Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Movie Review: Gangs of Wasseypur

Gangs of Wasseypur is so visceral, that watching it feels like sticking your face right above an exploding Laxmi Bomb. The effect, carried gleefully and brilliantly by director Anurag Kashyap is blinding. This is not a film to just watch once at the multiplex, it’s a movie to love completely and become absorbed into its lush imagery and glorious characters. 

Mercifully free of item songs and music video style flashy cinematography, Gangs of Wasseypur works as both an entertaining gangster thriller and a gently mocking sardonic history lesson. Apart from the dizzy shifts in mood between the guilty pleasure of dark sexy comedy and gripping socio-political drama, writers Kashyap, Akhilesh Jaiswal, Sachin Ladia and Syed Zeeshan Qadri create a loaded and layered canvas of revenge and violence.  They avoid the clutter and manipulation of most mob thrillers and escalate the plot and tension solely through the characters' stormy emotions.

And what a crackerjack pack of characters these are – easily the best performances you're likely to encounter in some considerable time. Manoj Bajpayee makes a hurricane of a comeback as he is simultaneously mesmerizing and repellant as the foul mouthed bald gangster out to avenge his father. Relative newcomer Richa Chadda who plays Bajpayee’s wife, is absolutely searing in her role. Nawauddin Siddiqui (who has a bigger role in Part 2) is hilarious and charming as the wheeling and dealing, disillusioned, soft spoken son of Bajpayee. Then there’s Tigmanshu Dhulia as part fascist chieftain and part conniving rogue, quietly petrified of being hunted by Bajpayee. But far ahead of them all is Pankaj Tripathi in his first major role as Sultan the Butcher –he so effortlessly entwines his many shades that you can't separate his helplessness from his nepotistic determination to seize power. An ambivalent character has rarely been made so magnetic.

What is NOT magnetic is the opening 15 minute section of Gangs of Wasseypur, which is bizarrely complicated enough make you feel like a 10-year-old in an Advanced Thermodynamics class. With a droning voiceover by Piyush Mishra, you are straightaway plunged into dozens of characters in a half a dozen places and you’ll have a hard time trying to connect the dots between the who’s who what’s what and where’s where. It takes a while to sink into the film and identify the characters, and this may be frustrating for some. Perhaps according to Kashyap this is what cinema is about, taking the viewer into a completely new world and challenging them to make some sense out of it. A more knowledgeable person could probably explain how Kashyap’s vision of Bihar’s history in miniature reflects the personality of its chronically divided people, but Gangs of Wasseypur rings true to anyone who's ever watched a mafia drama.

There is violence, a lot of it, the gritty, unsettling kind, not the bloody in-your-face flying limbs variety, and it is kept firmly in its place and never allowed to take over the story like in Rakta Charitra. In one scene a local goon is made to watch his brother getting shredded to pieces - the slaughter occurs off camera but you are left cringing at the sight of the goon’s face reacting in horror. In another scene Bajpayee repeatedly stabs someone and drifts around as if playing kabaddi. Later a hapless cop investigating a murder finds a finger in a butcher’s den and is made to walk away or mix with the dead meat lying around. It makes for a righteously angry, yet joyous story because Kashyap fills every moment with song and life - Womaniya plays to the backdrop of Bajpayee finding lust at first sight in the form of Reema Sen’s glistening kamariya; Keh ke lunga is juxtaposed with violence while the Calypso I am a hunter is mixed with a character smuggling guns in a train. If all that weren’t enough there is also Yashpal Sharma in a cameo dancing and singing at a wedding.

After the three hundredth character is introduced one begins to wonder where all this is leading, but Kashyap pulls a stand up-and-cheer finale out of his hat, sweetened only by the self-liberation of the character featured in the climax, escalated by the infectious Jiyo ho Bihar ke laala playing at full blast.

Some of the imagery is downright fantastic. It'll be a long time before the image fades of Huma Qureshi and Nawazuddin having a hilariously flirtatious exchange at a pond. Even the beginning credits are crafted with large doses of grindhousey amphetamine. The dialogues have a force that pack a gut-punch and are a mixture of dicey menace, goonda lingo and expletive-laced fiery one-liners. There are one too many ‘bhosadikas’ but even when the film turns darker it never loses its sly humor.

