In the second half of the 19th century, a dejected painter (after being turned down by many) decided to become a missionary. He moved to a small Belgian town of coal miners in poverty. He saw a lot of characters in this poor peasant folk and it is here that Vincent Van Gogh created his first famous painting, in his own style characterized by Coarse and harsh strokes. Rajeev Ravi (cinematographer) and Anurag Kashyap together do a Van Gogh in the first one hour of Gangs of Wasseypur. The treatment and feel of the first hour of the movie is unlike anything you have seen before. Gangs of Wasseypur is a painting of moving images with coarse language and harsh strokes of light on dark background. It defies tradition like a Van Gogh painting too. Story telling in Anurag Kashyap movies has remained immoral and is not dependent on a protagonist; neither does it try to create an emotional bond which drives you as an audience to take pleasure in the character's motives and actions. It is one visual cue leading to another in order to tell a story. The place, the language and the plot become more important than the themes and messages. The face of Indian cinema is not going to remain the same. With movie being internationally well received, there has been a lot of anticipation and excitement for the movie. Is the movie an epic story? Does the movie represent the current regional dynamics in India? Do the makers of movies like Dev D, Gulaal, Hanuman and No Smoking add a new dimension to their portfolio? Well the answer is most certainly yes but how they achieve this is something we will try to explore.
Gangs of Wasseypur is a crime and revenge drama sprinkled with generous but sinister doses of humor at the most unexpected places. The main characters belong to the area of Wasseypur in Dhanbad – A place marked with coal mafias and Butchers. The story is about the rivalry between the two factions of Wasseypur – the Qureshi clan of butchers and Khan Clan of the Pathans. There are numerous characters, nuances, themes, plots within the movie that make it a gripping film. The motley colorful platter of people is made delicious with the calibrated and methodical attempt of getting the pulse of the place. Language and character definition brings the realism of the film while the screenplay fictionalizes the characters and makes them unforgettable. Recurrent use of gun fights, profanities, immoral exuberance and influence of Bollywood on Indian villages like Wasseypur makes the movie interesting even with its slightly longer length. Movie making is extremely indulgent in Gangs of Wasseypur.
The movie starts in the 1940s with Shahid Khan (beautifully essayed by Jaideep Ahlawat), a proud pathan getting in a rift with the Qureshi's over looting of trains in the name of Sulatana Dacoit. He ends up moving away from the rivalry, being thrown out to the coal mines of Dhanbad. He works along with the peasants there and his ambitions earn him a foe in the form of the local coal mine owner turned politician Ramadhir Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia). With this ignites the fights between Ramadhir Singh and Sardar Khan, Shahid Khan’s son on one side and Sardar Khan and Quereshi's on the other. Sardar Khan’s allies Farhan (Piyush Mishra) and Asgar (Jameel Khan) and his sons Danish (Vineet Singh) and Faizal (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) makes the army on the Khan side and Ramadhir Singh’s son along with Quereshi's – Ehshaan Quereshi (Vipin Sharma) and Sultan (Pankaj Tripathi) holds the other side. Females have got a very special place in this movie as you see the gun yielding immoral gangsters go meek in front of their women – partly for the women’s love and partly for their own lust. Unfortunately the theme of the movie cannot be further detailed as the stories are only half built and there is the other half of the movie yet to come. But with the number of plots and subplots, it surely is an epic attempt.
The real strength of the movie is the story and screenplay. It is a well researched film. The writer (Zeeshan Qadri) of the movie belongs to Wasseypur and the shooting of the movie has happened in the director’s (Anurag Kahsyap) hometown. This single factor brings immense amount of authenticity and realism while the actors and their quirky behaviour make the movie surreal. Whether it be lustful machismo of Sardar Khan or the movie maniac son of his Faizal, the characters are etched subtly but in detail. The story is ably supported by a tight screenplay. Dialogues have always been a strength of Anurag Kashyap, whether it be another Manoj Bajpai starrer Shool or Gulaal and this movie too has some of those very memorable dialogues. They are coarse, impactful and humorous at the same time. This surely is a movie with a great attention to detail.
Sneha Khanwalkar’s music creates the additional dimension of depth in the movie. Songs though many only add on to the story telling. “Ek Bagal Mein" and “Keh Ke Lunga” shines and are very well placed.
Cinematography by Rajeev Ravi is economical and realistic. The first half of the movie has a proud and upright protagonist Shahid Khan amidst power and politics of coal mines. The coal marred black faces of the mining labor in golden glow of dusk and dawn marks this half while the second half is full of dark characters and there are many frames where the screen has pitch black shadows. And then there are some blood soaked reds of butcher house and gunfights. Having watched Dev D, Gulaal, That Girl In Yellow Boots and now GOW, one knows that Rajeev Ravi is an extra pair of eyes for Anurag Kashyap’s mind. He is brilliant.
Actors have excelled in the movie. My pick of the lot are four – Manoj Bajpai, Jaideep Ahlawat, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Richa Chadha. This is definitely Bajpai’s best. He commands the screen while delivering threats to his nemesis, while lustfully ogling at a girl as he listens to a father’s request of saving another woman being harassed, while killing a person with a knife like playing a sport or wooing the women through tender acts. It is quite surprising that Nawazuddin Siddiqui seems to have been discovered suddenly even after being in Industry for so long. Like his earlier hits this year – Kahaani and Paan Singh Tomar, he is tremendous here as well. The subtle internalizing of character is quite evident in his gaze at his love or standing with hands on his hips like Amitabh Bachhan details his character. Richa Chadha as Saradar’s wife Nagma similarly had a difficult task but she leaves an impact. Jaideep Ahlawat looks the character completely, a very definitive performance by him. Piyush Mishra and Jameel Khan as allies look convincing. Huma Quereshi in her small role as Faizal’s lover delivers some very funny lines in style (“Permissan Lena chahiye na!”). Vineet Singh as Danish is less rebellious and good hearted – the same comes out well in his portrayal. Vipin Sharma and Pankaj Tripathi in their roles as Quereshi's look sinister, Reema Sen as a double chinned seductress pans her role out well; A very special mention to a befitting nemesis – Ramadhir Singh played by a terrific Tigmanshu Dhulia. He is someone who is comfortable with such a backdrop and has delivered as a director (Haasil, Shagird and Saheb Bibi and Gangster), his acting skills are no less.
The only spoil sports here are the indulgent editing (Shweta Matthew) or lack of it at times and too many subplots. Though am not complaining as it is as much like watching multiple movies together. The indulgent movie making surely tires you though. The blood soaked, gun marred, man dominated Gangs of Wasseypur is rich in its visual treatise and is definitely gripping. It will remain one of Anurag Kashyap’s best. The movie is highly recommended for its absolutely different treatment, strong story and pitch perfect actors. This is Bollywood’s gift to world cinema. But it is not the complete review because “Kahaani abhi baaki hai”. The movie lives up to the expectation though it leaves you unsatisfied as it is only the first part.