Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Movie Review: Gangs of Wasseypur 2

Some labeled director Anurag Kashyap indulgent for his sprawling saga of a Bihari gangster’s violent revenge in Gangs of Wasseypur. This sequel will reverse their judgment. To borrow the eloquent words of a character in Gangs of Wasseypur 2, you’re advised to shove your pretensions up your asshole and watch this film at the earliest.

Years have passed since the death of Shahid Khan in Wasseypur, the town isn’t the same anymore but the knives and bullets are still flying around. GOW 2 picks up where the finale of the first film left us – Sardar Khan (Bajpayee) has been brutally murdered and his sons Faizal (Nawazuddin) and Danish (Vineet Kumar) vow to exact revenge. We're thrown straight into the midst of a series of bloodbaths and the ensuing storm puts Ramadhir Singh (Dhulia) in a rotten core. Along with Faizal two colorfully named new characters Perpendicular and Definite (Zeishan Quadri) leapfrog into the story as every man jack plans on being the new Sardar Khan. What follows are the constantly shifting shades of loyalty and the lack of it, fear and respect, family honor, the power of money – familiar tropes found in American and Asian gangster films, all leading to an electrifying climax set to Dubstep Keh Ke Lunga. 

The pace in Gangs of Wasseypur 2 is unrelenting - unlike in the previous film where one is made to scratch one’s head for the first half hour, Kashyap thrusts you in right away into the action this time. This immediately makes the film a great deal more fun than its predecessor, which suffered from stuttering tonal shifts and a constant, gratingly intrusive voiceover by Piyush Mishra. The voiceover is still there in GOW 2 but is much less intrusive. The scope is much bigger this time but everyone behind the film has a much surer grip of the film - in fact the editing (Shweta Venkat) is so tight it’d be hard to fit a feather between scenes. Sneha Khanvalkar’s songs, Kala Re in particular are attached and picturised so well the film feels like kaleidoscopic images of art and blood. 

Apart from a bevy of clever Hinglish puns in Varun Grover’s lyrics, Gangs of Wasseypur 2 offers other guilty pleasures. In one scene a character hilariously cites the abundance of Hindi movies adding to humans’ stupidity. Kashyap is good at detailing the quirks of the characters and the endless violence they cause. One extended scene explains the significance of a shaving blade in naming two characters Perpendicular and Tangent. After watching the barrage of rioting, pillaging and machine gunning double-crossers one is thankful for things not being as bad in our town as they appear in Wasseypur. 

The parallels to a certain famous gangster movie are there though the writers (Zeishan, Akhilesh, Sachin Ladia) keep Gangs of Wasseypur 2 from being just another facsimile of its genre’s best. The filmmakers’ interest was clearly to depict the Bihar ganglands and hoodlums accurately, but whether audiences buy the authenticity of the ‘real life’ characters remains an open question. In any case Gangs of Wasseypur 2 is never glib and is not in any way an action film, despite being bloody enough. Also it benefits as much from its historical specificity as it does from its brilliant cast. One can expect Nawazuddin to be an overnight star with this turn – the man is just excellent here. The supporting cast is a cauldron of talent with Richa Chadda, Huma Qureshi, Zeishan, Raj Kumar Yadav, Vineet Kumar, Pankaj Tripathi, Tigmanshu Dhulia rounding up as one of the best ever ensembles.

There are a few hiccups, like the second half which sort of loses steam, and the cloying presence of Piyush Mishra who adds nothing to the film apart from his stoned gaze. Still, the scale that Kashyap explores is epic enough to let most of the snags slide. His visceral style, aided by the stunning way cinematographer Rajeev Ravi shoots Bihar’s streets without falling for shanty-porn, ensures the film retains its freshness. Not to mention the oddball humor of it all, where a Bollywood obsessed mafia boss wearing Technicolor clothes smokes up and giggles, a jammed pistol turns the hunter into the hunted on a malfunctioning Bajaj scooter, and everyone’s phone ringtone is from the 80’s cinema. It is unabashed pulp, but to watch it is to witness a master filmmaker continuing to refine his talent. 

Best enjoyed as a single viewing, Gangs of Wasseypur 1 and 2 are Kashyap’s double barreled shotgun blast in the rotting belly of Indian commercial cinema; unless you have an absolutely horrible taste in movies, you should watch them on a huge screen.

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