Editor Shweta Venkat deserves a hand for Wasseypur’s fine, razor sharp pacing that glances over so many things without needing to rub them in. Equally pleasing is Rajeev Ravi’s cinematography which alternates bright sunlight with the coldest, blackest coal colored nights. Sneha Khanwalkar’s meticulously crafted music is an exotic sandwich of genres buoyed by Varun Grover’s super lyrics. But GoW’s big achievement is Kashyap’s cinematic vision of post-independence Bihar and Jharkhand’s landscapes. No tacky stock villagers here – only shifty hoodlums framed by heavy silences to inculcate a powerful sense of claustrophobia and power.

The other big feat of Gangs of Wasseypur is that Kashyap balances massy masala and offbeat snobbery very well - you can watch the film for its character study, political idealism, or for entertainment value alone. In either case it doesn't disappoint. Kashyap eschews the arthouse minimalism for cinematic pizzazz. His fine ear for dialogue and control of tone is all the more impressive for being delivered under the short schedule and massive story content. 

Alive and far more entertaining and exciting to watch than just about any Indian gangster movie you have ever seen, Gangs of Wasseypur is thrilling as fuck, because it achieves the rare feat of wanting to be an epic and actually being one. It’s carefully strained pulp and when it's over, you won't remember much of who killed whom, instead what remains is the silly grin on your face and the desperate urgency to watch Part Two. 


  1. I doubt I'll read a better review of the film.

  2. I have not seen the movie yet but this review is definitely epic!

  3. I have not seen the movie and I've criticized you before..but this is a superbly-written review....kudos...

  4. After this review; I might find the movie way too mundane!!

  5. Thank you Mr Unknown. Welcome to the other side :)

  6. Your review is brilliant enough to have sex with.

  7. kal dekh ke loonga.. waiting for the rebel to become the auteur

  8. kickass review :) *running to theatre*

  9. Good one, Nachiket. Nice review! Just a hobby or a full time critic!?

  10. Just asking.. what are the negative parts about the movie?

  11. When was the last time a bollywood movie received such adulation from you...!!!??? Good review... you have forced me to watch this...

  12. Is it 5 hours long??? Does it have 2 intervals?

  13. i can see only one person making so many comments must be a snag in my phone opera... Neverthless. The review was great dying to watch the movie... Last few months have been disheartening for me, couldnt find a good movie that i would like to spend on and not watch it on tv instead... Omkara is one i havent watched yet because i missed it on big screen. Gangs of wasseypur promises to be another suich legend.

  14. Mihir Fadnavis - On twitter ,u say GoW cannot be dismissed so easily in the few negative reviews,and that they 'didn't get it'.Well punk,dont you do the same for most hindi films irrespective of their merit?

  15. GOW was basically meant to be a revenge film.The first 20 mins or so are very engaging. The historical references were blended with the story quite well. The character of Bajpai’s father is written pretty good who is a pathan. I liked all his scenes. After his death, the film loses its way.Manoj Bajpai’s character speaks how the revenge of his dead father is the sole aim of his life but never quite shows the urgency towards it. Instead he is chilling out in the film, he seems more interested in having sex with his wife and almost every other woman. The film forgets the conflicts with the Quereshis and the Hindu MLA and focuses on the affair of Manoj and his Bengali whore. Now few such scenes are alright but there is a limit to irrelevance. I mean who is interested in watching Manoj Bajpai in speedos! At times Anurag is reminded of the core story, so after all the perverted timepass scenes, he would add few scenes relevant to the plot. If you thought GOW is about gangster revenge drama and politics, you are more wrong than right. To compensate for the lack of drama, Anurag has filled the movie with unnecessary profane language. But even there he doesn’t quite succeed bcos it seemed as if everyone in wasseypur only knows one abuse ‘bhosdi ke’. May be I need to give them some tutorials on abuses. But I will charge the ticket money. Then there are chronological errors too in the film. Trishul is being watched in theatre in 1985.

    In the climax, Anurag is again reminded of the basic story so Manoj talks about the revenge thing again but its too late by now as 2.5 hrs have passed. In the end it says “abhi baaki hai”. I replied “Tu shuru ki kab hua? seedhe part 2 hi banata”.

    The apt title for the film should have been 'Gangs of Bhosdapur' because anurag is simply too much obessesed with the ‘Bhosdaa’ of the woman and the “gand” of the man.There is hardly any revenge or gangster politics in the film.Its just Bhosdaa out there!

  16. "Manoj Bajpai’s character speaks how the revenge of his dead father is the sole aim of his life but never quite shows the urgency towards it."
    this line describes whole film.

