Review: Gangs of Wasseypur

Gangs of Wasseypur (Dir.: Anurag Kashyap; Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Tigmanshu Dhulia et al.)

It would suffice to say that Gangs of Wasseypur is a film which is in a class of its own by such a far distance from its peers from the same house, that, by the sheer fact of its existence, it manages to add a chapter to the history of that very house.

However, as someone from that very land, it is difficult to stop here without rambling a bit about its beauty and force. The place of Gangs of Wasseypur and its impact on Indian cinema and filmmaking in India can only be judged fairly as time passes. However, in its content and style, Gangs of Wasseypur seems to have been cut from an entirely different cloth, of a class much superior.

What raises Gangs of Wasseypur into the level of extraordinary is the glaring realism, brought to life by powerful performances and crisp presentation

Gangs of Wasseypur was released theatrically in two parts. But, for all purposes, it may be considered a single film, despite the somewhat different flow of the two parts. Delving deep into the plot (which is by no means drab) isn’t of much use as Gangs of Wasseypur is not about the plot, it is about the treatment. Gangs of Wasseypur is not nearly as much about the story as the storytelling. A revenge saga with political, criminal and romantic themes intertwining – the tale is gripping. But what raises Gangs of Wasseypur into the level of extraordinary is the glaring realism, brought to life by powerful performances and crisp presentation. Anurag Kashyap’s talent has been on display before, but perhaps never as grandly as here. He tells the story of the lives of his commonplace protagonists in an unusual place and circumstances and is aided by an excellent soundtrack, which draws upon an array of sources and styles. Sneha Khanwalkar’s soundtrack is an overflow of both creativity and hard work, and both show aplenty in the excellent output that bursts forth.

Veterans like Manoj Bajpayee and Piyush Mishra are classy as expected, but the performances from relative unknowns are the icing on the cake. A special mention must be made of Nawazuddin Siddiqui. The emergence of Nawazuddin in a lead role in a mainstream film is in itself a remarkable fact in the annals of “Bollywood”, for reasons unnecessary to explain. His screen presence, dialogue delivery and expressions are phenomenal and encourages in one the audacity of hoping – hoping for many more of such powerhouse performances in the years to come.

The character building is magnificent, which lets one flow with the story without any jarring effects. The second part does tend to overflow with the number of characters at times, but the distinct flavour of each new element and the twists introduced thereby make it worth the trouble of tracking the complex plot.

The only adverse criticism which can be made about Gangs of Wasseypur is that certain themes and parts of the film are ‘inspired’ by legendary mafia Classics though it must be said in the same breath that the ‘adaptations’ have been made with great skill and care, rendering the story a life and charm distinctly of its own.
Gangs of Wasseypur’s relationship with the Hindi film industry is multilayered. On one level, it awes some of Gangs of Wasseypur’s major protagonists. On another level, it is mocked. And therein lies the ultimate accomplishment of this great film. Just as evolution is about improving upon and refining what you inherited to leave behind something superior, Gangs of Wasseypur evolves from the land of Bollywood which it is born into and goes one, or maybe two, steps further.

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