Manoj Bajpai in Gangs of WasseypurAnurag Kashyap's "Gangs of Wasseypur" is serious storytelling but there's never a dull moment. Gone are the days when serious films and masala films were separated by watertight compartments in Bollywood. Kashyap's story about the coal and scrap mafia of Wasseypur, inspired from real-life events, peppered with choicest abuses from Bihar's heartland, makes from a very enjoyable watch.
Rajeev Masand says Wasseypur is a "gripping film" because it's much more than a revenge saga:
On the surface, Gangs of Wasseypur is a revenge saga, a tableau of vengeance between generations of gangsters. Scratch that surface and you'll discover more than just a grim portrait. Director Anurag Kashyap decides to tell this story his way, infusing it with moments of sly wit that give the blood-soaked drama irresistible color.
Baradwaj Rangan in his review talks about the "text appeal" of Wasseypur and how it boasts of moments that are strung together brilliantly to make the film memorable:
The film unfolds as a series of voiceovers, a flurry of dates and names, a cavalcade of memorable scenes — Sardar Khan canvassing for votes as a sidekick channels Mithun Chakraborty from Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki; Yashpal Sharma breaking into a falsetto rendition of Salaam-e-ishq meri jaan (one of the many throwbacks to the Amitabh Bachchan era); a smitten Sardar Khan wooing Durga (Reema Sen) as she washes clothes by a hand pump; Sardar Khan's elder son being hit by a bullet and later tended to in a hospital in the midst of a power cut; the younger son putting the moves on a girl he likes, as a goat, behind him, nibbles on leaves from a tree, oblivious to the unfolding of all this human drama.
Anupama Chopra in her review voiced what a lot of people in the audience seemed to be murmuring much before we were anywhere near the climax:Is too much of a good thing bad?
Kashyap's material is strong, but there's just too much of it. There is so much plot squeezed into the two-hour-forty-five-minute running time that your head swims. We hardly ever stay with a character long enough to get emotionally invested, and a voice-over clumsily interrupts the story to connect the dots.
At one point, I was so confused that I longed for a master key booklet to the film that outlined the various factions, relationships and rivalries. The narrative also moves constantly between the personal and professional (murder, revenge and thuggery being the main professions). So the film moves from the enmity track to Sardar's mistress and at one point even segues into Sardar's son's Bollywood-inspired romance-over-Ray-Bans fantasy. It's indulgent and much too long.
You might complain about the length and yes, it feels overindulgent but the film stands tall because of the power-packed performances. Raja Sen in his review says:
And yet it hurts to lambast Wasseypur, because it contains a lot to love. The randy and over-virile Sardar Khan, justifying polygamy as an altruistic gesture to support two families, a man his fiery wife declares should have been born a horse instead. A gangster calling 'shotgun' as he runs to an escape vehicle, and another, unable to pronounce his wife's name, reassuring the newlywed by saying that calling an orange an apple won't change the fruit it is. Love over laundry, and love through Aviator sunglasses. A Mithun-impersonator is made to mock a foe, while a moustached performer lacking the ability to say 'r' sings a Lata Mangeshkar song in falsetto. Two lines, in particular, will stay with me a fair while: "Tum sahi ho, woh marad hai," ("You are right, he is male") said in resigned agreement to a wronged wife, and, ultimately, a spectacular Trishul analogy: about how while Waheeda Rehman is alive, Sanjeev Kumar is invincible.
Like Masand says in his review, "The best way to describe Manoj Bajpayee's crackling performance would be to say that you can't separate the character from the actor." Bajpai gets very nuance right and just reminds us, how he is probably the most underutilized actors in Hindi cinema.
Raja Sen says, "The cast is mostly spot-on," but for me, Richa Chaddha, as Sardar Khan's feisty wife, is the most impressive and endearing character in the film.
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