Let’s get the facts straight. Gangs of Wasseypur – 2, or GOW2 as it is called, isn’t the greatest Indian crime or gangster movie ever made. Even if you think of the complete piece (1& 2), it still isn’t the greatest ever. For that, it will have to fight the Big Daddies of crime movies like Satya, Maqbool, Parinda, Drohkaal or Nayakan.
In fact, if you really want to compare GOW with anything, all you have to do is watch the fantastic Subramaniapuram (2008), which, I consider among the greatest revenge movies of the last decade. The best part, it didn’t need more than five hours to tell a revenge saga, spread over decades. However, comparison isn’t the purpose of this post and I will stop right here and let the reader do his own virtual deathmatch and decide for himself.
This post is about the fantastic film which we have got from Anurag Kashyap, his own pop-gangster epic. I am not sure why or when he decided that the story of Wasseypur needs two full-length movies, each almost three hours long. Yes, there is a minor crib about unnecessary plot elements and story arcs which drag both the films. Did we really need ‘Perpendicular’, ‘Tangent’ and some of the apparent attempts at humor which didn’t work (the joke about the name of ‘Definite’). Well, clearly, I wasn’t amused, especially when I realized there weren’t any autos late in the night in front of the multiplex.
Minor cribs aside, GOW (1 & 2), was the most fun I had in a movie theatre, in some time. While GOW1 was a little earthy and raw in its feel, GOW2 is an out and out psychedelic blast. A neon-lit, pop-culture heavy, ode to Indian cinema by Anurag Kashyap. The only thing missing was maybe a Gabbar reference, or Rakhee, in a black saree, shouting “Mere Karan Arjun Aayenge” or a Madhuri Dixit heaving lustily at the directions of Saroj Khan.
He tells his story of Wasseypur and the coal-bazaari, as he calls it, through his own interpretation of pop-culture which we are obsessed with. There are so many subtle references that if you don’t react quickly, you miss half the fun, summed up succinctly by Ramadhir Singh in the memorable line, “Jab tak sanima hai, log chutiya bante rahenge” and he is not even lying. That is the greatness of the humor in Kashyap’s Wasseypur. It is self-critical as well as pokes fun at everything we have seen or heard in India till now.
Essentially, the story, if you haven’t been living in a cave, is about the coal mafia, which for cinematic purpose, is centered in the industrial town of Wasseypur in Dhanbad district (Bihar) and the revenge of ‘Shahid Khan and Sons’. There is no clear villain in the movie but for the convenience of Indian audiences, we designate Ramadhir Singh as the villain. Ironic, as Ramadhir Singh, now a minister, explains to Faizal in the concluding part, that all he was doing was survive, by killing those who wanted to kill him!
So, now that we have established the story to be a revenge saga between Shahid Khan’s family and Ramadhir Singh, there are other players in the game with their own agenda. Majority of those players being the children of Sardar Khan (Manoj Bajpai) who was kind of the Genghis Khan of Wasseypur.
GOW1 was all about Sardar Khan trying to take his revenge and establishing his son Faizal as the Michael Corleone of the two part opus. Obviously, there was unfinished business and hence we get GOW2. GOW2 is all about Faizal finishing Daddy’s unfinished business and transforming from a dysfunctional pot-head to the most feared gangster in Wasseypur-Dhanbad belt (dabdabaa is the word used throughout the movie). Oh, yes, ‘the pot thickens’ and continues along with the story.
The guns change from local made revolvers to assault rifles and finally climax in a volley of bullets sprayed from a sub-machine gun (ideally when the movie should have ended, sigh).The timelines are so well defined by the pop-culture symbolism used by Kashyap that you feel at home while going through the progression of the plot along with the changing face of Indian entertainment over the ages. No, it is not the pager or a cell phone that signifies the changing timelines. It is definitely the fact that you hear ‘Kasam paida Karne waale ki’ blaring out loud from a loudspeaker, followed by the local item boy singing ‘Salaam-e-ishq meri jaan’, ‘yaad teri aayegi’, ‘teri meherbaaniaan’ and ‘one two ka four’ at different times that you realize you are rapidly clocking years. Someone who is about to be shot, is tonsured and made to wear a Ray Ban only to make him look like ‘Shaakal’. Kashyap clearly knows his icons. There are obvious inspirations from ‘The Godfather‘ and ‘Cidade de Deus‘ but then these two are such definitive crime movies that if you ever see them, you will be haunted forever (Ask RGV).
