Director: Anurag Kashyup
Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Pankaj Tripathi, Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Right from its long opening sequence where a gang relentlessly showers bullets and bombs at the haveli of their rival gang, with inhuman intentions to terminate everyone from woman, kids to elderly, Anurag Kashyup establishes the tone, temperament and texture of his gritty gang-war drama. In terms of its story, Gangs of Wasseypur seems like a basic revenge drama. But in terms of its screenplay, there is not a single scene in the film that might give you a been-there-seen-that feeling. It’s avant-garde, offbeat and interesting narrative makes it an absolutely riveting experience.
Sardar Khan (Manoj Bajpayee) forms the core of the chronicle, whose only aim in life is to avenge the death of his father by the hands of the capitalist-turned-politician Ramadheer Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia). The film unveils as his biographical account encapsulating his marriage to Rajini (Richa Chhada), second marriage to Durga (Reema Sen), his rivalry with Qureshi (Pankaj Tripathi) and his butcher tribe and the induction of his son (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) in the gang-war.
With a brief introduction to Wasseypur and its ancient inhabitants, the narrative swiftly establishes its premise, protagonists and their conflicts. The backdrop of coal-mafia gives the film an original and deep-rooted setting. Starting from the pre-independence era, the narrative gradually moves to recent times with vengeance being passed on to generations. Piyush Mishra’s voiceover does the major elucidation on the evolution of eras, though at times it’s so rushed that if you miss a moment, you could lose a subplot. But then the film has so much and more to say that it has to adapt to a blitzkrieg storytelling technique.
The writing by Syed Zeishan Quadri, Akhilesh Jaiswal, Sachin Ladia and Anurag Kashyap is expansive, elaborate, expressive and inventive. It explores diverse facets of Sardar Khan making his character and the narrative multidimensional. His revenge is brutal, his romance reeks of lust and he has an unapologetic approach towards both. Despite its grim theme, the film also has an inherent sense of humour that comes quite naturally to it from its series of events. The scene where Reema Sen is charmed by Manoj Bajpayee over her daily chores or the one where Nawazuddin goes on a formal date with Huma Qureshi are outrageously hilarious.
As the director, Anurag Kashyup has a distinct vision which augments the writing. The scenes are short in length, several in number and often a series of montages take the story forward. He never has to resort to extraneous elements like stylized entries, editing patterns or camera motions to add to the effect because the story has an intrinsic impact of its own. However that doesn’t mean the film falls short of any technical finesse. There’s unabashed blood, gore and abuse wherever the scene demands but none of it is forced for sensationalism. Also the film never ventures into the abstract zone that Kashyup’s films are often attributed with. This one has mass-appeal without being a potboiler.
The soundtrack composed by Sneha Khanwalkar is as out-of-the-box and enjoyable as the film. While there are no lip-sync numbers, the songs, strategically placed in the background, often make their presence felt. Rajeev Ravi’s cinematography is commendable.
Performances by the entire cast are nothing less than superlative. Taking the center stage, Manoj Bajpayee comes up with his most impressive act so far – at par with Bhiku Mhatre, if not better. He is vicious, womanizer, merciless, immoral and yet you root for him because of the sense of power he displays. The cinematic gratification that his character offers makes you overlook the glorification of crime.
Filmmaker Tigmanshu Dhulia makes a decent acting debut. He speaks less but has an authoritative presence. Pankaj Tripathi gets a meaty role and has a menacing presence as the negative lead. Piyush Mishra as Sardar’s mentor and Jameel Khan as his partner-in-crime are perfect in their parts. Jaideep Ahlawat, as Sardar’s father, commands good screen presence in his extended special appearance. Richa Chadda as the compromising wife and doting mother brings poise and pathos to her character. Reema Sen has never looked or acted more sexy before. Nawazuddin Siddiqui breathes life into his character with his deadpan expressions. He makes a late entry but promises a lot of potential in the sequel where he takes precedence as the protagonist.
Even at a runtime of almost three hours, the movie, at no point, seems stretched or monotonous and there isn’t a single dull moment. The narrative binds you to an extent that you don’t mind watching the impending sequel (another two and a half hours) at a single stretch, since the incomplete first part leaves you on a restless note and asking for more. Unlike Ram Gopal Varma’s Raktha Charitra that was split into two parts more for commercial considerations, Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur justifies its need for two episodes since its source material has enough ‘meat’. In fact much like a sticky soap opera episode, Kashyup smartly ends the first part on such a note that you hate him for the abrupt and inconclusive end, yet see the promise that the second chapter of the gang-war holds.
Gangs of Wasseypur is amongst Anurag Kashyup’s most accomplished and engaging works since Black Friday. And we are talking about just half of the film!
Verdict: Very GoodAnurag Kashyap Gangs of Wasseypur Gaurav Malani Manoj Bajpai Nawazuddin Siddiqui Reema Sen Reviews Tigmanshu Dhulia Times of India