Director Anurag Kashyap is never one to conform. A man of complete extremes, he believes in living life on the edge, indulging in controversial matter and creating movies that are not only thought provoking but entertaining. While Kashyap’s style of direction and storylines are usually loved by the critics, with the exception of No Smoking, they are mostly understood by the more intellectual types. His interpretation of the epic classic Devdas raised eyebrows and yet went on to be declared a hit. His most recent giving is Gulaal. In celebration of Holi, his colorful venture was deemed as one to be watched out for as it promised to tear open secrets about relationships in love and politics. Kashyap never fails to shock and it is no wonder that Gulaal makes the audience go red with astonishment.
Gulaal begins in the pink city of Jaipur where young Dilip Singh (Raj Singh Chaudhary) comes to begin his further studies. He soon meets an array of people. It begins with Dukey Bana (Kay Kay Menon), a landowner who lives in the past, has a faithful wife but prefers his mistress and is surrounded by a personal army. As he plans to create an individual state for and governed by Rajputs, he is faced to fight a battle with his enemies. When Dilip’s roommate Rananjay Singh (Abhimanyu Singh) who is slated to run for the college elections is murdered, Bana convinces Dilip to take his place. His win causes great distress in the city especially to his competitor Kiran (Ayesha Mohan). She coyly maneuvers Dilip into nominating her as the party head. Things go terribly wrong when Kiran shows her true colors and causes a mutiny within the party. He hides behind the mask of a red powder (gulaal) only to discover that Bana is incorrectly utilizing him. His rebellion forms the climax of this haunting story.
Gulaal screams RED. In true Anurag Kashyap style, he has taken a historically touchy situation only to make you ponder over it. In contrast to the title, Gulaal is dark and black. The movie is eerie filled with bloodshed, sex and violence. However, that is exactly what makes Gulaal an extremely interesting watch. He has used the landscapes of Rajasthan to the movie’s benefit. It becomes one of the characters and as the plot unfolds, you can’t help but fall in love with the beautiful sights. He wants the audiences to feel sympathy for Rajasthan’s historical palaces which have now become museums and hotels. And he ultimately gains that pity. The dialogues are top notch; crude and nasty. The script writer could easily have worked on a tighter script however.
The best scenes of the movie include Mahi Gill-Kay Kay Menon. Her enactment of the wannabe Tabu is fabulous. The plastered posters around her hair salon add humor to the otherwise wicked movie. Their chemistry even beats the Raj Singh-Ayesha Mohan love angle which was quite dry. The crazy dialogues too are awesome. Wait for Kay Kay to utter the Jack and Jill children’s poem in the most derogative of ways. An auditory treat.
The flaws are few but are there. The length really does not help the movie at all and should have been chopped at the editing table. Gulaal has a complex plot. It begins as a simple story only to get more complicated by the reel. The item numbers could have been avoided and some of the scenes that are half-baked should really have been more solid and impact-worthy.
Performance wise, Gulaal is an actors dream come true and the artists have taken full advantage of this canvas. Kay Kay Menon is an institution in himself. He is spot-on as the shrewd antagonist. He steals the show no doubt and towers over all the actors with his performance. Raj Singh Chaudhary shows great talent and is definitely an actor to watch out for. Abhimanyu Singh is quite honestly hot like Rajasthan. Ayesha Mohan is great. Jesse Randhawa gets the left in the background. Ultimately, the cast makes the movie worthwhile to watch.
Okay, so the verdict. Gulaal is exciting for many reasons. Gulaal has been in the making since 2001 and because of production reasons had a delayed release. Additionally, it proves a fact that critics have been saying in the recent past: Anurag Kashyap is a director who firstly, out does himself every time and secondly, is one to watch out for. Watch Gulaal because it tells a great political story. Watch Gulaal because the performances are incredible. Watch Gulaal because it tells a true story. Watch Gulaal if you are an Anurag Kashyap fan. Whichever reason you chose, watch Gulaal. Poised, poignant and intelligent, this is not one for the children, but definitely one for you.