Review: 'Gangs of Wasseypur' demands 100% attention

Friday, 22 June 2012 - 10:00am IST Updated: Friday, 22 June 2012 - 4:56pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Here’s a film that demands 100% attention and it won’t stop till it has it.
Film: Gangs of Wasseypur I (GOW I)
Director: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: 
Tigmanshu Dhulia,  Piyush Mishra, Richa Chadda, Manoj Bajpayee, Reemma Sen
Rating:
***1/2

Audiences in India will see in two parts what audiences at Cannes watched and gaped at for over five hours.

As Smriti Irani’s Kyuki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi character welcomes us into director Anurag Kashyap’s magnum opus Gangs of Wasseypur I, little do we realise we are going to get sucked into a vortex of heady violence, twisted fates and tales of vengeance. From the cheesy ‘rishto ke bhi roop badalte hain’ to the sound of raining bullets, the paradox is inescapable.


Wasseypur lies in coal district Dhanbad, which now lies in Jharkhand after having moved from Bengal to Bihar to its current location. Narrator Nasir (Piyush Mishra) takes us through the story from 1940 to 2004. He tells us of the bloody rivalry between the Qureshis and Khans of Wasseypur.

Nasir is the brother Shahid Khan (Jaideep Ahlawat) who is hired by mine owner Ramadhir Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia) as his pehelwan. Shahid’s ambition of taking over Ramadhir’s empire is stifled with death as his reward.

Shahid’s son Sardar (Manoj Bajpayee) somehow escapes with Nasir, the seed of vengeance sown deep within his dark soul and bald head.Years pass, India gets independence, and coal mining becomes less lucrative than sand mining than car parts.

Sardar is crafty and comical, almost a goofball. When he’s killing, he doesn’t blink, but is beaten up at home by his wife Nagma Khatoon (Richa Chadda) for cheating on her. Nagma is firebrand, never shying of peppering her language with cuss words, disciplining her husband in her own venomous ways. When Sardar marries ‘Bangalan’ Durga (Reemma Sen), Nagma’s displeasure is evident. Meanwhile, Durga, initially coy, shows her true colours when Sardar needs to see them. Character development can best justify the length of GOW I.

Sardar’s oldest son Danish Khan takes the reins over from Sardar, while the second son Faisal Khan (Nawazuddin Siddique) finds solace in weed. Faisal’s sudden transformation from a film crazy, pot-smoking idler to one on call to fulfill family duties is almost Bollywoodised. It’d be interesting to see the dependably intense Siddique who plays the main role in GOW II. The premise’s parallels with The Godfather films are easy to pinpoint.

Written by Zeishan Quadri, Akhilesh, Sachin Ladia and Kashyap, GOW I runs for over two hours. Cuss words and smart repartee are commonplace, with the women being at the centre of most comedic encounters of the men. The sexual tension doubles up as comic relief in the fast-paced thriller. Kashyap’s characters are, no doubt, dangerous. They’re also prone to screwing up. They may be deadly gangsters, but they also fall face down every now and then. A sister defying her rogue brother to marry a lover from a rival clan, a pregnant wife beating up her hooligan husband for cheating on her, another wife refusing to become a ‘bachche paida karnewali machine’. The casting is bang on. Chadda, Dhulia and many others are finds.

The grime of an actual location (not Wasseypur, as a disclaimer says) with hinterland Hindi at its heart, lends authenticity to GOW I.

GOW I has too many heroes. Apart from the characters of Manoj Bajpayee and Richa Chadda, Sneha Khanwalkar’s folksy music and GV Prakash’s earthy background score makes a world of a difference to AK’s storytelling. Womaniya, Jiya Ho Bihar ke Lala, Hunter and Keh Ke Lunga are among the 12 songs spread over two hours that stay with you. They’re crudely rustic and catchy. Shweta Venkat Matthew’s editing is slick.
 
There are times the self-indulgent ghost of That Girl in Yellow Boots wanders around Wasseypur, with seemingly pointless gore and montages eating into precious screen time. Many a time the camera wanders aimlessly, on severed heads and pretty faces. The changing history of Dhanbad at its centre, over a dozen important characters, a web of plots and subplots moving deftly to a to-be-continued finale, can leave you exhausted and confused.
 
Here’s a film that demands 100% attention and it won’t stop till it has it.

Even though there’s so much going for GOW I, there’s something always amiss, something that leaves you underwhelmed after all those expectations. May be it’s a hope of a dashing GOW II. Let’s wait and watch.

 


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