If Chulbul Pandey in Dabangg was to be merged with Anant Velankar in Govind Nihalani's Ardh Satya, we would probably get Abhijeet Patil in Mumbai Mirror.
Abhijeet, played by entrepreneur-actor Sachiin Joshi, is the product of Mumbai's underbelly. He is a cop. But he could well be on the other side of the law without skipping a beat.
Like Om Puri in Ardh Satya, Sachiin Joshi's character in its childhood watched his sadistic father beat up his mother. Joshi grows up churlish and somewhat amoral, hating the world for what it allowed his father to do to his mother. He can't bear to see a woman being hit. Neither can we. But we still have to.
There are seeds of a gripping cop thriller in Mumbai Mirror. Brutal and brisk, the pace is fairly frenetic. The editor cuts the material sharply leaving little room for humbug except those awful item songs by a bar dancer(Gihani Khan), who seems to lead a dual life as a sex worker and a siren, depending on whether she's cavorting in a beer bar for beer-bellied boors, or standing next to the city's self-declared don Shetty(Prakash Raj).
In both the roles, the debutante actress is, in one word, disastrous.
Breakneck as the narration happens to be, it gives no room for the audience to understand the nature of the relationship between the sex worker and the suffering cop-hero who rescues her from being beaten up and then seems to be unsure of whether to love or hate her.
Devdas felt the same synthesis of revulsion and rapture for Chandramukhi. That ambivalent mix doesn't quite work in a film where the hero falls to the level of picking up scattered cocaine powder from the ground.
The other debutant actress Vimala Raman plays a television journalist. She wears war paint on a war footing. Lest we forget: Mumbai is at war against crime, gangsterism, amorality and corruption in every walk of life.
Mumbai Mirror gets a hang of the urgent pulse of a city-on-the-edge pretty fast. There are some well-executed action scenes where Sachiin gets to do some exceedingly audacious stunts.
In an initial stunt sequence, Sachiin's character hurts his back and spends the rest of the movie in pain. It's a clever restorative device, reminding us that filmy heroes can be susceptible to human failings.
For those who like their heroes fatally flawed and ferociously embittered, preferably in khaki, this film has enough thrills to offer to keep one riveted for the two hours of playing-time.
Sachiin, who made his debut in the espionage thriller Azaan, is here a cop who has to battle inner and outer demons with fists of fury. He gets ample support from an interesting cast of actors including Mahesh Manjrekar as a corrupt cop who comes to a suitably sticky end.
Prakash Raj's rowdy act is getting repetitive. Prashant Narayanan as Sachiin's hostile cop-colleague is wasted in a sketchily written role.
Sudesh Berry as a corrupt cop with an overt 'Bihari' accent hams for effect. As for Aditya Pancholi, he ends up being a pale shadow of Rishi Kapoor in Agneepath remake.
Cops films have run their course. This one nonetheless manages to hold its own. Passages of this saga of uniformed mayhem are quite engaging.
Director Ankush Bhatt has a knack for knocking off the lid of Mumbai's underbelly. This is the world of seedy cops, cheesy middlemen, avaricious politicians, unscrupulous bar-girls , bribed cops and fallen heroes.
We've been there, done it all before. But the sting remains all the same