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Home » Bollywood » Latest Releases

Gangs Of Wasseypur (2012)

Bleeding brilliance in almost every frame, breathing fire through every available orifice the characters possess, and whipping up a kind of frenzied, flamboyant bloodshed that was once associated with the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah, Gangs Of Wasseypur is, briefly, one huge gang-bang. No protection provided.

From its bludgeoning opening when merciless marauders ambush a powerful enemy’s fortress-like home with army-like meticulousness, Gangs Of Wasseypur takes us into a world where compassion is a dinosaur, forgiveness a faux pas, and kindness an unforgivable sin.

Welcome to Anurag Kashyap’s Wasseypur. This is no country for the weak-hearted. Country-made guns go off without warning, bombs are hurled from two-wheelers and abuses fly out even faster than the bullets. If you are the kind of moviegoer who doesn’t enjoying hearing and seeing the unimaginable things that can’t be done to various parts of the human anatomy, then try something more sugary and safe.

The world of Wasseypur is soaked in blood and revenge. The mafia in one form or another rules the little town. To mainstream Hindi moviegoers, this is not unknown territory. At least four other recent films — Paan Singh Tomar, Ishaqzaade, Rowdy Rathore and Shanghai — have hurled audiences right into the notorious anarchy of the North Indian small-town where the barrel of the gun speaks an irresistible language of mayhem.

It’s a strangely dichotomous world where music and songs (Sneha Khan walk) mock the characters’ subverted “herogiri”, behaviour becoming heroes. While the characters indulge in their unmanned violence, audience become numbed participants in the rites of the wrongdoing.

The almost ritualistic slaughter of all rules of civil conduct in Gangs Of Wasseypur is not redeemed by the presence of any hero.

Even the main protagonist in the blood thirsty saga is a certifiable rogue named Sardar Khan. As played by Manoj Bajpai in what is arguably his most feisty and filled-out performance to date, Sardar is a second generation criminal and social outcast.

In the film’s unforgettable prologue, Sardar’s father (Jaideep Ahlawat) serves as a henchman to the powerful local politician (Tigmanshu Dhulia). Politician has daddy killed by a hired assassin and Sonny-boy grows up swearing revenge.

This, in a nutshell, could be the plot for a cheesy 1980s potboiler. In taking the grammar and language of the formulaic vendetta drama from the 1970s and 1980s and converting it into a crackling saga of compelling contemporary currency, Kashyap turns all the rules of mainstream Hindi cinema on its head. He uses the language of Manmohan Desai and Narinder Bedi’s cinema. But he applies these to characters who are as far removed from the world of escapism as Sicily is from Wasseypur.

Oh, did we really say Gangs Of Wasseypur was derived from The Godfather? Nah. The two worlds are inter-connected only by their legacy of lineage and violence. Beyond that, Kashyap’s mode of storytelling, and the way his characters loom over the proceedings without become caricatures, are frighteningly original and as liberated of reference points as any of the path-breaking films on gang wars that have emerged out of Hollywood in the last 25 years.

Kashyap celebrates the drama of the grotesque with the relish of a seven-“coarse” meal. We can count the number of thuds and stabbing sounds every time a victim is cornered and done to death. Violence on this level has never really been a part of mainstream Hindi cinema before. The end of cinematic niceties is here. Take it or leave it.

Kashyap, in Wasseypur, legitimises gore with glorious gusto. In the gang war that he portrays with such feral immediacy, victims are chopped up piece by piece, their body parts sent to the butcher’s to eliminate legal evidence. A finger floating in a cesspool of stale blood is a commonplace sight in the world of unchecked mayhem that Kashyap has constructed with such casual resplendence.

His team of technicians are unconditionally mired in the mood of violence. Rajeev Ravi’s camera mows through the imaginary world of Wasseypur with a devilish dispassion.

The film looks layered and even luminous in texture. But the tone of the narration is detached. The dereliction of the damned and doomed characters is neither romanticised nor demonised.

Indeed Gangs Of Wasseypur invents a new language of cinematic expression. It creates a world where the characters inhabit a universe of vapid stagnant violence. And yet the narration, never short of breath even in the most breathless state of violence, exudes a kind of vibrancy that comes from neither rejection nor acceptance of an undesirable situation. It comes from within the characters. As they battle each other in bitter futile feuds, they also seem to be battling the demons within themselves. The synthesis of what lies within and without is devastating.

And yet for all its outward show of ruthless machismo, Gangs Of Wasseypur is a film with a heart. There is a rather enticing love story featuring Bajpai, his screen wife (Richa Chadha) and the other woman (Reema Sen) tucked away in the folds of the ferocious tale.

Bajpai’s wife is a very happy happening in this sad but savagely funny tale. She is quite the discovery of the year, and that too in a film mottled with exceptional performances by Bajpai, Nawazuddin as his son (more of him in Wasseypur 2), Tigmanshu Dhulia who is clenched, controlled and combative as the villain in chief, Pankaj Tripathi riveting as Bajpai’s belligerent enemy, Piyush Mishra remarkably restrained and wise as Bajpai’s mentor and guide and Huma Qureshi, another whammy performer whom we will see more of in the sequel.

In fact, every character, big or small, is cast with what looks like first-and-last options. You can’t imagine any other actor playing any of the myriad parts.

Brutal, brilliant, dark, sinister, terrifying in its violence and yet savagely funny in the way human life is disregarded, Gangs Of Wasseypur is one helluva romp into the raw and rugged heartland. Not to be missed. I can’t wait to see the sequel. But be warned. Avoid meals half an hour before and after viewing.

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