In India, youngsters are crazy about three things – cricket, movies and crime. Though profession of movie and cricket is about luck, sportsmanship and glamour, crime is more than that. It takes brains, brawns, luck, money and guts to rule the world. Be it Hollywood or Bollywood, movie industry has glorified crime, gangsters, smugglers, bootleggers, bandits as robin hood, messiah and savior of the poor and a ruthless vendetta who sets his own rules. From Don Vito Corleone, Tony Montana to Manya Surve, Maya Dolas, Sultan Mirza and Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, audiences has seen various faces of crime lords. There is an old saying that ‘Behind every great fortune there is a crime’. Let’s catch a glimpse at the best gangster movies that were inspired by legends of real crime lords and mafias.
1] Once upon a time in Mumbai –
This gangster movie is my favourite pick as the role of Sultan Mirza played by Ajay Devgan always sent goosebumps. Inspired by a yesteryears gangster who worked in docks to later emerge as the leading icon in crime world, this crime movie focuses on the rise and fall of Sultan Mirza. Labelled as criminal in the police records but hailed as Robinhood by the poor and needy, Sultan Mirza’s name is on the lips of every citizen. Sultan’s fall begins when he takes a protégé named ‘Shoaib’ under his wings and assigns him as the caretaker of his crime business. Here Sultan’s ideals clashes with Shoaib’s recklessness and what happens later is the fall of an aging don and rise of a reckless crime prince. Both the protagonists are inspired by real gangsters. Ajay Devgan scores high as the 70’s don who once the city feared. The climax of the movie is the turning point in the story where a single bullet brings end to the rule of Sultan who was once feared and loved by the masses.
2] Daagdi Chawl –
Those who live in Byculla, ‘Daagdi Chawl’ is not just a residential area, but a den of a most feared crime lord. The 2015 Marathi motion picture is about scuffle between an ordinary man and the crime lord of ‘Daagdi Chawl’. A small scuffle with local goons pulls an ordinary mechanic in world of crime and how he crosses path with the enigma called ‘Daddy’ is worth seeing. There is a new movie slated for release in 2017 which will trace the journey of the gangster right from his early days as a goon to his rise as a politician. The movie is titled as ‘Daddy’ and the titular role is played by actor Arjun Rampal who has worked on his physique, mannerisms to get into the skin of the role.
3) Raees –
Loosely inspired by a life of an infamous bootlegger in Gujarat, ‘Raees’ is a gangster movie which features actor Shahrukh Khan as the dreaded bootlegger who clashes with the law through his illegal liquor business. Shahrukh’s role in Raees was larger than life, similar in lines of Godfather played by Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. A thorn in the flesh of law, Raees Alam is locked in a deadly battle with manipulating politicians, rival gangsters and cops. By coincidence, the story of this movie was bit similar to Net Flix TV series – Narcos which was based on real narcotic mafia – Pablo Escobar who was shot down by Colombian Police in 1993.
4) Agneepath –
Rumoured to be based on life of a dreaded gangster – Manya Surve, Agneepath is regarded as a cult movie in history of Indian cinema. The role of Vijay Dinanath Chauhan not only fetched Amitabh Bachchan a national award, but also took his career to great heights. Though it regarded as an underrated crime movie, nevertheless it is a thrilling story about a village boy who rises to become a gangster to avenge the death of his father. Some of the scenes from the movie are inspired by Brian De Palma’s movie – Scarface. How Vijay settles score with his arch rival Kaancha Cheena (played superbly by Danny Dengzopa) is best to be seen on the silver screen.
Vijay Chauhan became an iconic character in Indian cinema and the role was again played by Hrithik Roshan in the 2012 remake. The role of Mithun as the south Indian coconut seller added a comic touch to the otherwise intense movie.
5) Satya –
The 1998 motion picture based on clash between mafia and Mumbai police changed the definition of crime thrillers in Indian cinema. Wrongly accused in prostitution case, an innocent young man ‘Satya’ befriends a local gangster ‘Bhiku Mhatre’ (played to perfection by Manoj Vajpayee) and soon they become a crime team against the law and rival gangsters. Calm minded Satya engineers plans to take down on all the rivals and law and becomes the most wanted public enemy of Mumbai. Among all the characters, Bhiku Mhatre steals the show with his one liners and the sweet presence of Urmila Matondkar gives an emotional touch to this dark crime drama. This is one of the best directorial works of Ramu. Ramu came up with new crime movie – Company featuring Ajay Devgan and Vivek Oberoi. Though Company was a brilliant gangster flick, it was nowhere closer to Satya.