  17. Who has seen the Part 2 trailer after end of the ALL credits? Where they come with meaning of "Definite " is (Deaf) Behara aur (Net) Jali.

  18. Thats a little harsh, but true.... Yet it is soooo much better than most of the other BOLLYWOOD movies...

  19. The movie is Gangs of "Wasseypur", its not sholay or a revenge story something on the lines of RGV RC 1 and 2. The people shown are not hardcore criminals, woh log thori gaand masti karte hai, sochte pure fimli style se hai ke mein teri le loonga, badala chahiye, main don hoon but woh thori bahut jutampaijaar aur oneupmanship mein khush ho lete hai, kyunki unki duniya sirf Wasseypur tak hai.. unme koi pure bihar ka don banne ki ichha aur aukaat nahi.. these people are not master manipulators, big politicians and industrialsits, they are low IQ nobodies..
    Anurag kashyap's genius is to transform such a micro setup to a grand story and narrative and to make it interesting and feel worth the time spent watching it. .
    Otherwise you will be saying kya chuitye do take ke logon ki story dikha raha hai.. tha kaun Faisal khan, tha kaun Sardar Khan.. compare it to Rakta Charitra which runs more like a dry lesson in history by a very bad history teacher, no insights into NTR or Ravi Paritala even though they operated on such a grand scale influencing one whole state.. maybe it is easier to fictionalise a sardar khan vs NTR, but I found RC boring even with some common threads (unnecessary Violence, long voiceover narrations)
    bhai badle ka matlab yahan neecha dikhana hai zamindaar ko baar baar, who knows if Sardar Khan was waiting to become a MLA and take away the only status symbol Zamindaars have been left with, and if these characters come across as inconsistent and not urgent for revenge to that was the whole point of the repeating the dialogues spoken by Bajpai in the end to show the pointlessness of all revenge ek side business hai, asli business masti karna aur haramkhori karna hai..
    "it was meant to be a revenge film" then that is the fault of the marketing and promo making team. cos AK does not seem to be making a revenge film here.. its a perverted satire.. baaki chronolgy aur period details kaafi missing hai aur authentic nahi hai lekin 1960 aur 2004 ke wasseypur mein diffeernce bhi kitna hoga..
    Teri meri Kahani se 1/4th budget tha and I'm not really hearing very glowing things about the period details captured there, heck I heard that they have got even the 2012s twitter culture all wrong :)

    Some parts are boring and the whole effort by AK and piyush mishra voiceover to link all the history, politics, religion in the surroundings with these families was to zabardasti give his vision some gravitas and justify all the "EPIC" comparisons but that whole bit doesn't add 1% to the movie or story..
    heck there is so much to see in the movie, it deserves repeat viewings..

  20. Actually Nawazuddin Siddiqui is shown watching Trishul in the year 1990. My friend who hails from Bihar had a theory. He said since Wasseypur is such a small town maybe the movie released late in their theatres.

  21. Fever Baba, fever thi ky aapko jab film dekhne gaye the? Had you looked closely, you would have seen the theatre in which Trishul was running had clearly on display- Trishul- aapke shahar mein paanchvi baar. And in those days, films didn't usually release on the same day in Bihar as in Mumbai. Even till 1995-96, I have seen Hum, Shahanshah releasing in theatres in Gaya after 5-6 years.
    It seems Fever Baba you seem to be too immature and too uptownish to understand the dynamics of the film. The language used in the film is quite reflective of what people generally use. They talk like this and that's why it is the language of the film. No one gets sexual gratification by using expletives in cinema. What they get is Adult certificate, which is a tough thing for any producer. The film is trying to tell you the story the way it should be told.
    You also say that Anurag Kashyap deflects from the main theme and keeps on forgetting and remembering the revenge that Sardar Khan has to take. The film is not an examination paper, where in, you add points as and when you remember. Any film, is given a lot of time and thought. A film coming from the AKFPL stable will invest their brains on it even more so. You should realise that there is a style that the auteur, Kashyap has used, and you may differ with that. But, you can't thrust on him what your thought is. If you want to prove that point make your own bloody film.

  22. After watching the trailer of part 2,there is no way I'm going to miss it. I can buy tickets just for Nawazuddin ! Too good he is. Nawaz will be joined by some other brilliant new actors like Rajkumar Yadav in GoW part 2. Would love to see more of Pankaj Tripathi too.

