Starring: Kay Kay Menon, Avinash Tiwary, Kritika Kamra, Nivedita Bhattacharya, Amyra Dastur, Saurabh Sachdeva, Nawab Shah, Dinesh Prabhakar, Jitin Gulati, Lakshya Kochhar
Director: Shujaat Saudagar
The criminal nexus of one of India’s most notorious underworld gangsters, Dawood Ibrahim, has undergone several screen depictions over the years. However, this latest 10-part Amazon Prime thriller set within a similar milieu of the 1970s and 80s claims to be an entirely fictional tale based on the book ‘Dongri to Dubai’ by Hussain Zaidi.
Ismail Kadri (Menon) is a rare breed within the Bombay police force as an honest cop and devoted family man. His professionalism shines through for him to be appointed to lead a special taskforce to clean up the streets of the city by smashing the crime syndicate run by Haji Maqbool (Sachdeva) and his partners in crime Azeem Pathan (Shah) and Anna (Prabhakar).
After a few false starts, Ismail is well on the road to accomplishing this impossible mission when his love for wife Sakina (Bhattacharya) clouds his professional judgment. His decision to protect a family member proves the biggest turning point in life for him, forcing him to surrender more than just his principles.
Ismail continues to battle with his conscience even as his children – Saadiq (Gulati), Dara (Tiwary), Ajju (Kochhar) and Habiba (Kamra) – grow up with very different morals and scruples. Despite his efforts, Dara’s wayward ways lead him to join forces with Haji Maqbool and set him on the course of overtaking the crime lord to become an even bigger gangster.
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Dara’s criminal mind and ingenuity leads to the creation of a worldwide smuggling network in the name of D Company. His son’s meteoric rise as the most wanted man of Bombay only intensifies Ismail’s guilty conscience and sets him on a spiritual path, creating deep fissures within the family. Will this father-son divide of morals and motivations ever be bridged or will Dara’s criminal streak prove impossible to curtail?
The creators of this gangster drama may insist on this being a fictional tale set in post-independence Mumbai – then Bombay or Bambai in local vernacular – but anyone remotely familiar with the real-life incidents would find inevitable links to make this a true crime story.
But fictional or not, this new Prime Video series is an extremely taut thriller packed with some powerhouse performances. Kay Kay Menon is undoubtedly the stand-out star of the show as an emotionally conflicted cop, but some of the female characters make their own impressive mark – especially Nivedita Bhattacharya as his devoted wife and Kritika Kamra as their ruthless daughter.
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Dara as the gangster-in-chief is played with the right mix of inscrutability and rage by Avinash Tiwary, who is ably backed up by the other characters in his gang.
The result is a series that may not have much new to say but there is certainly enough going on to make it a gripping and engaging watch.