There is a continued obsession with Amitabh Bachchan and that is understandable in India. It is such a given that we don’t even realize how larger than life Bachchan is in India. There is an extremely funny scene in GOW1 when there are two passengers in a train and both of them are aping Big B, one of them being our man Nawaz. It is incredibly funny because no one speaks a word and both keep staring at each other and realize whose obvious sideburns and hairstyle they have photoshopped. In fact, there is also an intriguing Trishul angle to the plot with Faizal concluding in GOW2, that he is actually the Sashi Kapoor of the plot while all along he thought himself to be Bachchan.
This brings us to the dialogues of Wasseypur. Wasseypur is a strange place. People there speak the kind of language that we all dream of speaking and using in our day to day conversations but never do. Sigh! They have such practical examples to quote. Sample this: “Jaise loha lohe ko kaat ta hai, waise hi chutiya hi to chutiye ko maarega”. Simple and profund. There are hilarious dialogues throughout both the movies, heightened by the explosive situations and the excellent delivery. While both Sardar Khan and Faizal Khan indulge in their “Keh ke loonga” and “Ek hi jaan hai hamaara, ya to allah lega, ya mohalla”, my clear favourite was Ramadhir Singh who brings down the house with his disapproval of people who are obsessed with cinema. “Rehne do…tumse na ho sakega” as he dismisses his son as a contender, is hillarious.
Among the trademarks of Anurag Kashyap is his treatment of the chase scene. While his Black Friday redefined the chase scene (now a case study), introducing psychology into the chase and what goes through the minds of the participants through the entire course of a chase. They begin strongly, slow down mid-way and sometime in between almost give up only to pick up the pace again stretching their limits of physical ability.
Here, he gives another twist to the chase scene almost turning it on its head. In a hilarious yet tight chase scene, we see all the participants making their way through the narrow lanes of Wasseypur ending up at the same petrol bunk. Both the people look at each other and wait to get their bike’s fuel tank filled, so that they can get on with the chase. Sensational stuff.
The action scenes, gun fights are extremely well shot. Accompanied by the mind-blowing score by Sneha Khanwalkar, they are a dream to watch. Somehow, the action sequences in GOW2 felt superior. Maybe because I am a sucker for John Woo school of slow-mo and bullets and pigeons.
The pot-smoking scenes are brilliantly shot and remind you of Dev D and have that clear, Anurag Kashyap signature. The music is avante garde and proves that the director has a tight grip on music. It is incredible but Anurag Kashyap has given some of the best albums through his films to Bollywood – Black Friday, No Smoking, Dev D, Gulaal and now GOW with 25 songs. The album is a heady mix of folk, dubstep, kirtan, Trinidadian soca and pure old-school melody. Matched by almost perfect lyrics, they are massively trippy, memorable and seamlessly integrate with the narrative. Year’s best soundtrack album by a mile.
Finally, a round up of the performances. Manoj Bajpai towers in GOW1 while Nawazudding Sidiqui owns every frame of GOW2 whenever he is on-screen. Tigmanshu Dhulia as Ramadhir Singh is sensational, delivering his sermons with simplicity, deadpan expressions and obviously laced with cow-belt expletives. Richa Chadda was brilliant in GOW1 but doesn’t have much to do in GOW2. Huma Qureshi, well, is so beautiful. Sigh. “Moora” does things, you know. Zeishan Quadri is a confident young actor and is very good as ‘Definite’. (There is a moment during a particular chase scene where they juxtapose Definite with a ‘Tere Naam’ poster for two-three seconds and you nail the joke.)
However the impact of Nawaz as Faizal is massive, far beyond the scope of these two movies. He is an actor on the move, all the way to top. How many actors have you seen in Indian movies, jump from one rooftop to another all the while wearing a lungi, holding a massive bakra still wearing a lungi and a RayBan and blazing away to glory with a SMG to the riff of “loonga loonga“. Only Nawaz. The way he transforms from the unworthy successor in GOW1 to claiming, “Baap ka, daada ka, bhai ka, sabkaa badlaa lega re tera Faizal” is fascinating. The only other character more powerful than Faizal Khan is Wasseypur itself – The clear star of both the movies with its industrial setting, insane people, the Haleem stalls during Ramzan and the folk music.
As a cow-belt crime movie, GOW is profane. It is an adult movie and there is no adulteration. There are guns, severed organs, blood, graphic violence, gore and absolute profane language. However, it is also one of the funniest crime movies ever made in India. A hat tip to Messrs Tarantino and Ritchie from Anurag kashyap, with love.