GANGS OF WASSEYPUR:LABOURED EPIC
A film that is screened at Cannes film festival and then generates hype over how much of a Bollywood masala film it is, says a lot about its marketing. The noise as loud as the gun powder of this gang war drama, needs to be made. Gangs of Wasseypur, though accomplished and ambitious in its vision, is neither a world cinema classic nor a commercial entertainer.
Sardar Khan (Manoj Bajpai) tells his wife on his wedding night, “Keh ke lenge hum…hamari jindagi ka ek hi maqsad hai-badla.” Sardar Khan’s father, Shahid Khan was killed by his employer, Ramadhir Singh,(Tigmanshu Dhulia) threatened by Shahid’s plans of treachery. Sardar is brought up by his loyal mentor,(Piyush Misra) who tells him about his father’s death. Sardar at a tender age, shaves his head and decides to avenge his father when he grows up. Sardar’s bride, having seen him tuck a huge knife inside the back of his pants and leave to plunder new victims, develops a loyalty towards his revengeful dreams.
Set in Wasseypur, a remote area in Bihar, the story(Syed Zeishan Qadri) tells a long revenge saga that has its origins buried deep in the coalmines of Dhanbad. What starts pre Independence, as a fist fight by an enraged father , his face blackened with coal and a heart burning with revenge, slowly grows into a never ending war between generations, well into the nineties. Sardar Khan is seen growing into a hardened criminal who takes on two different enemies in two cities of Dhanbad and Wasseypur, while trying to balance his lusty laundiyabaaz dalliance between his wife, prostitutes and a second wife.
As Khan’s growing power over his enemy looms large, the story shifts focus to his sons ,their marriage and romance which cause more havoc with Khan’s own life. The story, finally gathers more momentum and energy in the latter half, after lingering over indulgently on Sardar’s life.
GOW starts on a rapid fire tone, literally, with a gang of men opening fire with their rifles on a family which was spending a peaceful evening watching ‘Kyonki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’. It moves back from 1994 to pre Independence time in the same village and continues to drop pace in a deliberate manner, while moving towards 1966 and so forth. Following Sardar’s life and his women, the screenplay(Anurag Kashyap,Akhilesh Jaiswal,Sachin Ladia,Syed Zeeshan Qadri) starts dragging after a while.
Small romantic scenes where the sons stumble and fumble in charming, rustic awkwardness as they fall in love, along with Yashpal Sharma lip syncing to Lata Mangeshkar’s voice singing ‘Salame ishq meri jaan..’, render a few light moments.
Manoj Bajpai as the twisted, disgusting Sardar Khan is deadly in his performance. The acts of lust and violence are shown purely through the perfect expression of his eyes. Piyush Misra, and Jameel Khan as the loyal henchmen along with Misra’s commentary lend complete authenticity to the Bihar setup. Tigmanshu Dhulia as the cold and sharp Ramadhir Singh, proves that he is as great an actor as a director. Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Sardar’s son, more human and romantic, is endearing in his simplicity. Richa Chadda and Reema Sen make their presence felt both through their raunchy sex appeal as well as fury driven performances.
Rajiv Ravi’s dark cinematography is in keeping with story’s languorous style. The soundtrack and the music (Amit Trivedi and Sneha Khanwalkar), the best part of the film infuses much needed life into the never ending saga. The lyrics in all the songs, especially “keh ke lunga”(Piyush Misra ) and the catchy “womaniya” (Varun Grover) are audacious and entertaining.
Most of all, Anurag Kashyap’s masterful direction reminds one of his first film, Black Friday’s documentary style in its effort to combine historic facts of coal mining with the dramatic revenge tale. Overall, a novel and authentic look at criminal life in the hinterlands of Bihar with fascinating, disgusting characters, GOW gets occasionally marred by its epic form of storytelling that ironically begins with a shot from ‘Kyonki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’.