Film Review: Gangs of Wasseypur – Part One

Directed by: Anurag Kashyap

Starring: Jaideep Ahlawat, Manoj Bajpayee, Richa Chadda, Nawazuddin Siddiqui Reemma Sen

All images courtesy of:

Although I try to avoid watching the trailer for a film more than once (if at all), the trailer for Gangs Of Wasseypur (GOW) caught me out when it appeared with Rowdy Rathore a few weeks ago. What struck me about it then was how this film was not being tarted up nor was it being downplayed – what you saw was what you were going to get and I respected that – how many times has a film been oversold or underplayed leading to mismanaged expectations at the cinema? So, ignoring the hype of the Cannes Film Festival appreciating the film as well as the numerous tweets on Twitter praising GOW to the skies, I made my way to one of the screenings held at the Institute of Contemporary Art as part of the London Indian Film Festival with pretty much an open mind (as one should have when watching any film).

And that is exactly how I feel one should watch GOW – pay too much attention to all the plaudits and you will be disappointed as this one film that works best when the viewer is caught off guard (or at least feigning ignorance). Kashyap doesn’t compromise on his gutsy vision for anything and manages to marry reality and fiction together whilst keeping the audience onside (which is easier said than done) and the story moving at a decent pace. In fact, GOW starts with a bang, slowly builds momentum and doesn’t stop until the end, leaving the viewer engaged but exhilarated. I also loved the incredibly dark humour which is thrown in at key moments as a means to deflate tension and then ratchet it up again or quite simply, to indulge Kashyap’s favourite past time – taking unveiled potshots at the Hindi film industry with a touch of affection.

If I had to be picky, I would have liked to have seen the film with an interval as one sitting felt quite draining and probably meant I missed certain nuances that I would have otherwise have picked up on. I also know that Kashyap’s uncompromising style is not for everyone and at times, did feel like he was being an enfant terrible for the sake of it. However, I also feel those indulgent moments are far outnumbered by the occasions he shows his prowess as a director and writer, which quite frankly are refreshing and entertaining – whatever you think of his style, Kashyap cannot be ignored.

Performance wise, there is not a weak link amongst the cast with every actor making their role count and feel very real – sometimes, one can watch a film and feel the actors are being reserved or not giving it their all but that is certainly not the case here; all the actors have a fearlessness and submit fully to Kashyap’s vision with wonderful effect. Rather than single out one performance, instead I have to say how much I  loved the female characters who really hold their own in this male dominated film and even turn the tables at times (see the hand touching permission scene as a example). That this ties in with Kashyap’s creative vision and the demands of the stories is an indicator of what kind of a film GOW is.

I really enjoyed GOW and in a year where we have had Paan Singh Tomar and Kahaani, GOW is guaranteed a spot in many a top 5 list of 2012. I can also see why it has garnered appreciation at Cannes and this is definitely a film that will appeal to non-regular audiences as well as keeping the Hindi cinema faithful coming back for more. As much as I liked GOW,  I am more excited about Part Two, as I feel Part One has set up an interesting premise and I am very curious to see where Kashyap takes it and what he will do. Once again, it is all about managing those expectations – let’s hope Part 2 manages to exceed expectation with all that pressure surrounding it and prove a fitting conclusion to Part One. But for now, Part One – recommended.

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