I watched Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur today. Not on the big screen, though I wish I had. It’s a tad irksome that Rowdy Rathore gets a worldwide release while this one doesn’t.
I must say I really liked the movie. (Spoilers might follow)
I felt the usual words used to describe the movie misled me quite some. Words like ‘gritty’, ‘raw’, ‘gory’. Watching the movie and seeing what the trailers focused on, I can see why people use those words to describe GoW, but that doesn’t feel like the whole picture to me. It’s a revenge saga, alright. It has quite some violence, yes. The language is crude and there are more sexual references here than in the average Bollywood movie. But at the end of two and a half hours, GoW1 is still a nice cheery happy movie where we know our man is going to win at the end no matter what obstacles come his way, be it a pissed second wife who is spying for his enemies or being nowhere close to getting his revenge even when death is at his door. And when the son is caught with guns, he goes to jail, but comes back wiser, and doesn’t repeat the same mistakes he made while smuggling home guns the first time around. It’s a nicer victory than if he had suspected or known all along the plot against him and done smart things the first time around that would have been presented to the audience as an ace up his sleeve.
I found the first half pretty cheery… you know it’s a gangsta sort of movie, but unlike any you’ve watched before, they have a normal family life, with children and their mother, all smiling, not fearing for their lives every minute like any other loved one of a marked man in other works. In other movies, you’d have the female characters either simpering, or, if they are supposed to be a ‘strong woman’, they actually have things to do with crime, either orchestrating deals or influencing the protagonist, sacrificing themselves… or due to their own motivations, bringing the gang down…. but Richa Chaddha does none of that. She has her own part, cuffing her kids on the ear and all, which brings with it its own flavour instead of being closely tied down to the main plot. She’s a nice supporting role which shows us different dimensions of this sort of story.
And it’s not your usual revenge movie. Those are all plotted in a mathematical fashion, with one action, then a reaction, then a reaction to that… but GoW meanders. People in this movie don’t spend their entire time thinking only of revenge, they spend it waiting for an opportunity to take revenge, and in the meantime, life happens, the social, political and economic climates change, children are born, people get married, people bury some old feuds… the works. The feuding characters don’t outright want to finish each other off, but just want to make living hell for the other, like Manoj Bajpai says in his first few scenes.
Having read other reviews, I was expecting Manoj Bajpai’s character to be this complete womanizer with little or no respect for women… but it isn’t so black and white. He is not your gallant white knight who takes off his hat in the presence of ladies, but nor is he the typical gangster who grabs women off the street for his own pleasure. He’s actually shown playing with his infant son, and apologizing to his wives…. not saying that redeems him in some way, but it’s nice to have a little complexity to a protagonist. It adds some semblance of realism. After all, the misogyny we encounter on a daily basis is more the result of just not knowing the right thing to do and a lack of perspective instead of a carefully orchestrated plot to keep women down.
The much-touted abusive language, sexual references and gore didn’t faze me at all. It’s possibly because I don’t really understand Bhojpuri to get the literal meanings of the expressions the characters use, and I expected more visual gore than what is shown. Plus, the background music and soundtrack, as well as the pacing and editing make sure to keep the mood easy and light instead of filling you with horror and disgust each time some violence breaks out or a character dies. Even when Manoj Bajpai has been shot brutally, instead of sweeping shots that let the tragedy sink in, you have him standing upright, with a gun, with an upbeat Bihar Ke Lala playing in the background.
There’s nothing more to say for the music score or the cinematography or the writing that hasn’t been said before. It all just goes well together, and trying to find faults seems more like nitpicking to me now. I must confess the movie didn’t knock my socks off, but that might have been due to my watching it on my laptop instead of a movie hall filled with people whistling and hooting at appropriate times that I appreciate the depth of what is happening. I really like what has been done with the subject matter at hand; it feels refreshing to my senses because I haven’t watched anything quite like this before, where I’m an amused bystander watching a gory drama unfold, and instead of feeling extreme emotions, I’m just grinning at how things happen.
Overall, I’d watch it again. And I can’t wait for Gangs of Wasseypur II.