In the first decade of this new millennium, a name which has successfully gained the reputation of a Strong Brand representing the New Age Cinema is of director Anurag Kashyap. With bold, truthful and at-the-face films such as Black Friday, Gulaal, Dev D, That Girl In Yellow Boots (as a director) and Shaitaan, Udaan (as producer), Anurag has brought forward a new phase and transformation in the way Hindi films were being made, conceived and even seen.
However the other truth is that till his last film That Girl in Yellow Boots, Anurag was somehow not able to connect with the common people and could only win the appreciation of a particular section of viewers, including the critics. And unfortunately (or fortunately) the same continues with his GANGS OF WASSEYPUR too. Actually the reason for that lies in the perception of “Parallel” or “New Age Cinema” in the current commercial scenario which is completely different from the 70-80s, when some of the Best Art Movies of the country were produced. In those years, the flag bearers of such meaningful cinema were not at all concerned about any box office success of their projects. But they were all only focused on what they really wanted to portray in their films and that’s it. As a result they were able to give us such precious gems which are now unanimously included by everyone in the list of “The Best from Indian Cinema”. But today the problem is that films belonging to such genre are trying to ride in two boats at the same time. At one end they want to be a part of “Thinking or Path-Breaking Cinema” made for the tasteful audience and on the other, they also want to be hugely successful at the box office too like a commercial movie. Now that in fact is quite a thin line to move on and very rarely we get to see any Kahaani or Paan Singh Tomar satisfying both the critics as well as the viewers in equal proportions.
Interestingly GANGS OF WASSEYPUR also tries to walk on that thin line and comes up with a product which is no doubt worth watching due to its execution, performances, music and dialogues, but at the same time it doesn’t has anything fresh to offer in terms of concept, storyline or script. In his latest venture Anurag desperately tries to make his much awaited breakthrough in the mainstream cinema which might not be able to reach its desired destination as I see it.
Following the path already discovered in Hindi Cinema by Ram Gopal Varma in his Rakt Charitra Part 1 & Part 2 releasing in the gap of two months, Anurag decides to go the same way with his GOW Part 1 & 2. But for some undisclosed reasons he doesn’t mention this two part film in GOW’s posters or promotion as was boldly done by RGV. May be he remained confused looking at the box office result of Rakt Charitra. However I really didn’t felt something hugely different in GOW from the concept already explored by RGV in his Rakt Charitra series. To be precise the only change can be seen is in the premises (region), characters or the business the story is based upon……and the basic theme largely remains the same that is of family tussles, revenge and gangwars. Truly speaking every time the narrator’s voiceover used to come, it straight away reminded me of Rakt Charitra which also had a weird kind of voiceover used in exactly the same manner. Moreover Anurag also includes the trailer of GOW-II at the end of the movie after the credits go off, exactly copying the innovation introduced by RGV. So undoubtedly the trend setting writer-director seems to be following another pioneer director of Bollywood here called Ram Gopal Varma, with whom he was also associated in the start of his career.
Anurag's films have always been region based projects featuring subjects revolving around cities like Mumbai, Rajasthan, Punjab and more. So following the same trend, this time he takes us to a rather lesser known region of Wasseypur (Dhanbad) and its coal mine industry dealing in gang wars. The film gives you no time to settle down and simply starts off with a long bloody sequence of guns, murders and bloodshed. But then it takes too much time of almost 40 minutes to tell you the background of the story and the lead actors enter the screen only after this initial hiccup. The first half mainly deals with defining the basis of all the rivalry going on with small references of the Coal-mining history starting from the British era. Yes, no doubt the engrossing moments are there with some great acts by the entire cast. But still the first half largely leaves you unsatisfied waiting for something fresh to unfold in its storyline.
Thankfully, the director comes into his form post intermission and gives you many more striking sequences which are surely not for the faint hearted. There are more brutal murders and the deadly gang wars continue till the next generation which somehow also gives you a feeling of being repetitive. Further, the length of close to 3 hours leads to a little restlessness as it moves towards the climax. But 3 things truly save the film despite of having all the routine content as far as the storyline is concerned.
