significant space in Ram Gopal Varma’s cinematic repertoire. But Company which alludes to infamous gangster Dawood Ibrahim’s gang ‘D-Company’ has to be one of the most telling stories of gang rivalry. The film revolves around the rivalry shared between a gangster called Malik and Chandu who started out as his aide before venturing out to establish his own gang. Varma’s attention to detail and exhaustive research ensures the film is realistic yet shocking and packs unforeseeable turns. Completing 21 years this year, the action film marked Vivek Oberoi’s compelling debut apart from stellar performances by prominent names such Ajay Devgn, Mohanlal, Manisha Koirala, Seema Biswas and Antara Mali. Oberoi’s career-defining debut ensured that he won the Best Supporting Actor and Best Male Debut at the Filmfare Awards.

Vaastav (1999)

Sanjay Dutt made his debut almost two decades prior to Vaastav but it is still remembered as one of his most significant works. It is a film that established the actor’s ability to slip into a character with such conviction that it was practically impossible to distinguish the two. The film’s lead Raghu (played by Sanjay Dutt) finds himself grappling with the daily grind of survival in a lower-middle-class chawl in Mumbai. A retired father, an unemployed brother and a doting mother complete his family. To make ends meet, Raghu and his friend Chandrakant put up a pav bhaji stall. But when an altercation with an irate customer takes a dark turn, Raghu’s life is turned around and he’s compelled to take extreme measures to survive. In this pursuit, Raghu turns to the world of crime, a decision that seems entirely irreversible as he gets sucked into the world he was once barely acquainted with. Mahesh Manjrekar’s Vaastav makes for a gritty and realistic film that doesn’t exaggerate and the characters or the circumstances that they find themselves in seem entirely realistic. And that is what makes this film’s story believable if not relatable.

Well that's all we got for today's episode, until the next time its host Nikhil signing out.

Aaj kya dekhoge OTTplay se poocho

Written by Kunal Guha

Listen to more OTTplay List Hai Toh Hit Hai podcasts on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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