Gangs of Wasseypur: The Mahabharat of our times

Ages ago, in 200 BC, Vyasa wrote 10,00,000 shlokas on animosity between Kauravas and Pandavas, which went on to become part of Indian history as Mahabharata. Circa 2012, a student called Zeishan Quadri wrote a story based at Wasseypur.

Having spent his formative years in Wasseypur, Jharkhand, he heard stories about the rivalry between gangster Faheem Khan and businessman Sabir Alam over scrap business. A further probe into the newspaper headlines eventually inspired him to write the story of ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’.

Zeishan happened to share the story with auteur Anurag Kashyap. “I am making this film, what do you want to do?” was his response – a line which changed his world and perhaps the way we’ll look at Indian cinema after the release of ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’.

The analogy between Mahabharata and Gangs of Wasseypur is quite befitting purely because it’s a revenge saga worth sharing with generation to come, albeit Gangs of Wasseypur isn’t about a battle between the right and the wrong and preaching is the last thing it seeks to do.

Taking the analogy further, in Gangs of Wasseypur, battle lines are drawn perhaps between Duryodhan and Dushasan or maybe Karan and Duryodhan. There is no Arjun facing dilemma and there is no Krishna justifying war, and no Draupadi demanding revenge, but a Bheeshma-like Piyush Mishra essaying the role of sutradhar (narrator) to perfection.

Piyush Mishra narrates the blood-drenched history of Wasseypur in his inimitable style. The almost half an hour narration is thankfully far from the yawn-inducing history lectures at schools and colleges. The history puts things into perspective and introduction coupled with an excellently written screenplay where characters seep in seamlessly sans the ‘dhan te nan’ kind of entry scenes we’re accustomed to.

The casting by Mukesh Chhabra deserves applause, especially for giving us Manoj Bajpai back. Furthermore, the decision to cast Jaideep Ahlawat as Shahid Khan, father of Sardar Khan (Manoj Bajpai) is indeed commendable simply because of the striking resemblance between the two actors.

Manoj Bajpai has finally got his due after twiddling thumbs for years and being ignored despite his fabulous performance in 1971, Pinjar, and Shool (Can we please free the actor from his Bhikhu Mhatre tag?). The actor delivers a performance as if he was born to play Sardar Khan. As the film heads towards its three hour running time, actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui takes over with his commanding screen presence.

If Tigmanshu Dhulia could efficiently bring out the actor out of Anurag Kashyap in his film Shagird, the film Gangs of Wasseypur is indeed a payback, as Anurag Kashyap inspires Tigmanshu Dhulia to showcase his acting prowess with an author-backed role of Ramadhir Singh. Tigmanshu Dhulia refrains from the Amrish Puri-brand outbursts and plays his role with utter restraint, which usually ends with grumbles and swearing.

The ‘womaniyas’ of Gangs of Wasseypur like Richa Chaddha, Huma Qureshi Reemma Sen make their presence felt through power-packed performance, where their eloquent eyes and histrionics can render dialogue writers jobless. While these womaniyas resort to fiery silence, the other womaniya who deserves acknowledgement is Sneha Khanwalkar – the composer of Gangs of Wasseypur. Sneha weaves folk music with urban beats with unmatched perfection, so much so that the music becomes one of the film’s characters, which flirts with your eardrums and before you reciprocate, they hide behind dialogues and wink at you.

The ‘gem of a song’, Hunter appears in the film as if it just came to say ‘hello’ in its distinctive accent and vanishes without whimper. The songs, ‘Ek bagal’, ‘Keh ke loonga’, ‘O Womaniya’ act as leitmotifs, setting the right tone of the screenplay and silently leave. GV Prakash lends the film a powerful background score, which is often reminiscent of Tarantino, Clint Eastwood, and Scorsese films. Rajeev Ravi shoots the film like a painting, romancing effortlessly with stains of blood at slaughterhouse and grey shades of history.

Actor Naseeruddin Shah once quoted that films cannot change the world and the only thing they might change is hairstyles. Director Anurag Kashyap reiterates this fact with his vendetta film, Gangs of Wasseypur. The film steers clear from preaching and social messages and never hesitates to call a spade a spade. The film pays homage to the Indian cinema right from Amitabh Bachchan’s Trishul, the 80s disco hit of Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki, to Sanjay Dutt’s Khalnayak. Thankfully, Gangs of Wasseypur marks an end of that era of ‘filmy films’ we’ve grown up watching.

The only worst thing about Gangs of Wasseypur is the long wait we audiences are subjected to, for the release of its second part. We’re already waiting for the Bheeshma Piyush Mishra to continue with his narration. Well, doing away with the practice of writing screenplays instead of reviewing a film, it’s prudent enough to leave the storyline and best scenes for you to relish.

Conclusively, Anurag Kashyap’s first instalment of Mahabharata is sure to inspire storytellers in the years to come. This reminds of Steven Spielberg’s quote: People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don’t have a middle or an end anymore. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning. Thanks Anurag Kashyap for proving Steven Spielberg wrong.

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3 thoughts on “Gangs of Wasseypur: The Mahabharat of our times

  1. This is a beautiful review! I like it particularly for crediting every person involved in the making of the film. I only wish you had written something more about the women. Clubbing them all in one breath is not giving them their due!

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    1. Thanks Shreya. The only best way of giving the womaniyas of the film their due is recommending the film to people. Let them discover the hidden gems, rather than writing everything like a screenplay in the name of movie review 🙂

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  2. the cast of this movie has actors not heroes, they show their dominance in their way … that’s what I like about this movie.

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