|With the introduction of Manoj Bajpayee’s character the film starts rolling
In the years I lived in India and now during my brief visits, I have taken one trip to Bihar — to Patna, en route to Nepal, and two short excursions to Varanasi. And that is certainly not enough travelling to know what people liberally refer to as the Hindi belt, the heartland of India.
On rare occasions Bollywood takes us to that region, for instance in the over-the-top filmi and contrived reality of Prakash Jha’s cinema, where we are made to believe that everyone from Madhuri Dixit to Saif Ali Khan, Prateik Babbar and Katrina Kaif are daughters and sons of that soil. Believing in what is reality can be a relative experience.
I got a taste of that world in Paan Singh Tomar and the nearly two decades old Bandit Queen. Some of Vishal Bhardhwaj’s works have taken us to that part of India — in Omkara and the marvellous Ishqiya (directed by Abhishek Chaubey). But those two films, strong as they are, also have a sheen of popular Hindi cinema. But in Gangs of Wasseypur Part 1, Anurag Kashyap grabbed my hands and all my senses and threw me into a world that I could barely imagine.
The people I met in Gangs, (played by some of the finest actors in Hindi cinema) — their lives, words, language, humour, songs, husbands, wives, lovers, mistresses, anger, violence, sense of revenge, justice and their audacity to define their own laws, was all simply breathtaking. This is what makes Gangs a rare, compelling film. For the most part Gangsshows us a reality that Hindi cinema does not dare to . Gangs is not a perfect film. One risk that Kashyap takes in his narrative does not pay off.
The film’s opening — a long, detailed history of coal mining in Bihar and the mafia that it supported, is hard to comprehend. Too many names, characters, situations are thrown at us at a breakneck speed in Piyush Mishra’s voice-over narrative.
I have seen the film twice — with English subtitles, and yet that opening section seems confusing, difficult to grasp. And then suddenly, quite unexpectedly, the film changes its tone and pace. We are introduced to the main protagonist — Sardar Khan (Manoj Bajpayee in his career high performance) and bang, Gangs becomes a totally different, gripping and thoroughly exhilarating film.
From that point Kashyap takes his time developing his characters, letting them breathe, make their presence felt and it is a very enriching experience. I take exception with critics who found Gangs slow or perhaps boring. I was riveted and wanted more.
I certainly did not want the film to end, and I had already watched over two-and-ahalf hours of drama that I had rarely experienced in a Hindi film. The last scene in Gangs — very Godfather inspired, is so fantastic, that the promise of Part 2 left me with such high expectations.
I have not seen the preview of Gangs Part 2, as audience in India are getting to watch in theatres, but the idea of Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Sardar’s middle son Faizal — a Freddie Corleone- like character who is already showing signs of becoming Michael Corleone) taking charge of the narrative is very exciting.
That Gangs is an ambitious project is an understatement. Kashyap has created a grand saga that has the potential to measure well in comparison to Olivier Assayas’ Carlos trilogy, The Red Riding Trilogy (directed by Julian Jarrold, James Marsh and Anand Tucker), or even (I know this will enrage some film fanatics here) Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900. I wish Kashyap had taken his ambition further. At times Gangs Part 1 still feels rushed.
But I believe that Gangs could have been a terrific mini series, populated with an even larger cast of characters — a violent, complex layered story, an alternative vision to the leisurely textured narrative of Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy (oh, how I wish some gifted filmmaker would adapt that book). I want six plus hours of Gangs. I am really hoping the director’s cut DVD will give us that and perhaps more!
• The ultimate truth
This refers to Aseem Chhabra’s column last week ‘Like Father, like son’ (PM, June 17). For a change, it was interesting to read about Aseem’s bond with his father. As he has realised, it is quite common for children to accept ideas they once held outdated, and even argued with their parents to prove their point. Further being away from my parents, I could easily connect with Aseem’s lament that it is unfortunate to see our parents grow old and weak. But it’s the ultimate truth that one has to accept and get along with life. Aseem’s account made me recall the times when my father used to behave like a kid with his mother. Sadly, after my grandmother’s death the child in him too died.
- Prashant Maniktala
• Short of ideas
As a regular read er of Pune Mirror I would like to express my disappointment regarding last week’s column. I wonder whether Aseem was short of ideas to write a column and eventually penned anecdotes about his childhood at the eleventh hour. Every Sunday I look forward to his critique on latest Bollywood films. With due respect to his sentiments, I feel he should have avoided giving a detailed account about his longing for his father. It was completely flippant. His introduction next to his picture tells us that he gives a weekly New York perspective on Indian issues. But there was nothing of the sort in the fatherson tale.
- Manish Gupta