First being the execution/direction, including the way it has been brilliantly shot (Cinematography) making you feel the rustic ambience of the locations. No doubt, Anurag surpasses his GULAAL in terms of vision and execution here but still I felt the basic concept was more solid in GULAAL. However GOW excels in the way, it takes you into the characters and their inner psyche which is surely an achievement by the director. Particularly the second half which has more happening on the screen as compared to the first. The writing is noteworthy with dialogues written exactly in the way they are spoken in such remote areas with all those cuss words. Amusingly I also found the film much less abusive than the irritating & loud abuses deliberately used in JANNAT 2.
Second are the performances by the entire cast excelling their own previous acts undoubtedly. Lead from the front by Manoj Bajpayee, GOW would not have been possible without him for sure. The actor plays his role with such ease and conviction that you are bound to ask that from where he actually belongs from. Along with Manoj stands tall, a surprisingly competent performance from the director of PAAN SINGH TOMAR, Tigmanshu Dhulia, who is truly mesmerizing. With his superb act he clearly reveals the secret that why all the actors always come out with such great award winning performances in his directed movies. That’s because he himself knows the art so well. Completing the trio is Piyush Mishra, who once again reminds the industry the power house of talent within himself of being an actor, writer, lyricist, singer and composer. So if GOW is called a smart gun then Manoj, Tigmanshu and Piyush can easily be called the bullets of that gun without which the weapon would simply remain useless.
In the supporting cast, Jaideep Ahlawat, Jameel Khan, Pankaj Tripathi, Vipin Sharma & Yashpal Sharma (in a cameo) are really great sinking deep into their respective characters. Nawazuddin Siddiqui gets into the limelight towards the climax and looks like he is going to be the surprise package of GOW-II (as shown in the trailer). In the female lead, there is another power packed performance from Richa Chadda, who is still remembered as the OYE LUCKY LUCKY OYE girl. But after this movie, she is sure going to be called as GANGS OF WASSEYPUR girl. Reema Sen superbly provides the much needed subtle, sensuality to the project and so does Huma Qureshi who has a much meatier role in Part II.
Last but not the least comes the Soundtrack of the film by the extremely talented Sneha Khanwalkar which exactly provides the director what he needed to enhance the overall impact of the film on the viewers. The songs are earthy & folk mixed with the modern arrangement and even sung by the local singers which perfectly suit the mood of the film. Anurag intelligently uses the tracks merged in the background score which neither hinders the pace nor work as an obstacle to his narration. Still I cannot vouch for tracks with lyrics such as “Teri Keh Ke Lunga”. Regarding this I would like to say that experimentation is fine but it should also be in the limits without becoming vulgar. But that’s the price which has to be paid after “Bhag D K Bose” and “Emotional Atyachaar”. Now very few know that there was also a completely vulgar & disgusting version of “Emotional Atyachaar” officially uploaded by UTV on their Youtube channel (which might be available now too.)
Coming back to the film, GANGS OF WASSEYPUR is sure going to get rave reviews from all corners. But whether the same would be the result on the Box Office or not remains dicey. The film is no doubt exceptional in the way it is presented, enacted and executed. Still its overall theme remains the routine with nothing new to offer to the common viewer. The point to be noted here is that the audience appreciated KAHAANI & PAAN SINGH TOMAR because the films provided two essential returns to them for the price of their ticket. One was a fresh storyline with something new to tell and Two, was entertainment which kept them hooked onto the screen despite of being an offbeat subject.
Now comparatively GOW has great technicalities as its rare quality but it neither has a new story to tell nor enough entertainment roped in for the common man. It is immensely watchable for everyone interested in something exceptional tried on the screen but it also doesn’t have any surprises or twists and turns in its cliché story content. So, once again the choice is all yours after reading all the energetic write-ups on the film written all over the media.
Rating : 3 / 5 (Including 0.5 only for its Soundtrack)
(Note : Don’t move out of the theater when its end credits start rolling because the trailer of GANGS OF WASSEYPUR Part II actually starts after the credit go off the screen.) - bobbytalkscinema