If you remember Al Pacino as Scarface, then you know his role as Tony Montana, a Cuban émigré (he came over with the Marielitos – the Cubans no one wanted, not even Cuba itself) and worked hard. He went from being a dishwasher in a roadside food stand to being one of Miami’s biggest drug lords. Tony answered to no one, and when his ego led him to defy the powerful Bolivian drug cartel, they sent an army of assassins to kill him. That film ended with his death.
The Shootout at Lokhandwala, an Indian film helmed by Apoorve Lakhia, was released on May 25th, 2007. Where Scarface ended with Tony Montana’s assassination, a similar event marks the beginning of this film. A gang of criminals specializing in extortion and racketeering, are holed up in an apartment complex in a Bombay (Mumbai) suburb. They are wild, undisciplined, and like Tony Montana, answer to no one. Not even the big boss or bhai who lives in Dubai but still controls the Bombay/Mumbai criminal underworld.
Where one films ends another begins. In Shootout at Lokhandwala, we begin with shots of the clean up of the bloodbath. We see hundreds and hundreds of shell casings being swept up. We see the blood stains on the streets and in the hallways and on the roofs. We are told by a on-the-scene television reporter about the carnage that occurred in the six-hour melee. We also meet the cop in charge – Assistant Commissioner of Police, S.S. Khan played by Sanjay Dutt.
Right after, the scene shifts to the office of former Chief Justice Dhingra played by Indian superstar actor Amitabh Bachchan who is giving Khan and his two lead deputies a rough grilling to find out exactly what happened and why
So we watch as the story unfolds in flashbacks. We see how Khan earned his stripes when he went after some Sikh separatists who gunned down a policeman on a city street in broad daylight following Operation Bluestar in 1984.
We learn how the bad guys led by Maya portrayed by Vivek Oberoi (above center in black shirt) were punks and goons who just upped the ante in being bad guys day after day. They would think nothing of just walking into a CEO’s headquarters and demanding huge sums of money in exchange for being allowed to live (and probably face more extortionate demands on another day).
They even shook down corporate executives who were close enough to the Bhai in Dubai to call and ask for his help.
So that’s your premise. The good guys win and the goons end up in body bags. However it was not as simple as that. The cops were brought up on charges like abuse of authority, and other human rights violations. We are asked to think about things like justice, human rights, and where is the line drawn between the police enforcing laws, and protecting the populace or becoming judge, jury and executioners at the same time.
In the trial, Dhingra, asks the presiding Judge (and us) to think about this: You are in your apartment. There’s a man or men downstairs on the street. He or they carry guns. Who do you want it to be – a policeman like Shamer S. Khan or a hoodlum like Maya and his cronies?
This was a very fine film. Provocative, fierce, unrelentingly violent and yet, despite the brutality vividly portrayed on-screen, you do have to ask yourself what is right and what is wrong. Are ATS (Anti-terrorists Squads) or SWAT teams in the public’s interest? How much power can the police be given?
This film, according to the film’s tag-line was based on true rumors. In short based on a real life occurence. Available as a rental from Netflix.com