Filmmakers have always been intrigued by Dawood Ibrahim and the world he inhabited, resulting in multiple cinematic renditions of his story from different perspectives. The latest addition to this is the Amazon Prime Video series Bambai Meri Jaan.
Fictionalised retelling of Mumbai’s underworld
Inspired by S. Hussain Zaidi’s book Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia, this 10-episode drama directed by Shujaat Saudagar explores the life and times of gangster Dawood Ibrahim, but in a fictionalised manner. While it treads familiar territory within the rise-of-a-gangster genre, Bambai Meri Jaan manages to deliver a bouquet of characters through visceral storytelling.
Dara Kadri (played by Avinash Tiwary) heads the crime syndicate, referred to as D-Company. Other characters, such as Haji Maqbool, Azeem Pathan and Anna Mudaliar, mirror real-life figures of the Mumbai underworld like Haji Mastan, Karim Lala and Varadarajan Mudaliar. The thinly-veiled pseudonyms add a touch of authenticity to the narrative.
A tale of father and son
Bambai Meri Jaan tracks the tumultuous relationship between cop Ismail Kadri (Kay Kay Menon) and his son Dara (Avinash Tiwary). The story unfolds through the eyes of Kadri, who was once an idealistic policeman in Bombay but compromises his principles because of circumstances and becomes jobless. This transformation significantly influences the outlook of his children, particularly his second son, Dara, who gravitates towards the power that comes with a life of crime. At the heart of Bambai Meri Jaan is the ethical conflict between father and son as Dara rises to prominence as a ganglord.
The series begins in Bombay in 1986, when Dara, an established gangster, gets the tip-off that the police are on their way to arrest him. They have just one hour to escape but Dara’s father puts his foot down and refuses to leave India. Kadri even threatens to kill himself if he’s coerced into leaving. This scene sets the tone for what’s to come, highlighting the ideological differences at play between the father and son.
Familiar rise-of-a-gangster tropes
The non-linear narrative meanders through multiple timelines from 1945 to 1986. The first three episodes delve into the life of Kadri, showcasing his journey from an upright police officer to his eventual association with Haji Maqbool. The focus then shifts to Dara’s rise as a criminal mastermind against the backdrop of the other key gangsters of the era.
No wonder Bambai Meri Jaan wrestles with the challenge of standing out in a saturated genre and it does so by injecting a lot of drama and intrigue, making this phase of the story riveting. At times the violence and bloodshed feels excessive, overshadowing the storytelling and character development.
Performances that shine
It is always a pleasure to watch Kay Kay Menon play conflicted characters and as Ismail Kadri, he evolves from a passionate advocate of justice to a silent witness of violence. Avinash Tiwary brings out Dara’s arrogance, confidence and thirst for power. Kritika Kamra makes her presence felt as Dara’s sister Habiba, inspired by the real-life Haseena Parkar (a role that was played by Shraddha Kapoor in the 2017 film Haseena Parkar).
The supporting cast featuring Saurabh Sachdeva, Nawab Shah, Dinesh Prabhakar and Jitin Gulati add value. Only Amyra Dastur, as Dara’s love interest, has limited screen time. Sumeet Vyas impresses in his special appearance as Ganya Surve, inspired by gangster Manya Surve. John Abraham had played this role in Sanjay Gupta’s 2013 gangster movie Shootout at Wadala, which also drew inspiration from the same book as Bambai Meri Jaan.