The Verdict on Gangs of वासेपुर
Directed by- Anurag Kashyap
Starring- Manoj Bajpai, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Richa Chaddha, Piyush Mishra, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Vipin Sharma, Reemma Sen
There is difference between a great movie and great cinema in general. Anurag Kashyap’s gang war epic “Gangs of वासेपुर” earnestly tries to bridge that gap but falls just short on several counts. On the whole, Wasseypur is a brilliantly made movie, with stellar performances, great pace of story and some outstanding editing. It literally takes you on a ride (a gory and profane one albeit) to the heartland of the coal mafia- the morally loose, violently prolific and cinematically grey hamlet known as Wasseypur. Here is the Hatter’s verdict on one of the most highly awaited movies of this year.
Plot and Narrative – 7/10
Basically Wasseypur is an epic; and like all epics, it starts in media res (read: just when the shit hits the fan). It has all the elements of a classical Indian epic- a plot traversing decades, a plethora of characters, sex and violence and a sutradhar (the rustic voice of Piyush Mishra doing justice the film’s feel). My biggest complaint with the plot is that it is a revenge saga minus the revenge. Here is the protagonist (Bajpai at his best) who vows to avenge his father, a la Michael Corleone, Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter, but the problem with our hero is that he never gets around to extracting that revenge. Maybe, I’m being too harsh and part 1 (yes, there is a sequel expected in September) is just a prequel to all the bloody revenge that takes place in part 2. But despite its fast paced narrative, complex yet clear plot and layers of detail and rustic appeal, the plot of Wasseypur still left me a little underwhelmed.
The acting is what separates Wasseypur from any other gangster movie. If ‘The Godfather’ has taught us something, it is that a great gangster movie is incomplete without great acting. All the characters are well sketched out and defined well, which makes it easier for the actors to portray them. The star of the show is the untiring Manoj Bajpai. Personally, I have been a fan of this wonderfully eccentric man ever since Satya and Shool exploded on to the screen a decade and a half ago. With this movie, though, Bajpai has given us Bollywood’s sex-crazed, blood thirsty equivalent of Don Corleone (apologies to RGV and the Big B). Richa Chaddha has proved that she is much more than Dolly of Oye Lucky…and as Nagma, she is the perfect foil for Bajpai’s Sardaar Khan. Young Nawazuddin Siddiqui is the find of the movie for me. As Faisal Khan, he brings in a youthful rustic enigma to his role, and hopefully, we will get to see a lot more of him in the future (starting with Wasseypur 2).
Piyush Mishra has proved that he is much more than just a poet and composer. We all remember his eccentric act from Gulaal but in Wasseyour, you get to see a much more sedate and sublime Mishra, who can surely act. The surprise package of the movie, for me, was Tigmanshu Dhulia as the politician Ramadhir Singh, the chief antagonist of the movie. I have always believed that directors can act whenever they wish to. And as Singh, the Haasil director proves that they can do a mighty fine job at it too. He looks menacing, calculative and every bit the authority figure that Singh is meant to be. The ensemble cast comprises of unknown but strong actors like Jaideep Ahlawat, Reemma Sen, Vipin Sharma, etc. But even in such a huge star cast, no one goes unnoticed here, which speaks volumes of their impactful performances. Even Yashpal Sharma (of Gangaajal fame) manages to make a lasting impression in a 2-minute cameo as a shrill-voiced wedding singer.
Kashyap’s films are known for their grittiness and truthful and unabashed use of blood and violence. Right from Black Friday, which drew heavily from The Battle of Algiers to No Smoking, which was Kafka-esque in its treatment, Kashyap’s violence is itself an homage to a particular style of filmmaking. In Wasseypur, he follows the Tarantino school of movie-making by using blood, gore and dark humour to propagate heavy violence in a typically Tarantino grey setting. There are no flying cars or chase sequences but loads of gunshots. There are no mushroom clouds or clashing blades but an abundance of blood. In its style of rustic action, Wasseypur resembles Vishal Bharadwaj’s Omkara and Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns to some extent. But somewhere along the line, all the blood spilling starts to get a little repetitive and in parts, even overpowers the story line. My advice- do not take your girlfriend/wife to this one, unless you are looking forward to a lifetime of “why did you ever take me to that movie!”
Music and Background Score- 8/10
The musical soundtrack of this movie is less Bollywood than you might expect. If you believe that action movies are ruined by the presence of songs, then watch Wasseypur and allow this movie to whack that misconception out of your mistaken soul. At no point do the actors break out into song and dance involuntarily and shamelessly. The soundtrack has been cleverly used (those who know of Kashyap’s use of music in Gulaal would already know that). The tracks have been written by Piyush Mishra and Varun Grover, and wonderfully composed by Sneha Khanwakar. ‘Hunter’ has become the most popular track from the album but my personal favourites are “Keh ke lunga”, “Womaniya” and “Jiya Tu”. It is refreshing to see the music taking the movie forward rather than causing a break in its flow. The background score by GV Prakash Kumar is commendable and gels well with the mood of the movie. My personal favourite piece of music in the movie is the hilariously clever use of “Salaam-e-Ishq” from Muqaddar ka Sikandar.
Technical Elements and Treatment – 9/10
The story of Wasseypur begins in colonial India and continues up to the mid-1980s. Part 2 will take this story forward two more decades. Needless to say, the filmmakers had to do a lot of research about Wasseypur, Dhanbad, the coal mafia and the time. Well, if nothing, they got the lingo right. The film is replete with the choicest Hindi expletives and profanities and all ill-mannered viewers from the Hindi heartland will certainly find a piece of home there (I did). The sheer number of characters gives a lot of room for subplots but thankfully, Kashyap has steered clear of any non-linear development in the story. The best part of the movie, though, is the finesse with which the violence has been handles. I don’t know if the phrase ‘tasteful and artistic depiction of violence’ makes any sense but since it sounds classy, I’ll use it here. The bloodshed never reaches a gut-wrenching, puke-inducing level. It is more 300 than Hostel in that regard. The editing (done by by Shweta Venkat Mathew) is the backbone of the movie, complemented by some stunning cinematography (by Rajeev Ravi) that captures the gritty feel of Wasseypur and the earthy appeal of Dhanbad in equal measures.
THE VERDICT- 8.2/10
As far as gangster movies go, Wasseypur is more Omkara than Company, more Scarface than the Godfather. There is an earthy appeal to all its hatred, deceit, violence and love, It takes you to the heartland of the coal mafia and portrays the animosity between the Pathans and the Qureshis in a brutal yet magnificent fashion. The Hatter says this movie is for you if you love any of these- a) good cinema b) Manoj Bajpai and/or Anurag Kashyap c) gangster movies d) an abundance of Hindi profanities e) some blood with your popcorn.