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 itself.
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…
But before we get into the plot and story let’s look at why is this movie doing so good and the music, lingo and performance is liked by all and sundry.
There was a time in Indian cinema when movies like Naya Daur, Do Beegha Zameen, Sholay, Zaani Dushman, Nadiya ke Paar etc. had a village connect. The general mass would be able to relate to it.
Even when the lingo used was a Bollywood invention with the spine of Hindi and flesh of regional dialect, yet people would at least, by Coleridge’s ‘willing suspension of disbelief’, identify with it. They would relate to it when they saw fields, oxen and a poor, morally sound hero taking on the evils of society – their local tormentors to illiteracy, poverty, widow-remarriage etc.
The landscape started to change from late nineties and all we were left with was, and is, sky-scrappers of New York, roads of Amsterdam and actors mixing English in Hindi sentences ceaselessly. As a result, all the movie-goers of village and small towns have moved to regional films irrespective of their quality. You go to any town in Bihar you will see almost 80% of theatres playing Bhojpuri movies despite the fact that Bhojpuri is not spoken by all of them.
Gangs of Wasseypur (part 1 & 2) appears to be a revolt on the beaten track of love-hate-crime sagas and roots itself deeply into the villages of north India, precisely Jhankhand, a part of erstwhile Bihar. From the crude body language to the songs and lyrics, it gives you a glimpse of the local politics of the area.
It is the story of Sardar Khan (Manoj Bajpayee) whose father (Jaideep Ahlawat) gets killed by local goon Ramadhir Singh (Tigmanshu Dhuliya) and how he (eventually his son) avenges Ramadhir by poking in to all his illegal trade. He adopts various ways to get him down slowly as he says to his wife (Richa Chaddha), “goli nahi marenge usko, kah ke lenge uski” (I won’t shoot him, rather I will let him know and drag him down.).
He succeeds in doing so in the first part of the movie but is, eventually, brutally killed by bullets piercing him from head to toe. His son, ganja puffing Faizal Khan (Nawazzuddin Siddiqui), takes over to satiate his father’s desire of taking Ramadhir down after his mother questions of the blood in his veins. He assures his mother to avenge all the deaths: “Baap ka, Dada ka, Bhai ka, sabka badla lega re tera Faisal.” He avenges all the killings but is ultimately killed by his half brother Definite (Zeishan Quadri) at the end of second part.
The second part is a culmination of the spiral of revenge started by Ramadhir Singh and Sardar Khan in first which ultimately holes in all those involved. First part is more unpredictable and structured than the second. Second part is more of ‘you kill mine I will take yours’, certainly with more bullets than the first.
The dialogues are subtle and carry a tone of dark humour in it. Anurag Kashyap has made sure that he is as close to the reality as possible- in dialogue, in scene set-up, in performances, in songs and in background compositions.
The lyricist Varun Grover needs a special mention for his brilliant poetry. The songs from both the parts give you a glimpse of Bihar’s folk. Varun has taken the words from the local dialect which has graciously accepted foreign words, moulded them suit its own accent. He goes on to use the present dialect and poetises them on the traditional tune. Womaniya, Bhoos, Moora, Taar bijli, Electric piya, Bhaiya, Soona kar ke gharwa etc. give you an instant connect with the music and words of the region. Whereas, songs like Ik Bagal, Kala re, Manmauji are in Hindi and gel with the story intricately.
One song that summarises the plot nicely and philosophically is ‘Kala re’ where the lyricist brings the fact that how a coal-mine area and the black-ness of coal has made everything black- from the sun to moon to heat to money, face, body, heart and the words…
Music is 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. Snehal Khanwalkar’s music mixes the traditional instruments like dholak, jhaal and harmonium with modern electric and bass guitar and the outcome is awesome.
The camera works seamlessly with the story. Some of the outstanding scenes are (from part 1): Sardar wooing Durga (Reema Sen); his father killing the ‘pahalwan’; ‘Hazraat hazraat hazraat’ sequence; Sardar stabbing his enemy with an ice pick; the opening and closing shots of bullet-rains. Part 2 has its own share of good scenes: Faizal showing his ‘hero-like’ styles to Mohsina (Huma Qureshi); Nagma singing ‘Taar Bijli’; (the best one) Faizal emptying guns after guns in Ramadhir Singh’s body.
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, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Huma Qureshi and all others won’t let you down in any frame. They convey whatever they need to with a natural ease.
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 minces 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.
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.
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.
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. In first part we see that after initial protest Nagma, 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, Definite, 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 in first part and carries on in second as Faizal is betrayed by his half-brother Definite. Betrayal gives birth to revenge, which ultimately begets violence.
The language used, which has been debated a lot, is not forced rather it 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.
If you can’t come to terms with the crude reality then I would suggest you to visit the place. The violence on the screen is nothing imaginary, it’s all what happens and was happening. This is hard-hitting realism and not magic realism, as you might think.