Bambai Meri Jaan is creating waves by showcasing stories that may be familiar to many of us. What makes this ten-episode-long show different from the usual fare we have watched on this subject over the years is the treatment of the story and the screenplay. This story is extensively covered in pieces of media like books, case studies, and articles. There are plenty of Hindi films as well that were either successful in being accurate portrayals of that era or they were just over-the-top dramatization, which in most cases did not give the audience the right picture to understand the nexus and the leaders.
Bambai Meri Jaan is based on the bestselling book ‘Dongri to Dubai’ written by India’s top investigative journalist S. Hussain Zaidi. ‘Dongri to Dubai’ has been the source material for many movies made in the gangster drama genre. What makes them less engaging than Shujaat Saudagar’s show is the intensity and depth with which “Bambai Meri Jaan” is made. There’s an undercurrent of realism, which was missing from many films in the past. A lot of movies relied on the glorification of the gangsters and their suaveness, conveniently having collective amnesia about the fact that the real-life gangsters on whom these stories are based have killed many innocent people. Bambai Meri Jaan steers clear of the glorification trap. Its realistic approach reflects well on the actual events that directly and indirectly affected the entire city.
The show makers claim that the story of Bambai Meri Jaan is fictional, but the overwhelming similarity to real life events cannot be ignored. Hussain Zaidi’s extensive work on the Mumbai mafia has become a conscious part of the audience’s psyche. Such is the impact of his writings and several other adaptations of his many other books. Some could even say Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra is a fictionalized version of the same premise. The author also spoke about the connection between the Hindi film industry and the mafia.
Hussain Zaidi has been credited with writing the story Bambai Meri Jaan, which makes us wonder if the characters in the show mirror the real-life gangsters. The lead of the show, Ismail Kadri hails from Ratnagiri and worked for the Mumbai Police. His character is based on the father of the dreaded gangster Dawood Ibrahim, It is a known fact that another veteran gangster, Haji Mastan, is the inspiration for the character Sulaiman “Haji” Maqbool. This character was known to have put on display his luxurious life, and many boys, including a young Dawood Ibrahim and his brother, were heavily inspired by his lifestyle.
Haji Maqbool in Bambai Meri Jaan is portrayed in the same manner. Dara Kadri does not hide his admiration for Haji Maqbool. Haji is the only man Dara is willing to take guidance from, unlike his relationships with other peers. Dara and Haji in the show had a strange mentor-mentee relationship, and the audience couldn’t tell if it had any basis in reality. There are dramatic cinematic liberties that have been taken to enhance the relationship the two gangsters share. Haji Maqbool is against the idea of neutralizing Dara or his family. This part of their dynamic is also speculative because there is no reference available that confirms whether he supported Dawood and his family at all. There is no reason for him to support Dawood because they were rivals. Although Dawood and Haji respected each other’s power and presence in the city, there was a clear divide between these factions.
Bambai Meri Jaan discussed the death of Dara’s elder brother Saadiq and the sharpshooter Ganya Surve’s involvement in conspiring his murder. There were heavy repercussions from this incident, which are explored in depth by the creators Shujaat Saudagar and Rensil D’Silva. This subplot is based on the real story of Dawood Ibrahim’s brother Shabir Ibrahim Kaskar’s murder, carried out by Manya Surve and his associates. There might have been some backlash to this murder, which we believe must have been far more gruesome than presented in Bambai Meri Jaan.
The rivalry between Dara and Pathan’s gang was real and brutal, but unlike in the show, Karim Lala, on whom the character Pathan is based, was not killed by Dawood. The real-life Karim Lala may have had his differences with Dawood and his ‘D Company’, but many works of literature suggest they found a common ground to co-exist peacefully. The same could be said about Varadaraj Mudaliar as well, on whom Anna Mudaliar’s character is based. Varadaraj Mudaliar eventually had to leave Bombay and move to Tamil Nadu where he passed away as well.
Varadaraj had a good working relationship with Haji Mastan and Karim Lala, and he emerged as one of the most revered gangsters in Bombay. The camaraderie they shared and big nexus of crimes and criminals they created was very much a reality, and it severely affected the daily lives of people living in the city. The local police had a tough time getting rid of the parallel government they formed, supposedly in the name of helping the poor and needy.
The stories of the Bombay underworld can be retold many times, and they will still remain fascinating, for truth is indeed stranger than fiction in this case. It’s clear that cinematic liberties were taken by makers to exaggerate events; but what really happened was often worse. Bambai Meri Jaan is a solid attempt to recreate the world that was and still is responsible for the growth of a crime syndicate whose repercussions are still felt by the people who have lived in Bombay for many years. Hopefully, this will be portrayed in the second season if the makers intend to help the viewers understand how life in the City of Dreams was. This nexus was responsible for many killings that changed the history of the city. As stated above, a realistic approach helps the audience see these characters as humans with a dark side, which is true for the many real-life gangsters these stories are loosely based on.