6) Shootout at Wadala –
Based on the first encounter registered in the file of Mumbai Police, Shootout at Wadala is story of 1980’s feared criminal – Manya Surve who became the first local goon to be shot down by Mumbai Cops in 1982. Wrongly framed guilty in a murder case, the honest Manohar Surve turns into a brutal gangster ‘Manya’ who dares to shake the empire of most dreaded kingpin of Mumbai. Similar to the plot of Hollywood movie – Public Enemies, Shootout at Wadala sees the rise and fall of Manya Surve. The 1990 movie ‘Agneepath’ is rumoured to be based on Manya Surve. Shootout at Lokhandwala was the first movie in ‘Shoot out series’ which was based on the dreaded gangster ‘Maya’ who was shot down by Mumbai Police in Swati building at Lokhandwala.
6) Parinda – Earlier titled as ‘Kabootarkhana’ Parinda changed the definition of movie making in history of Indian cinema with its gripping story line and changed the conventions of Bollywood drama with the disturbing climax where the lead protagonist is gunned down miserably by the antagonist. The 70’s and 80’s movie used to be formulaic based on pick pockets, robbery, love triangle and all the masala entertaining stuff the audiences loved to watch. Sadly, the directors of that era were never innovative in their approach.
The dynamics of storytelling changed with Parinda. After witnessing the gruesome murder of his friend, an honest man decides to take down on a crime empire to such an extent that he himself gets sucked in the world of crime. Parinda is said to be based on life of a real life gangster who was unknowingly dragged in world of crime. Parinda is counted as a milestone in history of Indian cinema and took director Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s career to great heights.
7) Rakhtcharitra – Based on life of Andhra’s famous personality – Paritala Ravi, Rakhtcharitra is a vengeance drama full of gruesome violent scenes. A dangerous game of politics and crime happens in this vengeance saga where the family of an ordinary man is wiped down by his enemies. How the ordinary man starts a vendetta of hatred against his enemies and rises as a politician is best to be seen in the movie – Rakhtcharitra directed by Ram Gopal Verma. The story is split in two parts. The sequel is continuation of the vengeance drama where Pratap Ravi the lead protagonist comes face to face with his most sworn enemy.
8) Dharmatma – Actor Feroz Khan’s ambitious directorial venture – Dharmatma was a rip off of Hollywood’s magnum opus gangster flick – The Godfather. Loosely inspired by life of a ‘Matka King’, Dharmatma is saga of an ageing gangster and his refusal to alliance with narcotic dealers costs his life. Feroz Khan stepped in the shoes of Al Pacino while Hema Malini played role of Afghan girl who gets accidentally killed in a bomb blast. All the sequences in this movie were heavily inspired by Godfather. This movie was a huge hit and later several filmmakers made unofficial remakes of Godfather which included Aatank hi aatank, Zulm ki Hukumat and Sarkar.
9) Sarkar – Rumoured to be based on life of a great political supremo, Sarkar is a dark, menacing movie which focuses on ups and downs in life of an ageing patriarch Subhash Nagre and his son Shankar Nagre. Shankar Nagre takes the reins of family business in his hand when Subhash Nagre is falsely accused in a political conspiracy and is mortally wounded by a hitman of one of his enemies. What follows is Shankar’s pursuit for vengeance against the enemies of Nagre family. Similar in lines of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Sarkar is one of the best works of Ram Gopal Verma. He later made the sequel ‘Sarkar Raj’ in 2008 where Shankar Nagre becomes a pawn in hands of cunning politicians. Sarkar 3 will be the continuation in the trilogy and is set for a 2017 release.
Apart from Dharmatma, Sarkar, Shootout movie Series, there are countless gangster movies based on life of real kingpins and smugglers. In 2017, Arjun Rampal will be seen as a local gangster in movie ‘Daddy’ while Shraddha Kapoor will portray the role of a mafia queen in new crime biopic – Haseena. No wonder, movies have always glorified crime and gangsters and continue to entertain viewers who have affinity for such crime stories.