Cast: Manoj Bajpai, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Richa Chadda, Reemma Sen, Piyush Mishra, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Huma Qureshi
Directed by Anurag Kashyap
One of the reasons why Slumdog Millionaire was a global explosion was because it meticulously recorded and reported on the underbelly of Mumbai in a way that you could not just see but also experience the proceedings on the screen. This doesn’t mean that when you go to watch ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’, the usher would come and stab you silly or the popcorn vendor would hold a bucket to your chest to buffer the sound of a pointblank fire. But what you see and hear will surely make you a happy hostage, willing to surrender to Wasseypur: a land where ‘kabootars’ multitask and uprooting rail tracks to loot carriages is hardly a task.
Firstly, here’s what you shouldn’t expect from this film. If your neighbour/ friend/ colleague/ driver told you that this film is based on the coal mafia, he/she didn’t know any better. The central characters are engaged in ‘koylay ki dalaali’ but their ‘mooh kaala’ happens for multiple reasons. Secondly, if you’re expecting a fast-paced thriller where people are on the run and all your predictions for upcoming scenes are turned over their head, this is not a film for you. Here, we have a unique specimen, one that is slow and slick. Characters are introduced at a leisurely pace and much time is consumed in setting the mood and environment. Even the people are sliced and diced skillfully like a Sous-chef manicuring a carrot. One could say that the film invests so much time to establish the place and the people that it leaves little time to tell a story. But then in a character-driven movie, it makes sense to give each person due footage to minutely demonstrate their traits and maaro dialogues that make them memorable by the end of the film. “Mooh se taar ghusake gaand se nikalke patang nahin udaayi toh humara naam nahin!”
While the story is too long and tiring to narrate, just defining the lead cast will fill up this page. Sardar Khan (Manoj Bajpai) has a one-point agenda: avenge his father’s death from coal mine owner-turned-politician Vidhayak Ramadhir Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia). Circumstances lead Khan to a dual life. In one, he is married to Najma (Richa Chadda) and has three sons and in the other, he is seduced by Durga’s (Reemma Sen) sexy back to have another son from her. He also has two sidekicks, the forever grumpy Farhan (Piyush Mishra) and the Rajkumar Hirani-lookalike Asgar Khan (Jameel Khan). Through most of the film, Sardar is either battling Ramadhir Singh or the Quereshis who had driven him out of Wasseypur initially. The story takes a romantic turn after a giant time leap. Sardar’s sons grow up to pursue their respective love interests, leading to some priceless comic scenes. The film concludes with a predictable climax and if you were awake through most of the film, you can guess the end atleast 15 minutes before the closing credits.
Scenes that make this film paisa vasool: The one where Sardar Khan goes to eliminate this ‘pehelwan’. Just after the first stab, he takes a hurried step back- like he’s about to flee. But just as his adversary realizes what has happened, phuchchak- the second stab and again a step back. This goes on for about 150 stabs until the opponent can’t be punctured any further. This scene is not special for the grotesque number of jabs but for its novel style. Another one would be the scene where Sardar’s son Faizal (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) attempts to make a move on his lady love Mohsina (Huma Qureshi). The high point of the scene is when Mohsina blasts Faizal for holding her hand without her permission and Faizal chokes and sniffs almost like he would break into an inconsolable sob.
Although the film rests largely on Manoj Bajpai’s overconfident shoulders, the fact that he doesn’t manage to spectacularly impress isn’t a game changer. Tigmanshu Dhulia, on the other hand, manages very well with his contained and controlled expressions that say a lot more than he does in the film. Among the actresses, Richa Chadda pretty much rules and has a promising career ahead. Reemma Sen may have an extra ‘M’ but that doesn’t add much to her acting skills and most would appreciate her sexy back which has more screen space than her front. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is the new ‘common man’ in Hindi films and given his choice of arty and independent films, he won’t be reduced to a Rajpal Yadav. Piyush Mishra’s narrative is comforting especially when you’re tired of keeping track of why X wants to kill Y or why Z is befriending W. A neat voiceover summarizes events and lets you sit back and pay a little less attention.
Most songs deliciously capture the spirit of the movie. But unlike the songs that you get addicted to based on how they’ve been used in the film, the ‘Hunter song’ sounds best on your iPod and the visuals do little justice to the melody. ‘Jiya Tu Bihar Ke Lala’ sung by the Manoj Tiwari blends well with the closing shot of the film and adds to the mood.
Bihar and the states that have sprouted from within it make for a brilliant canvas for cinema. The language, the peculiar and untranslatable expletives and the misplaced sense of power allows for behavior that would raise eyebrows in polite society. ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ manages to use this to their advantage to terrorize, titillate and create cinematic icons who will dictate how any actor would approach an anti-hero character in the future. And it manages all this based on a simple philosophy: Ain’t no sunshine when… you’re on the wrong side of a loaded gun.
Considering the amount of blood spilled in this film, it could’ve just been called ‘Gangs of Sauce-e-pur’. Hot and sweet and different. ‘Bata deejiyega sabko!’
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