Watching Gangs of Wasseypur (Part 1)
Date: 6/23/2012 5:17:00 AM
Netflix Summary: When powerful outlaw Shahid Khan is reduced to working in Ramadhir Singh's coal mines, it sets off a feud of vengeance between their two families that continues for more than six decades in this high-octane Bollywood thriller.
What Kamal Haasan's Kuruthipunal (remake of Nihalani's Drohkaal) did to action in Indian cinema, Anurag Kashyap's Gangs of Wasseypur do to gangster flicks – They would never be the same again. Not surprisingly, both these filmmakers have an encyclopedic understanding of film tradition – across multiple industries, and use it brilliantly to look further than others. This film, too, acknowledges its debt to loads of other films and filmmakers (including Vishal Bharadwaj?) – but adds something refreshingly new to the mix. (Of course, I want to say lot more than I would in this post – will when DVD comes out.)
The biggest achievement of the film is that it creates characters you fully understand, but neither hate nor sympathize with. Anurag Kashyap makes sure that he is not manipulating your emotions by applying a trivializing tone seeped in dark humor to the blood-soaked drama that unfolds onscreen. He chooses to create non-heroes instead of anti-heroes, and a celebration of violence that emphasizes the meaninglessness.
Do not believe anyone who tells you that the first act of the film is too chaotic, too difficult to follow, etc. Anurag has beautifully woven together elements to create a great sequence – everything noticeable in its right place. Even the televisions playing in the background are chosen so wonderfully. The opening with “kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi” sets your expectations right a way – a real long epic spanning generations, with Piyush Mishra being the Baa – at least in my twisted mind, with no real message to deliver. Piyush delivers once again as singer-songwriter with Ik Bagal, though his voiceover at the start is a little confusing as a different actor is onscreen.
Then there is Rajeev Ravi's brilliant cinematography – no gimmicks at all, everything captured with a steady hand – maybe with an exception of slow-mo at the very end. The gorilla footage adds magic to the on-location shoots. Obviously Anurag knows his way around or creating this world on a set would have been close to impossible at the kind of budgets he operates on. The team creates what should easily count among the best of mise-en-scene in contemporary cinema.
The fact that all his actors know the dialect as well as anyone could kicks the film to another level altogether. Even with so many actors appearing on the screen, not a single one is mis-cast. The leads, of course, set the screen on fire – Manoj Bajpai stands the tallest in the ensemble cast, with only Nawazuddin Siddiqui standing anywhere close to him – I am expecting that he will have a blast in Part 2. In the middle of all the bloodshed, the “romantic” courtship is beautifully done. The actors manage to make the odd tenderness as believable as the anger.
The music and lyrics are used as a brilliantly, not just to heighten the drama, but also as a storytelling tool. The team of Sneha Khanwalkar, G. V. Prakash Kumar, Varun Grover and Piyush Mishra have done a brilliant job. Sneha, as usual, captures the local sounds with great effectiveness. G. V. Prakash brings in the great force that I find only in film scores made down south.
Obviously, Anurag couldn't resist the Godfather-Agneepath killing in the end, adding a whole song as the gangster dies. Yes, he has used loads of these elements in earlier films, but they seem to have peaked in Gangs of Wasseypur.
A great watch – and if anyone complains about lack of economy, remind them that this is an epic!