MUMBAI: Gangster movies are an easy genre to handle. It does not matter that the gang you want to portray on screen is relevant to any sort of audience in India or elsewhere. And, how does one gangster movie differ from another where one man from nowhere who fails in all other endeavours turns a successful gangster and builds a gang around him? This is irrelevant for those who want to make gangster movies.
Initially, filmmakers inspired by the American all-time classic Godfather saga tried to make versions of it for Hindi screen; most failed miserably. India was not a national gang country until a Mumbai gangster came to be known as don and to pull strings all over country. Then came a slew of films on UP dons and Bihar dons, local police-file legends that found no takers anywhere.
Now we have this film about a Gujarat don, ‘Lateef: The King of Crime’, which is not quite right. Gujarat never had a culture of breeding dons; he was just a local bootlegger whom politicians began using giving him muscle power.
Lateef, a petty bootlegger from the walled city of Ahmedabad, on whose life the film is based (but is way off the mark) thrived mainly because he was a bootlegger in a dry state whose services were need by everybody from industrialists to bureaucrats. Politicians are known to breed Lateef kinds and soon a proximity grew between the two. The two occasions when the city was tense and prone to communal violence, Rath Yatra and Makar Sankranti (the kite flying festival in January) were the communal riot seasons when he thrived.
Producer: Kewal Krishna
Director: Sharique Minhaj
Cast: Hameed Khan, Bharti Sharma, Aryan Vaid, Raju Mavani, Aditya Lakhiya, Mustaq Khan
As the film depicts and as it happened, Lateef came into his own when he reportedly linked up with Dawood. This was also the time he was going beyond the control of his political masters. His reported link to the 1993 Mumbai multiple bomb blasts was too hot to handle for all concerned, especially the people of Gujarat not used to don culture. Lateef was put behind bars and later liquidated while ‘attempting to flee through a jail toilet’ in 1997. A political puppet created and dumped by the same clan.
As for the film, it fails to be either an interesting adaption of his story or a docudrama. There is no sense in making this film in the first place. He was an ‘Accidental Don’ thanks to the Dawood era and died the way he was destined to. The film is a poor narrative sans details, nonperformers as actors and has poor sense of direction. The protagonist looks rather comic with his ill-fitting wig.
The film is slated for release at few cinemas but finding audience will be nigh impossible.