When Ajay Devgn and Emraan Hashmi came together for Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai (2010), it seemed like a follow up to Company (2002). And why not? After all that film too was based on the battle of supremacy between friends turned foes underworld dons, played by Ajay Devgn and Vivek Oberoi, who had come together for Ram Gopal Verma’s edgy dramatic thriller less than a decade back.
Buoyed by the success of Satya, Ram Gopal Varma turned further ambitious and this time around eyed the saga of one upmanship between real life dons who rules the underworld in the 80s and the 90s. Boney Kapoor came on board to bankroll the film which was interestingly titled Company. RGV’s vision was to showcase the entire business of underworld as a corporate style run ‘company’ which was the most complex and dangerous of it all.
Ajay Devgn was the chosen one for the part of the senior don and the hunt was on for the actor who would play the newbie don. This is where Vivek Oberoi came into picture. Legend has it that in order to impress the director, Vivek Oberoi – who otherwise led a lavish lifestyle – changed his entire get up and stormed into RGV’s office as a roadside goon. That was pretty much the look test that went in his favour and soon Vivek found himself playing the character of Chandu in the film.
For the part of the leading ladies, Manisha Koirala and Antara Mali were the chosen ones. Isha Koppikhar stepped in for the chartbuster track ‘Khallas’ which became the anthem of the film. Made at a good scale, the film was a thrilling drama with ample twists and turns. Dialogues of the film were hard hitting, background score truly haunting and cinematography being innovative. While Ajay Devgn gave a good account of himself as always, Vivek Oberoi stormed into the Bollywood scene in a big way with many terming his as one of the most intense debuts since that of Shah Rukh Khan. Moreover, Mohan Lal too had a very important role to play as a cop top and was super impressive.
Surprisingly, the film wasn’t a big hit and worked only in pockets, especially Mumbai. Made at a budget of around 10 crores, the film did bring in close to 15 crores, hence turning out to be largely profitable. However, the merits of the film warranted that it was much bigger than what it actually was.
In a way, Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai managed to cover a much farther distance due to its far more commercial and pan-India appeal, hence lending justice to the plot that was first brought on screen by Ram Gopal Varma.