In the mid ’70s the tale of dacoits became stale and emerged the era of underworld dons. Writer Salim–Javed in their film Deewaar (1975) designed the character of Amitabh Bachchan based on the life of India’s most notorious Gold smuggler Haji Mastan, who made headlines with his surrender during the emergency. Later film director Milan Luthria made a brilliant full-scale biopic of Haji Mastan in Once Upon a Time in Mumbai (2010). Ajay Devgan played the role of Haji Mastan exceptionally well.
In the 80’s biopics on underworld dons became quite famous after South film wizard Mani Ratnam made a film on Mumbai’s famous underworld don Varadarajan Mudaliar, who ruled Dharavi region of Mumbai. Kamal Haasan played a powerful role in the South version Nayakan (1987). The film was so hit that it was re-made in Hindi as Dayavan (1988). Vinod Khanna gave his career based performance in the film.
Bollywood had an especial fascination with underworld don and the D-company run by International fugitive don Dawood Ibrahim. In fact, Dawood is also the mastermind behind Mumbai bomb blasts in March 1993 and is India’s most wanted fugitive. The first movie made on Dawood’s life was Ram Gopal Verma‘s Company (2002). The film was an indirect take on Dawood Ibrahim’s D-Company. Ajay Devgan played the role of Dawood while Vivek Oberoi played his henchmen Chhota Rajan. Later filmmaker Anurag Kashyap made a hard-hitting film on the Mumbai serial bomb blast called Black Friday (2007). In this film, a theater actor Vijay Maurya played Dawood Ibrahim to perfection. The best Dawood portrayal to date! Later, Ram Gopal Verma made another film called D (2005), capturing the organized style of crime in D-Company. The film was a huge flop.
Rishi Kapoor played the underworld in Nikkhil Advani‘s D-Day (2013). Though the film was a flop but Rishi Kapoor as Dawood Ibrahim looked apt. Further Emraan Hashmi as the younger Dawood Ibrahim in Once Upon a Time in Mumbai (2010) and Akshay Kumar as present-day Dawood Ibrahim in Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobaara charmed the hearts of film buffs.
Besides Dawood Ibrahim, Bollywood filmmakers have even made films on many famous criminals in Mumbai like Mahesh Manjrekar made Vaastav (1999) based on the life of gangster Chhota Rajan. Famous director Apoorva Lakhia made Shootout at Lokhandwala (2007) based on the life of Mumbai city renowned gangster Maya Dolas. The success of the film inspired Apoorva Lakhia to make a biopic on the life of another well-known gangster Manya Surve, who worked for the famous Pathan Gang (ruled by Karim Lala). The film Shootout at Wadala (2013) was a huge hit. John Ibrahim gave a good performance as Manya Surve. Arjun Rampal played the role of Daddy aka Mumbai’s Dagdi Chawl’s don-turned-politician Arun Gawli, in the film Daddy (2017).
Like Ram Gopal Verma, filmmaker Apoorva Lakhia was bitten by the taste of underworld hence he made his third film on Dawood Ibrahim’s sister Haseena Parkar, who officially controlled the crime of Dawood in Mumbai. The film called Haseena: Queen Of Mumbai (2007) was not a big success but Shraddha Kapoor portrayed Haseena Parkar excellently on the big screen. Incidentally, Siddhanth Kapoor, son of actor Shakti Kapoor played Dawood Ibrahim.
Anurag Kashyap showed trust on a struggling actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui and he gave him a lead role in his low budget film Gangs of Wasseypur. The film exposed the real-life power game and violence centered on the coal mafia of Dhanbad, Jharkhand. The film made Nawazuddin Siddiqui an overnight star!