Movie Review: Gangs Of Wasseypur

It’s 1942 and certainly not a love story. The time-canvas of Gangs Of Wasseypur is large. It ranges from the pre-independce to independence to post independence and till the contemporary times of you and me.

Violence is one of the coherent themes of the movie but that’s not the only thing. The forms of violence are rampant- violence of rights, violence of emotions, of sexuality and violence of violence.

From colonialism to Nehruvian Socialism to labour unions to democracy, corruption and mafiaraj is spread like the unwanted green grass in the fields of Bihar.

From dreaded Dakoo Sultana to Shahid Khan to Sardar Khan, fear is all over. Fear psychosis and revenge grows on in the movie to make the characters what they are- raw, violent, macho and dreaded.

The interplay of violence, sex and politics and the politics these three make the movie into one giant animal which appears to be going haywire, cut loose…

Curtains come up with a very happy family soap playing on a 14-inch TV with males and females watching in two different groups. It’s very happy as Smriti Irani is happily roaming in the house and then…. thak thak… tar tar tar…tarrrrak tar tar… tarraakkkkkk…

A flurry of bullets make their way to the innocent walls and shops. But they were not the enemies. They were served a ‘gentle’ reminder that please keep silent, ‘men are at work’.

Flashing AK-47s, pistols and firing, abusing anyone and everyone in sight and beyond, a group of people enter the scene and then go berserk at their enemy’s fortress.

The filmmaker, Anurag kashyap, is giving you just an intro of the movie and the situation and a synopsis of what you should be expecting. But don’t take it on the face value, it’s not just guns and blood, it has it’s share of roses as well.

Spanning into three eras of India’s societal clock, film is set into a coal belt of of Dhanbad in Bihar (now in Jharkhand). Daily labourers are forced to work in all kinds of conditions which never changes. The rulers change but their situation doesn’t. British power goes and local goons take over.

Here the plight of workers is aptly depicted by the filmmaker when protagonist’s mother is in labour but his father is not even informed. After six hours, when he gets the news he wants to go home but is stopped by the guards.

Here you see the angst of a man, Shahid Kahn (Jaideep Ahlawat) who has been forced to leave his own village where he was the master of a group and serves as a daily worker in the mines. His severity of delivery and the words he chooses are enough to convince you that the rebel in him is alive.

Wife is dead and he avenges that by killing the ‘pahalwan‘ (the guard at the coalmine gate).

Time changes, power shifts and now he is the pahalwan but still works for the main guy, Ramadhir Singh (Tigmanshu Dhuliya) who gets him killed.

However, the son is alive and he gives birth to a new himself who’s sole aim in life is to avenge his father’s death.

The whole story revolves around this central theme. Situations and circumstances grow on their preceding ones and the flow of movie is maintained.

Movie focuses on an inherent lust of power and machismo of a man and the ways he adopts to satisfy that. Politics, sex, jealousy, betrayal are supporting cast in the story.

This is also a commentary on why Indian politics is in the shape as it is now, why no one really cares in the system to mend it.

Many ‘locals’ have grown powerful enough to challenge the authorities. The local goons are the administrators and are so fearless that they slap the MLA at will in front of the top cop of the city.

Characters are so detached that no one ever realises that they are into something which is anti-establishment nor anyone is able to tell them that whatever they are doing is not socially acceptable. Everything that happens appears as if it is by default and societies are run the way they are.

The narrator’s voice (Piyush Mishra), who also plays Chacha, Sardar’s mentor and adviser, wears an emotionless tone and is flat. The juxtaposition of the flat narration with the pace of violence and all the drama in the story creates an interesting effect. This convinces you that the voice is objective and is as cruel in delivery of facts as the situations of the movie itself.

Sardar Khan (Manoj Vajpayee) , the cool calculating Machiavellian is a character high on macho and takes pleasure in whatever he does- killing, mocking or having sex. He enjoys and mices his words with a typical tone accompanied by the same kind of devilish smile which will irritate you if you were in front of him.

His character speaks a lot about the people of the area and they are still found to be same intense and witty in their choice of words, albeit only words. Some of them are “Itna goli marenge ki baap khokha bech ke crorepati ho jayega; jagah aur time batao ghus ke marenge; jaha bulaoge waha aayenge aur tumhare area me tumko marenge; daudayenge jyada marenge kam”.

The language used is not forced rather that is still the general lingo of the area. So the ones whose sensibilities are offended by thinking that it was going beyond their expectations, please hold on. This is realism with no dancing around the trees. This is a society where one is killed for 1,000 bucks. This is a society where the hatred is so intense that magazines are emptied to kill one person.

Tuntun Singh, a local criminal in Begusarai (Bihar) was killed so brutally that it was hard to find bones and flesh in between the bullets.

The violence on the screen is nothing imaginary, it’s all what happens and was happening.

The people in the Wasseypur are facing another kind of issue. There are no miners, there are no daily workers, there is no politician, there are no ‘other’ communities. They are all Muslims and it is Qureshis versus all other Muslims. Rapes, molestations and all kinds of atrocities is practised by the Qureshis, the butchers.

