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Shootin’ Like a Pro: When Gangsters Inspired Bollywood Films

Six Bollywood films based on real life gangsters. 

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Bollywood
3 min read
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Shraddha Kapoor’s Haseena Parkar hits the screens today. Shraddha plays Dawood Ibrahim’s sister and gangster Haseena, a woman who took over the reins of Dawood’s Mumbai business after he fled the country. And that got us thinking about other Bollywood films that have been inspired by real gangsters.

Although we are yet to scale anything in the likes of Narcos, Bollywood has churned out an impressive number of gangster flicks over the years. Dawood Ibrahim of course continues to be a constant source of inspiration, but there have been others as well. Here’s a look at six well-known Hindi films inspired by real gun-toters.

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Arun Gawli, Daddy (2017)

Daddy is an official biopic on Arun Gulab Gawli, a feared underworld don-turned-politician who is currently in prison. Gawli’s dramatic journey from being a mill worker’s son to the world of crime, the operation of his gang in the heart of Mumbai’s Dagdi Chawl and his arch rivalry with Dawood Ibrahim, are the stuff of crime lore.

The Ashim Ahluwalia film boasts an intense performance by Arjun Rampal and Nishikant Kamat, and a taut first half. But Daddy airbrushes the really intriguing bits to put together a portrait of Gawli as a loving family man who becomes a victim of circumstances.

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Manya Surve, Shootout At Wadala (2013)



Six Bollywood films based on real life gangsters. 
A poster of Shootout at Wadala.

Manohar Arjun Surve, better known as Manya Surve, was Mumbai’s first “educated” gangster. Operating in the ’70s, Surve shot to power in the underworld by the dint of his intricately planned heists and murders. He was killed by the police in what is Mumbai’s first recorded “encounter”.

John Abraham brought Surve to life in the Sanjay Gupta film which was adapted from Hussain Zaidi’s book Dongri to Dubai. What could have been a compelling drama fell miserably short to be reduced to a kitschy Bollywood masala film.

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Haji Mastan-Dawood Ibrahim, Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai (2010)

Revolving around the split between underworld don Haji Mastan and his protege Dawood Ibrahim, Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai resurrected the gang war-torn Bombay of the 70s. The Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi and Kangana Ranaut-starrer, directed by Milan Luthria, combined grit and bullets with Bolly glam and slickly shot scenes to dramatise on screen the passing of power from anti-social smuggling to hard-nosed crime.

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Dawood Ibrahim-Chota Rajan, Company (2002)

Considered by many to be the best gangster film yet to come out of Bollywood, Ram Gopal Varma’s Company loosely revolved around another Dawood Ibrahim saga - his relationship with Chota Rajan. The gritty drama, starring Ajay Devgn, ViveK Oberoi and Mohanlal, traced the close friendship and then enmity of the dons following the 1993 Mumbai blasts. It’s one of the rare Bollywood flicks that didn’t feel the need to glamorise or gloss over the black holes of crime.

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Santokben Jadeja, Godmother (1999)



Six Bollywood films based on real life gangsters. 
A still from Godmother.

Perhaps one of the first Hindi films to showcase a lady gangster, Godmother had Shabana Azmi playing Rambhi, a character inspired by Santokben Jadeja, who ran Mafia operations of Porbandar, Gujarat in the late ’80s and early ’90s. She became a politician later. The Vinay Shukla film traced an illiterate village woman’s journey to the city, her entry into the power game to avenge the death of her husband,and rise to become a feared and revered godmother. A powerful film with stellar performances, it’s considered to be an underrated film on Shabana Azmi’s resume and won six National Awards.

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Varadarajan Mudaliar, Dayavan (1988)



Six Bollywood films based on real life gangsters. 
A poster of Dayavan.

Hailing from Tamil Nadu, Varadarajan Mudaliar was a Robinhood figure in Mumbai in the ’80s. He was a powerful mob boss, operating alongside Haji Mastan and Karim Lala. Inspired by his life, Mani Ratnam made Nayakan in 1987 with Kamal Haasan playing the protagonist Sakthi Velu. Feroze Khan remade the film a year later with Vinod Khanna and Madhuri Dixit in the lead in Dayavan.

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Topics:  Company   haseena parkar   daddy 

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