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Gangs of Wasseypur Invade New York
Watch out, the wild Gangs of Wasseypur have come to New York and no one’s going to be spared! Anurag Kashyap’s stunning mafia odyssey will hook you, grab you and get you. It is the very heart of darkness, a revenge saga where there’s no business like the don business and where firing a gun is as normal as brushing your teeth. Every random unknown on a scooter, armed with an AK47, is a killing machine. As a visitor to Wasseypur, albeit in the theater, you need to have a high tolerance for bloodshed – after a while even your popcorn seems to be tinged with blood.
So harden your heart and lose yourself in Wasseypur for a powerful film experience.
There’s no business like the Don business…
“Gangs of Wasseypur’ clocks in at 5 hours for the two parts, with over 14 songs in just the first half alone, and a cast of hundreds. Both Part 1 and Part 11 are being finally shown in the US, opening at the Lincoln Center.
For me, this film has had the longest intermission possible! Although both parts have been shown combined at some festivals, I saw just Part I at the New York Indian Film Festival in 2013. I only now got to see the second half in 2015 – a long time for the other shoe to drop!
In the meantime the film has become a cult classic, and has garnered both critical acclaim and box office success. The two films have been shown at the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, the Sundance Film Festival and also was nominated for four awards including best film and best director at the Asia Pacific Film Festival. The combined film won several awards including a Special Mention for Acting for Nawazuddin Siddiqui at the National Film Awards and several Filmfare Awards, including Best Film and Best Actress. It’s also done pretty well at the box office.
Truly, there’s no business like the Don business!
Gangs of Wasseypur: A Knockout Punch
Gangs is still my favorite Anurag Kashyap movie because of its sheer audacity and knockout punch. It has its seed in real events and that makes it all the more powerful. Kashyap may have been weaned on western thrillers and crime sagas but Gangs is unequivocally Indian, reflecting the coarseness and complexity of Wasseypur’s underbelly with the coal mafia, political manipulators, and assorted gangsters, spanning a period from the early 1940’s to the mid-1990’s. The theme is intrinsic to Hindi cinema – after all, how many family vendetta and revenge sagas have we seen over the years? Yet Gangs takes the kernel of revenge and runs with it, turning it into a fiery inferno that will have you glued to your seat.
The cast is topnotch including the always excellent Manoj Bajpai as Sardar Khan and Tigmanshu Dhulia as Ramadhir Singh, his wily nemesis. Dhulia is a great character actor and really needs to be seen in more movies (he is actually a noted director.) Nawazuddin Siddiqui is superb as Faisal, Sardar’s second son. He is the druggie turned reluctant mafia kingpin who is maniacal enough to do the most outrageous things and yet be utterly believable. The women of Wasseypur – Huma Qureshi, Richa Chaddha and Reema Sen – bold, beautiful and yet vulnerable – bring a human element to this blood and bullets tale.
One of the greatest pleasures in both Part 1 and Part 11 is the amazing music. ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ is a real celebration of Indian cinema because instead of abandoning song, which is often regarded as a turnoff for western audiences, Kashyap has embraced it with a stunning soundtrack, robust lyrics and folk rhythms which actually enhance the action on screen, capturing the essence of Wasseypur. It is exciting work indeed by composer-singer Sneha Khanwalker and lyricist Varun Grover.
Without leaking any plot details, I have to say that the way the film ends it looks to me as if the door may be left open for yet another return journey to Wasseypur. Meanwhile, you have to visit it at least once. Now’s a good time.
(Cinelicious Pictures will 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. In New York City, the full film will play at Lincoln Center opening on January 16 for one week.)
Exclusive! Six Questions for Wasseypur’s Don, Anurag Kashyap
Anurag Kashyap’s noted films include ‘Black Friday’, ‘Dev D’ and ‘Ugly’ which screened at Director’s Fortnight at Cannes 2013 and for which he received the Knight of the Order of Arts and letters. Fans are getting ready for his much anticipated ‘Bombay Velvet’ which will be released this year. Kashyap has also produced Trishna and the much-loved ‘The Lunchbox’.
I’d interviewed him after Gangs of Wasseypur Part 1 but now had fresh questions after seeing Part 11. Here, he answers some burning questions for Lassi with Lavina.
1. To me, it looks as if the door has been left ajar to the possibility of Gangs of Wasseypur 111. Can fans look forward to such a happening?
No definitely not. I am done with the saga. The sense of history is now lost. Now it’s just mindless violence that permeates Wasseypur, when it does.
2. The music of Wasseypur gets into one’s blood and refuses to let go. Can you talk about a stunner like ‘Kaala Rey’ – how does the creation of something so original and unexpected take place?
Oh, that you must ask Sneha and Varun, the songwriter. It all came from coal and the fact that India is obsessed with fair skin;whereas most Indian skins are brown or sunburnt, especially of those who labor. The idea was to make the dark color of the skin sound cool and mysterious and desirable in a fairness cream obsessed country, to celebrate it. Also Kaala becomes a metaphor for all things that are perceived to be done in the darkness but go on openly.
3. I can’t seem to locate Sardar Khan’s fifth son, and as a movie-goer, it’s frustrating! Danish, Faisal, Perpendicular, Definite – who’s the fifth son and why don’t we get to see him?
The fifth son is seen in few shots, he is the guy watching TV with his family when the house is attacked. He is sitting on the steps reading when Perpendicular is introduced. Sardar’s fifth son was actually the third since he was older to Definite and Perpendicular. He was the only educated son and never got into crime. He made his own separate life, hence didn’t fit into the scheme of things.
The Women of Wasseypur
4. Can you talk about the women of Wasseypur? They seem very strong yet vulnerable. What was your thinking behind their creation?
My women of Wasseypur are largely the reflection of the women I grew up around in my ancestral village and home where the women hold all the strings within and the men are in control outside. They are tough, they bring up so many children, take care of the farms and the men. They always talk back and are vulnerable only to their children and men.
5. Wasseypur is a real place and the movie is based on real happenings. How have the people of Wasseypur taken the depiction of their fair city and is the Wasseypur Tourism Bureau (if one exists) upset with you?
When the trailers first came out they were very unhappy, for fair reasons, cause since the story that we depicted in part 1, they have had two boys clearing civil services and also there are families that have non-criminal backgrounds. But after it came out and they saw the movie, their stance changed. It did not release in the first week in the theater next to it, Ray Talkies , but it came there in week 2 and stayed on for nine weeks continuously until part 2 came out. Now it has also become a tourist destination.
6. Finally, what are you going to do to top ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’? Will ‘Bombay Velvet’ be the one?
I think ‘Bombay Velvet’ is very different from GOW – it’s strong emotionally, it’s epic, it’s drama, it’s underworld, gangsters, jazz, love story – all of that – but not quirky. It’s much bigger in epic scale but not in time scale. They are quite apart from each other.