Revenge is best served on coal…
After watching ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ (GOW) yesterday, a friend tweeted, “go watch, if you have class enough to appreciate crass…” While I am not sure if I agree with her completely, it is certainly a film to watch. Director, Anurag Kashyap’s ambitious saga about coal mafia and revenge, set in Wasseypur / Dhanbad (now in Jharkhand; earlier in Bihar) packs in a lot of punch with its clever writing (Zeishan Quadri, Akhilesh, Sachin Ladia & Kashyap himself) and performances. Expansive in vision and scale, the GOW saga spans three generations and borrows heavily from real life incidents from pre-independence era to the modern times. (Minor spoilers ahead).
GOW is a story about men obsessed with power and revenge. Sardar Khan (Manoj Bajpayee) swears to avenge his father’s death by the hands of coal mine contractor turned politician, Ramadhir Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia). He does not want to kill him but savour the revenge by bringing Singh’s empire to a downfall. On one hand, Khan has Singh to destroy in Dhanbad; he has the Qureshi clan in Wasseypur to fight with as well. Butchers by profession, the Qureshis were responsible for driving out the Pathans (Khans) from Wasseypur in 1941. Not that the Pathans were innocent; Sardar Khan’s father, Shahid Khan (Jaideep Ahlawat) used to loot the British trains by impersonating the legendary dacoit, Sultana Daku, a Qureshi. The film’s plot is complex and this is just the main premise; there are many characters that keep getting introduced throughout the film. However, the director manages keeps it all together and sustains the interest for about 160-minutes.
Kashyap effectively uses humour and music to keep the film entertaining and not only a blood-fest. The film has powerful dialogues that shock and amuse in equal parts. At one point, Sardar Khan’s wife tells him to eat properly so that he doesn’t embarrass himself by not being able to perform sexually at a brothel; she says something like, “Khana khao, takat aayega, bahar jaa ke be-izzati na karana”. Coming to the women in GOW; Richa Chaddha as Nagma, Khan’s fiery wife steals the thunder from Bajpayee whenever she appears on screen. She loves and hates her man in equal parts but stands by him in all adverse situations. Then there is the other ‘womaniya’, Durga (Reemma Sen); like the men in Wasseypur, she does not have any qualms in claiming what is not rightfully hers. Both actresses deliver impressive performances but Richa’s character draws more empathy. In GOW, Bajpayee gets his career’s best role and he shines; the character he plays is not really positive but the flaws make him more real – someone you support at times and hate at others. Tigmanshu Dhulia makes a powerful debut and has a career in acting apart from filmmaking. The next generation of gangsters is also introduced in the film but most of the action is reserved for them in the second part of the film that is expected to release soon. The person to watch there is Nawazuddin Siddiqui whose character, Faizal seems to have been modeled on Amitabh Bachchan’s angry young man on-screen persona in the seventies.
Music (Sneha Khanwalkar; lyrics: Varun Grover, Piyush Misra) is one of the best parts of the film and you often hear unexpected tracks playing in the background (background score: G V Prakash Kumar). The song, ‘Teri keh ke loonga…’ defines the film and its attitude; ‘Womaniya’ and ‘I am a hunter’ are both enjoyable and thankfully none of them disturb the film’s narrative. The only real flaw I could find with the film is its length; however, that can be forgiven if the film is good overall.
I strongly recommend watching Gangs of Wasseypur but those who are averse to violence and blood on screen, may avoid.