Film Review: Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobaara!

Crimelord falls for actress, with tragic results. Sequel waters down its gangster plot to concentrate on a romantic triangle.

This sequel to the popular 2010 hit Once Upon a Time in Mumbai features a different cast and a plot that focuses on romance rather than crime. Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobaara! received a worldwide release on August 15, the Indian Independence Day. Anchored by appealing performances by Imran Khan and Sonakshi Sinha, Dobaara! (or "again") should find a receptive holiday audience despite serious plotting and pacing issues.

The story picks up where the original left off, with gangster Shoaib Khan (Akshay Kumar) taking charge of the Mumbai underworld by killing his rival, Sultan. Shoaib extends his reach to the Middle East, where in a prolonged sequence with a nightclub song-and-dance routine, he rapes a colleague's wife.

Childhood buddies Aslam (Khan) and Dedh (Pitobash Tripathy) work their way into Shoaib's gang, eventually rising to his inner circle. Separately, both Shoaib and Aslam meet Jasmine (Sinha), a naive girl from Kashmir who's trying to break into the movies. Both fall in love with the beguiling Jasmine.

Shoaib sponsors Jasmine's entry into the film business. At the same time, he tries to eliminate his rivals before they can expose him to the police. The tongue-tied Aslam tries to win over Jasmine, unaware that his boss also covets her.

That's about it for the plot, which leaves director Milan Luthria with a lot of time to fill. A half-dozen or so full-bodied production numbers take up some of the slack. The upbeat songs by Pritam Chakraborty and Anupam Amod are better than their lovelorn ones, and Raju Khan stages them with energy and humor.

Gazing soulfully through his puppy-dog eyes, Imran Khan is a thoroughly engaging hero. His one action scene, a tense diamond heist from a moving train that's shot and edited with precision, is also the film's high point.

Sonakshi Sinha, a relative newcomer, captures Jasmine's innocence and spunk, whether sassing Shoaib or mocking Aslam. Sinha doesn't sing and barely dances, but she dominates every frame she enters.

Akshay Kumar, on the other hand, is overbearing as Shoaib, practically foaming at the mouth during his many tirades. Shoaib is a repellent character in the script, and Kumar fails to bring any nuance or personality that could help viewers sympathize with him.

As director, Luthria never tries to establish much of a context for the story. With no politics to speak of, and little attention paid to poverty, Dobaara! feels a bit too superficial.

Dobaara! is also frontloaded with both songs and action, as well as several scenes of Sinha nuzzling with her co-stars. The second half of the film, the part where everyone gets shot, drags by comparison, and may leave viewers disappointed by a story that ends so predictably—and yet still leaves open the possibility of another sequel.