Growing up in a small colliery town in Dhanbad district, the first tax that i learnt about was called rangdaari tax. That was much before the “tax and debentures” chapter in school. As a kid it seemed fun. You demand and someone pays you. Also, everything was related and dictated by coal there. The two important trains to Calcutta, the closest metro town, were Coalfield Express and Black Diamond Express. With so much coal dust floating all around, all the trees in our area were black in colour. My aunts and relatives would even compare Dad’s dark complexion with coal mines to tease us when we were kids. (Similar emotions are there in a terrific song in part 2 of Gangs Of Wasseypur). Vishwakarma puja – celebration of God of architecture and engineering was a household thing. Have rarely seen that anywhere. Worshipping your bicycles and scooters!
The area had a local don called D N Singh. That rangdaari tax! And as filmy legends go, the guy was good at heart too. Donating generous amounts for Durga Puja and other local festivities. And had a filmy end too. With the posting of a new police chief, he was attacked and beaten up in the middle of the market on a broad day light and was literally stripped off his power. Since Dad was posted as Welfare Officer there, we used to hear all kind of stories revolving around miners welfare. And film conversations with Dad or his friends meant someone will surely talk about Amitabh Bachchan starrer Kala Patthar. Everyone used to claim that it was shot in their area and they had seen its shooting. I never bothered to check where exactly it was shot. There is no fun in killing that joy of nostalgia with little bit of knowledge.
But Anurag Kashyap’s two-parter Gangs of Wasseypur is more than just nostalgia for me. Though i was happy that finally we have some new tales beyond the legend of Kala Patthar. We moved out of Dhanbad after Dad’s retirement but am going to call him and tell about a new film from the land of Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL).
Gangs Of Wasseypur is quite an ambitious film in every possible way and Kashyap is in top form with his craft. He was never this good! To tame and deliver a beast of this epic proportion is a mammoth task.
I first saw the film when it was in edit. Still don’t have the talent to gauge the final film from its rough cut. Could figure out that individual scenes and humour was working. After that, me and some others have been pestering him to screen the film before he left for Cannes. And unlike others, he scores quite high there. Has no insecurity about showing his films, no matter what you think about it. I hated That Girl In Yellow Boots and wrote about it here.
Then a call at 1am.
Film dekhega? Dikhao. Kab se bol raha hoon.
Abhi dekhega? Abhi? Kahaan?
PVR aa ja. 10 min me. Kya? Haan. aa ja.
It started around 1:30 am and got over by 4:30 am or so. In an empty cinema hall with just 10-12 of us and Manoj Tiwari’s voice blasting in the early morning hours, my morning never started on such a high note. It was pure cinematic orgasm on big screen! Jiya ho bihar ke lala kept on playing in loop in my head.
I saw the film today again. The opening credits still looked the coolest in the B-town! It still felt bit long and indulgent. But as i have often believed and contradicted myself too – if filmmakers and artists don’t indulge, who will? My kiranawala? Finally it all depends on you – what indulgence by which artists you can connect to.
Piyush Mishra’s voiceover still sounds bad. The beginning is too hotchpotch. Too many characters criss-crossing each others paths and confusing at times. Hopefully we will put a family chart soon to have more clarity there.
But what an epic filmmaker’s masterclass is this!
With the terrific talents of Rajeev Ravi and Wasiq Khan, Kashyap has managed to create a whole new world all together. A world where men are beasts but are stripped down to their bare minimum and are eyed and hunted by the womaniyas! I don’t remember seeing a Gang leader in his underwear and eyed by the woman in any film. Or when they need to take permishan to even touch the girl. Playing with gangs and guns but tears roll down when denied permishan. There are many such cinematic kinks, flavours and reasons why this film by Kashyap stands out easily. And like others, he doesn’t even claim to write strong female characters.
The humour is distinct like in any other Kashyap film. I still laugh thinking about that No Smoking scene – tum ja rahe ho? Tum aa rahi ho? Main aa rahi hoon. Main ja raha hoon. Here, a woman in labour pain while delivering the baby gets you a chuckle. Or an impromptu race between two people after a loot, when the older person shouts out hum phirst, hum phirst. I am not going to write about the rest and spoil it for you. You will be left wondering about them because these are people from a different world that we have never seen on our screen.
Now, I guess everyone knows that GoW i’s a revenge saga spanning across few generations in the backdrop of coal mafia. Having seen both the parts, what i can tell you is that the first part takes time to set up as everyone is doomed and is busy sowing the seeds for their ends, either with love or hate. 2nd part is more action, more drama and more revenge. First is like wine, you can’t treat it like junk food. You need time to savour it. There’s no takeaway from it. In the business of guns and groins, coal is just the excuse. Enjoy it till it lasts. Kyunki yahan last me kuch nahi hota hai! Because the beginning is the end. Kyunki Saans Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi – That’s it! And in that way it’s unlike other desi films we see these days. So even in your viewing, you can’t treat it like any other film – start, beginning and end!
Nothing makes me more cringe that seeing a bad scene on screen. That breakdown scene by Kumud Mishra in TGIYB still haunts me because it’s atrociously bad. In Gangs Of Wasseypur, you can’t point a single scene which is badly acted or directed. The actors, each one of them, from the main lead (Manoj Bajpayee, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Nawazuddin, Richha Chaddha, Jaideep Ahlawat, Piyush Mishra, Jameel Khan, Huma Quereshi, Reema Sen and rest) to the extras, they all make it look so real. They don’t act, they *are* the characters. Once inside their world, you forget the real world that you belong to – that’s a rare achievement. But my favourite is Pankaj Tripathy. He has such a strong presence and am happy that he finally gets his due.
But it would have been better if it was bit shorter, no?
Why only shorter, it should have been just one film. Right.
And if there was no voice-over in the beginning. True.
And would have been better without all that history of Bihar and Jharkhand.
It’s also so self indulgent!
And you don’t emotionally connect with the characters.
May be then it would have been my film and not a film by Anurag Kashyap. Having seen all his film in the last few years, i have made peace with his art and craft. You can’t beat him in craft and in the budget that he delivers, it’s almost impossible. As for his art, it’s not easy to digest. It’s never going to be your regular fare. And i hope it remains that way. Once in a while I like being restless. There’s a thrill in getting out of your comfort zone and figuring out things in the dark – where the wild things are! It’s time you do the same. It will take some time but you will get used to it. If you can afford, why should your cinema be just for escapism? And if you are worried, don’t think because we have enough Imtiaz Alis and Raj Kumar Hiranis to take us back to those comfort zones.
(Update – I hate it when people like a film but forget to mention the writing credits. And i just did the same. So here it is – Zeishan Quadri, Akhilesh, Sachin Ladia and AK. This is via wiki, so am not sure about the right credits. Deadly lyrics by Varun Grover and Piyush Mishra & Music – Sneha Khanwalkar. Background – G V Prakash. And all of them contribute immensely to this experience)