A tale of revenge, a tale of family, a tale of India that is Anurag Kashyap’s epic Gangs of Wasseypur (GOW). Based on a true story, the blood-and-bullets fueled crime saga charts seventy years in the lives – and spectacular deaths – of two mafia-like families fighting for control of the coal-mining town of Wasseypur, India.
Though made as one film with a final 5-hour plus runtime, the film was separated into two sequential sagas for release. Produced by Guneet Monga, GOW premiered in 2012 at the esteemed Cannes Film Festival, and went on to screen at the Toronto International Film Festival, Sundance, and the London Indian Film Festival, among many others, to amazing reviews and even some standing ovations. GOW released in India later in 2012, again to rave reviews.
GOW is now is releasing for a short engagement in the US. In New York City, the full film will play at the prestigious Lincoln Center opening on January 16 for one week. Cinelicious Pictures along with Adi Shankar will also release Part 1 of Gangs of Wasseypur on January 16 for an exclusive one-week-only run at several AMC theaters across the U.S. Part II will release in the same theaters the following week on January 23, also for one week only.
When I originally sat down to watch the screener of the film, I intended to watch Part 1 and then later watch Part 2. However, I was so engrossed in the story and the world of GOW that I watched the entire 5-hour saga in one sitting! Since I did watch in one sitting and it was orginally made as one film, this review covers both films.
To give you a reference, the filmmaking style and the tale of GOW do bring to mind Coppola, Tarantino, Scorsese, and even the film noir of days gone by, but GOW is Kashyap and it is brilliant.
To give you an idea, here is the trailer
From almost the first frame, you are dropped into the violent world of Wasseypur, watching the unfolding story of Sardar, his quest for revenge and the battles he and his sons wage in the small town of Wasseypur. With its dark tale full of the mystery and maneuvering for power and revenge and at the same time its human story outside the violence, Kashyap takes us on an incredible ride. I could not wait to see what happened next.
The violence, though hard to watch, was not overdone and fit the world perfectly, but Anurag also brings a human aspect to the tale. I think that is the power of the film. There are many light moments like Manoj Bajpayee’s Sardar flirting and Nawazuddin’s Bollywood obsession and then act to get the girl. Showing Nawazuddin’s character Faizal’s reluctance to take on the mantle and extract the revenge he feels he must is another example of how Kashyap and writer Zeishan Quadri, who by the way played Definite, really bring you into the story.
Of the two sections of the film, I think part one is the stronger one, both in story and execution. Part two lost its way with too many stories and players in the game, though the twist and the ending did catch me by surprise.
The film would not be as good as it is without the strong performances by the talented and eclectic cast that includes some of Hindi cinema’s best, including Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Piyush Mishra, Richa Chadda, Huma Quershi and Reema Sen.
Manoj Bajpayee, as he always does, gets totally lost inside his character. He commands the town and the frame. He is perfect in every scene, playing the role with a simmering menace. His eyes say so much even when he does not speak a word. A brilliant performance by a brilliant actor. See the film just for him alone.
Like Bajpayee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui is another actor that totally immerses himself into his role and he does that again as Faizal. If you saw in him in this and then The Lunchbox, you would never guess this is the same actor. What is so amazing is that he brings an innocence to this killer bent on revenge. He truly is one of the finest actors in the world.
We also have to highlight the performances of Richa Chadda, Huma Quershi and Reema Sen. Each actress was fabulous in their diverse roles. From the power and strength of Richa’s Nagma, to the seemingly innocent Durga, to the lightness and yet fortitude of Mohsina these three add another layer of greatness to the film.
I also must mention the outstanding soundtrack of Gangs of Wasseypur. From the songs rooted in the flavor of Bihar, to the Bollywood classics, the music by Sneha Khanwalker adds another layer to the feel and form of the film.
GOW is epic, masterful, dark, violent, funny, gripping, outstanding, entertaining… I could go on and on using many other adjectives. What it comes down too is that Gangs of Wasseypur is a tour de force film that should not be missed.