10 Lesser Known Facts About Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai

Milan Luthria’s iconic gangster film Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai completes 10 years of release on 30th July 2020. One of the biggest grossing movies of 2010, it includes a star cast of Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi, Kangna Ranaut, Prachi Desai and Randeep Hooda. Its sequel released 3 years later (Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai Dobaara) and while that was enjoyable too, it just didn’t compare to the original film.

Because we love Once Upon… so much, we decided to do a tribute post. After having conducted a little research on the movie, here are a few fun facts that I bet you didn’t know:

The Bombay Underworld Inspired the Story

Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai is set in the 70s, when the underworld was ruling Bombay. The film is inspired by real life people and incidents that took place in the mafia and Bollywood in Bombay, and how it was an era of smuggling+crime as well as one of spectacular movies and a booming film industry.

Characters inspired from real life

It is said that Ajay Devgn’s Sultan Mirza is based on Haji Mastan, Emraan Hashmi’s Shoaib Khan on Dawood Ibrahim, and Kangna Ranaut’s Rehana Shergill on the evergreen Madhubala. Haji Mastan was, in fact, smitten by Venus Queen Madhubala and Mastan/Ibrahim were dueling underworld dons during the 70s. Their battles and fallouts are the inspiration behind Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai.

Sanjay Dutt was the original choice

Did you know that Sanjay Dutt was originally supposed to play the role of Haji Mastan? Ultimately it went to Ajay Devgn, but can you imagine him as this character? I sure can. The macho-ness, bomb dialogues and killer looks are all right up Dutt’s alley.

A Turn in Hashmi’s Career

In an interview with Hindustan Times, Emraan Hashmi said that his experience of working with Ajay Devgn in Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai was great. He said: ” People had never imagined me in this kind of cinema, considering the serial-kisser tag I had.[…] The director Milan Luthria and the producers dared to take the risk, and had belief in the potential of the film. Facing the camera in the character was a huge change for me.”

And Ajay Devgn’s return to gangster films

Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai was Ajay Devgn’s gangster film after almost a decade of doing soleley lighthearted comedies. He had done gangster films in the past, like Company in 2002, but after a long break from the genre he was back with Milan Luthria’s 2010 hit. Thank God for us!

Randeep Hooda’s ACP Agnel Wilson

Apart from real life gangsters and Bollywood divas inspiring the film, the local Mumbai police did too. Hooda’s character ACP Agnel Wilson is inspired by Inspector Julio Ribeiro, a high ranking police officer in 1970s Mumbai. Damn, Milan Luthria really went all out with his research to make the film seem as authentic as possible.

Inspiration for the song “Parda”

“Parda,” from the soundtrack of Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai, is a medley of two combined real songs from 1970s Bollywood films: “Duniya Mein Logo Ko” (Apna Desh) and “Piya Tu Ab Toh Aaja” (Caravan). No wonder it sounds so accurately from the decade of disco and pop songs. Well, Pritam did the music for the movie and we all know how he’s a perfectionist who does his homework while composing music for films. He definitely got this era right!

Other choices for Rehana Shergill

Before Kangna signed the film and gave us a stellar performance (as usual) as the iconic, Madhubala-inspired Rehana Shergill, there were two other actresses who were considered for the role. Priyanka Chopra and Katrina Kaif. Yep, you heard me right. I love PC and Kat but I can’t imagine anyone else but Kangna in Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai.

Other actors who almost made the film…

Nikhil Dwivedi was offered Hooda’s role of ACP Wilson but he turned it down. Even Irrfan Khan was signed onto the film but he opted out. Arbaaz Ali Khan had a role in the film but that scene never made the final cut. And, of course, we spoke about Sanjay Dutt, PC and Kat almost being cast. Man when it’s all put together, it looks as though Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai went through some serious casting changes. Everything works out for the best, I guess.

The reason behind Sultan Mirza’s fashion choices

So, this is super interesting. After studying the retro gangster film Deewar (1975), in which Amitabh Bachchan played the all-powerful don Vijay, Ajay Devgn made a sartorial choice for Sultlan Mirza. Since Vijay wore only white throughout the 1975 movie, Devgn was inspired to make a similar statement with his character. That’s why you’ll see Sultan Mirza donned in white in Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai.

10 years ago, a movie about gangsters released and became a cult classic with time. Now we watch it 10 years later and appreciate its ingenuity and notice how it was way ahead of its time. Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai is the only gangster film that’s been able to combine the glamour and glory of Bollywood and Bombay along with the underworld — with such ease.

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