And Sardar Khan, though has no direct relation or animosity with Qureshis but his inner urge for an ego boost drags him in the village. Here Kashyap shows that human nature is unstatiable. Whether it is money, power, sex or hatred they can’t ever get enough of it. His masculinity overpowers all his senses and emotions.

And the same natural urge to be superior and the big guy has been portrayed through the Qureshi clan and Sardar Khan who get engaged in bloodshed.

A woman’s suppressed sexuality and a man’s libido is one of the successful portrayals in the film. A man is a free man and after initial protest, Nagma (Richa Chddha), Sardar’s wife gives up and lets him go free if he wanted another woman.

This is not a very ‘lovey-dovey’ situation. This speaks the inability of a woman married to a man where any sensible talk is hopeless. And that is precisely the reason why Nagma, even after having three kids, never says him to abjure violence.

And the man inside Sardar is so high on testosterone that he actually woos another woman and goes on to have another son with her.

When a woman loves she does that with full intensity and when she hates, she is equally dangerous. That’s what happens when Sardar wants Durga (Reema Sen) to come and live with his another wife. She feels betrayed and betrays him, eventually.

There are no highs and lows, there are only the extremes of emotions. Betrayal is one of the leitmotif emotions which starts with his father and ends with his mistress. Betrayal gives birth to revenge, which ultimately begets violence.

Then there is rose among the guns, two love stories blossom and one of them is responsible for making a family tie between two of the enemies- Sardar’s son and Sultan’s sister. Another love story just takes off when younger son (Nawazuddin) is courting another lady (Huma Qureshi). Hopefully we will see more of them in the next movie.

Last quarter of the film focuses on the fact that one can actually get fed up with anything if it is too much. Sardar Khan gets convinced by his son to get into fish business. His son does what his wife couldn’t. This arises hope of betterment in the sequel but when Sardar’s car is attacked and he is pierced by bullets with one deep in his head, that hope is vanished.

The camera works seamlessly with the story. Be it the opening shot of armed goons slamming in the door or the beauty of Durga in close-up as Sardar tries to woo her on the way to hand-pump. The fight sequence where the father takes on the ‘pahalwan’ is one of the better scenes where even disgust of dark coal mixed in mud and blood brings in cheers from the audience.

Music is simply mind blowing and has been used aptly. The songs start and fade. They carry the story and when the purpose is solved, they fade. It has a rusticity of Bihar’s folk and unpolished voices mingled with the rough terrain of the film. You can read the music review in detail here.

There are three generations which are forced by circumstances to be what they are. His father was too ambitious to believe that he could snatch Ramadhir Singh’s coal mafia empire one day; he is too revengeful to wish to see his enemy crawl when everything is snatched away from him; his son has gone too far in love to convince his father to wed their village enemy, Sultan’s sister.

Circumstances change but story more or less remains same- to take down each other.

Performances in the film is so intense that you won’t find even one character casual. Manoj Vajpayee, Tigmanshu Dhuliya, Richa Chddha, Reema Sen, Piyush Mishra and all others won’t let you down in any frame. They convey whatever they need to with a natural ease.

Manoj Vajpayee has shown various shades with utmost ease. Be it stabbing a Qureshi in full throttle or trying to defend himself when Nagma finds him with another women, he is natural everywhere.

Dhuliya as Ramadhir convincingly plays the chief enemy to Sardar as Sardar watches his rise to a minister, a local strongman from a small mine owner who ditched his father.

To enjoy the film, sit in the theatre and let it grow on you. You will feel the intense emotions and the quirky frames with subtle images come alive inside you. If you know the lingo of Bihar, if you know the gunda-gardi that was rampant, if you understand the typical phrases you will appreciate the movie in a better way.

If you go by the opening sequence of hell-fire cut loose, the closing sequence being the same, you can find similarity. You can hope that Manoj Vajpayee will survive as those family members did in the opening scene.

There is no doubt it’s a commercial film and so, if you are searching that why this has not been shown and that has not been shown, then sorry, a film is a filmmaker’s take on the issue. And the issue is not the plight of coal miners. Anurag Kashyap can’t show the plight of the workers in detail when his film is focussed on an individuals revenge.

He cannot make a whole sequence on the inaction of the system when he is able to show it in just one scene where Sultan keeps a sharp knife on a cop’s neck and asks him to leave.

Some are accusing him of cashing in on the culture of the said area by showing the negativity in it and that these things sell but let me tell them that even Satyajit Ray was accused of selling India’s poverty. But look around you, isn’t 80% of India still the characters of Pather Panchali? Is it not the situation of coal-mafia in Bihar still?

The problem is we can always search for an issue to shout at anything. It’s like a Delhi’s modern girl objecting to the absence of a ladies’ purse in Monalisa’s hand.

Why the director needs to show what you want? Why do you feel offended when he shows you the reality? Why are you objecting the language used?

Films can be made on a single idea and one can never show everything in a span of 3 hours neither it is a necessity to depict all the issues in the same movie. Director can just give a brush to that issue telling you that he/she is aware of the fact but that’s not his theme.

That’s what Anurag Kashyap has done or any filmmaker does.

Kudos to Anurag Kashyap for making this movie. When everything falls into place you get a movie like Gangs Of Wasseypur.

Wait for Gangs of Wasseypur Part-2, kahani abhi baki hai…

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