Review: Gangs of Wasseypur

By Nandita Dutta • Published on June 22, 2012

Director: Anurag Kashyap, Writers: Akhilesh Jaiswal, Anurag Kashyap, Sachin K. Ladia, Syed Zeeshan Qadri, Actors: Manoj Bajpai, Jaideep Ahlawat, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Richa Chadda, Reema Sen

[A]nurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur is a magnificent saga and a visual delight! For a revenge-drama spanning decades and chronicling generations, it does extremely well and engages the audience. The hero (here antihero) of the first part of the film is Sardar Khan (Manoj Bajpai) whose mission in life is to seek revenge from Ramadhir Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia) who had killed his father. In that sense, it is a typical revenge story but the sheer magnitude of the tale and the settings make it appear grand. After a lengthy introduction of his ancestors through voiceovers and archival videos, the film settles down to tell the story of Sardar Khan and his revenge.

The film is full of gut-wrenching violence, bloodbath and expletives. Despite that, it hardly evokes a tear of pity for the victims or anger for the perpetrators. That is how Gangs of Wasseypur falls short of being a masterpiece, it fails to connect emotionally all the while retaining its visual grandeur and colossal scope. There is constant bombarding of new characters and rivalries while the old ones don’t get enough time to sink in and grow on one. The feeling of watching Gangs of Wasseypur is like listening to an epic where one is supposed to remember the countless characters and incidents while not having the time and luxury to dwell on them leisurely.

The dry wit, mindless violence and Sneha Khanwalkar’s music give a surreal feel to the film. Songs like “O Womaniya” and “Jiya ho Bihar ke Lala” and their timings are nothing short of a distinct style statement that makes the gangster film stand out. The film, though lacking in emotional appeal, is raw and bizarre in Anurag Kashyap’s signature style. Sharp and gritty dialogue is easily one of the strong points of the film, making it memorable for some time to come.

The humor sprinkled in this concoction is as raw and appealing: Sardar Khan who kills mercilessly is seemingly devastated when a bullet hits his elder son who is healthy enough to walk on his own two feet after the accident. When he is about to lie down in the doctor’s clinic, Sardar Khan asks his sidekicks to lift him up and make him lie down. He thinks his son will die if he lies down on his own despite the serious injury (Or so he has seen in Bollywood movies which wield much influence on Wasseypur folks). In another incident, Sardar’s pregnant wife Nagma who is not in a position to satiate his desires feeds him with home cooked meal for strength so that he doesn’t go out and give an embarrassing ‘performance’.

A gangster film is traditionally men’s prerogative in which women rarely have much role to play than the stoic wife and mother who has been destined to support her husband, or the seductive mistress. In Gangs of Wasseypur too, there is no scope for the women to surpass these boundaries, but their characters and performances sport a killer attitude. Richa Chadda as Sardar Khan’s first wife Nagma is a typical child bearing machine but chases her husband out of a whorehouse and hurls things at him in anger during her labour pain when he returns home. On the other hand, Reema Sen as Sardar’s second wife Durga is a mysterious and luscious beauty who ogles him when he is taking bath and refuses to be treated secondary to any woman in his life. While Sardar Khan seems to have conquered the whole of Wasseypur, the wrath of these two women makes him crawl. He is dependent on them to satiate his massive libido which in a way causes his doom.

Not just the leading ladies, but all the actors in Gangs of Wasseypur deliver impressive performances: right from Manoj Bajpai as Sardar Khan to Jaideep Ahlawat as his father Shahid Khan, Tigmanshu Dhulia as Ramadhir Singh, Pankaj Tripathi as Sultan and Piyush Mishra who is the narrator of the film.

Gangs of Wasseypur is replete with a powerful and picturesque narrative and fine performances. But there is a sense of something missing: there is no revelation, no suspense, no emotion. It’s a revenge drama that can consume generation after generation and yet not reach a conclusion as one continues to watch it with detachment.

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