Sultan Of Delhi: A Clichéd Gangster Saga With All Style And Little Substance

Milan Luthria’s OTT debut ‘Sultan of Delhi’ is an extension of his film ‘Once Upon A Time in Mumbai’, but not in a good way.

No coherence!
Sultan of Delhi (Hindi)
  • Cast: Tahir Raj Bhasin, Anjumm Ssharma, Vinay Pathak, Nishant Dahiya, Anupriya Goenka, and Mouni Roy
  • Director: Milan Luthria and Suparn Verma
  • Producer: Namit Sharma
  • Music: Ammal Malik and Anu Malik
  • No. of episodes: 9
  • OTT platform: Disney+ Hotstar

There was a time when Milan Luthria was a hugely successful filmmaker.

Both The Dirty Picture (2011) and Once Upon A Time in Mumbai (2010) found acceptance by critics as well as audiences. A common feature between both these films was the dialogue-baazi that appealed to the masses.

However, in the last few years, Milan Luthria became all about style with little to no focus on the content.

The best examples of these are Baadshaho (2017) and Once Upon A Time in Mumbai Dobaara (2013).

Unfortunately, the director’s OTT debut — Sultan of Delhi — is another major misfire. It is also directed by Suparn S Varma.

Synopsis

The web series starts with the story of Arjun (Tahir Raj Bhasin).

Arjun is a descendant of a generation that migrated to the capital region after partition. His experiences at the refugee camp make him more courageous with an attitude of taking life head-on.

Arjun’s determination to overcome the scars of his past leads him to the criminal world. In the beginning, it is the arms trade.

Bangali (Anjumm Ssharma) is an accomplice-cum-friend. Soon enough, they fall under the tutelage of Jagan Seth (Vinay Pathak).

Arjun’s chief adversary is Rajendra (Nishant Dahiya), an entitled brat who constantly looks down upon Arjun. He doesn’t shy away from flaunting his privilege.

Like Arjun, Rajendra too has big dreams. Aiding Rajendra in his quest is his late father’s mistress Shankari  Devi (Anupriya Goenka).

The rest of the story moves along with different tangents. There is a bromance between Arjun and Bangali, their romantic relationships, and the equation with Jagan Seth, etc.

Bromance is the only saving grace

To give credit where it’s due, director duo Milan Luthria-Suparn Varam does a good job of establishing the bromance between Arjun and Bangali.

The scenes featuring Tahir and Anjum Sharma are easily the saving grace of this web series. The friendship feels organic and when things take a dark turn the viewers feel sorry for them.

The romantic angles fall flat though. This is a combination of poor writing coupled with uninspiring performances from most of the women characters.

The only female actress who makes an impression is Anupriya Goenka. She portrays the negative shades with absolute relish.

Mouni Roy suffers the most on account of weak characterisation.

Nishant Dahiya plays the brat with the right amount of snootiness.

Vinay Pathak also does well in his grey-shaded role.

Fails to evoke emotions

A big problem with the Sultan of Delhi is how it deals with the portions featuring the refugee camp. They are staged with indifference and feel more like a checklist that needs to be done away with.

In the web series Jubliee and also the first Gadar, there is a sense of heartbreak that the viewers feel. But here, the audience doesn’t develop the required empathy.

Sultan of Delhi also suffers on account of many outlandish sequences. For example, there is a sequence involving ammunition trade. For no rhyme or reason, you have unnecessary murders of policemen.

Milan Luthria and Suparn Varma do an equally pathetic job of showcasing the politics of that period. The best example of this is a segment involving a Bengali filmmaker by the name of Roy Babu.

There is no denying that these sequences have been stylishly mounted but there is a visible hollowness that irritates the viewers.

Final take

To sum it up, Sultan of Delhi is all about empty posturing. The genre of gangster drama seriously needs a reinvention as it has become all about style with no focus on coherence.

(Views expressed here are personal.)

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