  23. 'Bakaiti' ek endangered species hai. Sharafat/sabhyata ki bimari fael rahi hai. Ma-ein bachchon ko ab na peet ke aane par nahin daanta karti. Launda rangdaar hai kehkar baap logon ne seena chauda karna bhi chhod hi diya hai.

    Aaj na pasand aaye to na sahi 10-12 saal baad, GoW Jurassic Park ka wo machchhar hoga jisse log is bhuli hui wahiyad kamiepan se sani hui sub-species extract karenge.

    Aur bhai @fadnavis bada bhokal review likhe ho. Mijaz jabra gaya. Ab dobara dekhni padegi.

  24. Btw. awesome placement of "Qasam paida karne wale ki" and "salam-e-ishq" :D

  25. Sardar Khan didn't want 'revenge' revenge. Use to keh ke leni thi na! Maarna nahin tha, sab kuch chheen ke chhod dena tha.

    Aur time lagta hai keh ke lene mein. Aur phir bombastic aurtein bhi to thin. Unhe chhod deta? Chhod deta to sardar khan kahe ka?

    Yes, the character is flawed. Thats the beauty of it. He wasn't Gajini! Ok... he did cut his hair, but that was it.

    He's Sardar Khan of Wasseypur, who believes in revenge being served cold, but along with a healthy dollop sexual perversion and a good amount of mutton and nalli's on the way.

  26. Nikhil Kumar

    It is highly immature of the small townie sex obsessed Anurag kashyap to believe that unnecessary abusive language and sex can threaten the morality of every viewer and thus create an impression for himself as the rebellious filmmaker.May be true for fellow small townies like you who might think of abuses or sex as some rebellious or stylish things in films.For others ,these are petty aspects.I was expecting anurag to focus more on the revenge and gangster politics but clearly his nonsensical obsession with irrelevant things ruins his films.

    I am not against abuses or sex shown in the film as long as the focus is on the core story.I m against his idea of solely relying on such weak aspects to create any sort of impression.I will not be surprised if in part 2,anurag spends all this time showing us the perverted side to his son,Faisal Khan's persona and in the end credits,mentions "revenge abhi baaki hai". ;-)

  27. Face it. This movie has been over hyped by promoting overtly through Twitteratis and all they focused on in those trailers is how gritty, rustic and hilarious the characters are and how the movie is all about bloodshed, revenge and politics.

    The movie has stretched deliberately and contains disjointed scenes that drifts from the central theme of a film. Manoj Bajpai's tharkamgiri seems to eat up 1/4th portion of the film. The obscene cuss words in the film which wanted to be portrayed as the everyday language in the setting were an overkill as they were used as the base to summon hilarity but made it felt like random gags inserted into the film. I am tired, and frankly bored, to list out all the other irrelevant scenes as they have already been mentioned here.

    Kashyap has spent so much time in character development that the Part I feels more like Season I of a long running TV series. I walked out of the Part II trailer as it seemed to follow the same pattern of the first, filled with trivial supposedly funny diatribes and random violence, than what will be a conclusion to a story.

    I think, I watched "Bol Bachchan" instead.

  28. O Blogiya! This is one of the best reviews out there. Most critics fail to be true fans of cinema, because they feel they are bigger than cinema. I agree to everything said here, except that I felt Richa Chadda could have internalized the character a little more, it was too out there and loud for my taste.

    Fever Baba brought up a point and Nikhil Kumar countered it well. I think Duke's comment actually answers Fever's criticism. Duke offers some deep insights. Thank you!

    My thoughts, concisely:-

    The luscious Gangs is the new Sholay in the department of cool. Anurag Kashyap was finally touched by God, Gangs is much more than the 'sum of it's inspirations'. Gangs is far ahead of it's precursors, it has created something that was never there before. Such a film has to happen, it can't be planned for.

    What's unique about Gangs?
    1. Adventurous, quirky, economical writing
    2. Subtle, internal, nuanced acting
    3. Spot-on Casting
    4. World-class Cinematography
    5. Cool Color Grading
    6. World-class background score and quirky songs
    7. Endearing flaws

    The first viewing is the best Gangs experience, but it can get a little disorienting given the breakneck speed at which the story progresses. On the second viewing, one can relax knowing where it's headed and you'd see that it's treads a neat path. I recommend at least two in-theatre viewings.

  29. Damn, I was really nodding along with your comment, until you said you'd rather watch Bol Bachchan. WHY??