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SHOT IN BOMBAY(director: Liz Mermin; cinematographer: Vikash Saraf; editors: Liz Mermin/Jake Roberts; music: James Burrell; cast: Apoorva Lakhia (Himself), Sanjay Dutt (Himself), Vivek Oberoi (Herself); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Nahrein Mirza; Sundance Channel; 2008-UK/USA/India-mostly in English, with some Hindi requring English subtitles)
“Takes you behind the scenes to show how a crappy lightweight blockbuster Bollywood film is made.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

London-based American documentarian Liz Mermin (“The Beauty Academy of Kabul”) takes you behind the scenes to show how a crappy lightweight blockbuster Bollywood film is made. It shows crass but likable director Apoorva Lakhia shooting a star-filled action-adventure film that fictionalizes a true story (which he calls a “faction”) and shuns any interest in art to make it as commercially viable as possible. The film being shot is entitled “Shootout at Lokhandwala” and is loosely based on the infamous 1991 Mumbai shootout at a classy building complex between cops and gangsters where scores of people died as police of an anti-terrorist unit violently eliminated a criminal gang hiding out in that apartment block.

The film stars the popular Vivek Oberoi as the villain andBollywood legend Sanjay Dutt as the Anti-Terrorist Squad head Dirty Harry figure, who in real-life has been in court and out on bail for the last thirteen years fighting a charge of weapon possession of an automatic rifle used in a terrorist act. It’s the longest court case in the history of India and is still going on. Mermin spends more time with Dutt’s double than with the star, who was mostly unavailable. The filmmaker deftly blends together the actual shooting of the gangster film, the action scenes from the film-within-the-film, the controversy over the off the camera court story of Dutt, and tells of some of the shady activity that goes with Bollywood including ties to the Bombay underworld. Mermin uses both the real A.A. Khan Anti-Terrorist Squad head and the seasoned film crew in interviews to tell about the true crime story and the making of the film. It shows throughout young action director Lakhia, in his third film, coolly operating in such frenzied and chaotic shooting conditions with daily setbacks and how he’s in the habit after every take to say “Cut! Superb! Mind-blowing! Let’s move on!”

The film did not do any serious investigative work about the actual incident, but it did touch on a different justice for rich and poor, use a wry sense of humor in its coverage, point out that ‘fugitive in hiding’ Muslim crimelord Dawood Ibrahim is one of the world’s most dangerous wanted men and is a link to the crime groups that have invaded Mumbai (the home of the film industry in India), and with its free-flowing behind-the-scenes footage it openly shows the culture of Bollywood moviemaking better than most other sources.

The fast-paced entertaining documentary is fascinating mostly in that the American public rarely gets to see such an insider’s view on how a Bollywood film is made.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”