Arguing with Gangs of Wasseypur…




It is fascinating that Anurag Kashyap does not discern or at least chooses not to excavate the much greater film that lies hidden within the husk of his ambitious and in many ways formidable epic. He scatters clues of this more important project throughout the first part of the existing film and yet never quite fleshes out their meaning except in the most desultory ways. As ethnography his efforts succeed admirably. His journalistic choices vividly and often searingly portray what becomes in his telling a singular slice of the Indian hinterland. Kashyap clearly knows this landscape well as he does the lives of those who inhabit it. He is also astutely keyed into many of its socio-economic, cultural and ultimately political fault-lines. He knows the relevant cinematic histories from Hollywood to Bombay. His auteurist eye often creates extraordinary visuals. He has the ironic post-modern distance from his world which perhaps of necessity asserts itself at this late date in the medium’s history and certainly that of the genres he tackles. And yet even with everything perfectly located Kashyap frustratingly misses the encounter with that greater work. The reasons for this will turn out not to be accidental.

When the charismatic and near-mythic Shahid Khan exits the Wasseypur universe things are never the same. More than a quantum of transcendence vanishes with him and the significant figures that follow cannot quite make up for this loss.* Beyond this the film is simply effective docu-drama the journalistic truths and anthropological immediacies of which are purchased at a steep cost. Even when Shahid Khan is a central character Kashyap is strangely in a rush to get through the proceedings. Admittedly this bit of pre-history serves the principal purpose of framing what will become its chief story-lines. But the list of missed opportunities begins as it were with this incomplete beginning. Kashyap correctly intuits that the mythic can best serve the period of British Indian history, itself the repository of so much folklore and legend, and more to the point the world out of which Independent India emerges in very precise formulations. The latter political arrangement does not come after the former one, it in fact follows it as a legatee. It takes up an inheritance that still reverberates in contemporary Indian life. And this is what should have formed the essential contours of Kashyap’s effort. This two-part structure would have very easily rewarded a focus on the Wasseypur region in British India with the ‘sequel’ then being about the aftermath of British rule. In essence two halves centered around two very different eras. Within such a framing it would have made a great deal of sense to move from a more mythic gesturality and representation (vis-a-vis British India) to a less elevated, more realistically downsized one (vis-a-vis the independent nation-state). Kashyap would still have been free to cover different periods of post-British history in the chronological terms he has chosen for his work. The British past would in other words reward a masala (even if auteurist) treatment while the ‘present’ would satisfy the Scorsese-led instincts of the director and in the same fashion open up a more authentic space for his Tarantino-inspired deconstructions. If both the past and the present are mirror images of each other, if there is no discontinuity from one to the other in terms of the mode of access that can be granted to each, what does the passage of time in this world really signify?

In fairness to the director and even if this is a two part film there are three nearly distinct portrayals of the male leads. Shahid Khan’s delineation relies on the mythic, romantic archetype of the bandit-rebel foreshadowing a somewhat nationalist strain. Sardar Khan represents the more populist type taking hold in a relatively young nation and displacing the old guard and finally Faizal Khan occupies a world from which all gods have vanished. All that is left is commentary or the ironic tracing of a vanished gesturality. Ultimately Tarantino is the presiding deity of Kashyap’s work and hence the perspective associated with Faizal Khan is operative even before he actually takes over. Or the Tarantino impulse is the one secretly guiding the film from the very beginning. One of the reasons why Shahid Khan never quite gets a narrative or tone commensurate with his heroic status. Also the reason why Sardar Khan’s Scorsese informed segment does not really exhibit any of the latter’s great emotional immediacy. Finally there is the mock-gesturality of Faizal Khan (his entire persona could be read as a mock-riff on Bachchan’s iconic outings, something the film hints at in a Trishul screening which becomes deeply cathartic for the character) which repeats a problem that also plagued Tarantino for the longest time and that he successfully resolved only in his recent (and superb) Django. In a different register the trick Tarantino did not quite learn from Leone is the ability to deconstruct and romanticize at the very same time. To either fashion mock elegy out of the endgame of epic or alternatively to reign in the nostalgias of cinema by submitting their grander gestures to brutal irony. Leone was always able to manage this improbable mixture. It evaded Tarantino until Django and though Kashyap seems to have understood this solution in Dev D (in a different vein) he has regressed on this score in the current film. His deconstructions are persuasive but they circulate unmoored in the framework he chooses.

The film is evenly narrated through each of its phases by Piyush Mishra’s (also a central character) raspy, salt-of-the-earth drawl instantly creating a sense of native wisdom that transcends any specific history the story is involved with. In other words this voiceover creates an illusion of constancy and permanence. Even as Kashyap’s plot details the changing livelihoods of his characters and goes through all the milestones of the larger history in frenzied fashion the people that populate this world remain predictable and unsurprising once a certain typology of emotional and linguistic response has been created. Furthermore these characters never quite become more than the sum of their gestural tics because the movie never stays long enough with them. The all-important exception is Faizal Khan whose story constitutes half the film but his character by design is too deconstructive to invite the viewer’s investment even in the limited way that Sardar Khan’s does. Kashyap almost throughout his two parts but markedly so in the first one is much more occupied with presenting a history of the nation-state by way of Wasseypur than actually letting his characters breathe and thereby illuminate this history more allusively. Not surprisingly Ramadhir Singh as the story’s arch-villain is another symbol of constancy, a screen against which different inter-Muslim clan fratricides are played out. The religious coding is suggestive but characteristically for the film not optimally developed.

The opposite happens for instance in Iruvar where the central arc of the duo and their relationships gloss an entire history of Dravidian politics without ever outlining things literally. Such an approach keeps the story and its surrounding historical contexts on the same plane of access. History in this scenario is not a super-imposed journalistic vehicle always divorced from the film’s stories but one that that is naturally blended with these. A further clue highlighting the same contrast concerns the use of music as a calendrical tool. Ratnam’s videos locate chronological time within a work that is more profoundly governed by Anandam’s inner clock. His experience of time, his nostalgias tie into the film’s larger economies of memory. Hence those music videos have to be kept relatively subtle. The chronology of these cannot be allowed to destabilize Anandam’s other sense of time which is foundational for the work. On the other hand the music presented in Gangs of Wasseypur, leaving aside the folklorish moments, is brought forth by way of an event singer (for every occasion) who keeps going through iconic songs down the years. The choice in itself is an inspired one but feeds the same deconstructive urge. These punctuations are one more instance of how the postmodern impulse is fed at every point.

The anthropological gaze that forms the truth of this undertaking asserts itself at every turn. In the world of this film we are always in a human menagerie of sorts where the ‘fun’ lies in observing all the specimens on display. The episodic narrative plateaus out relatively early and consequently relies on detailing a whole gallery of characters in all their ‘native’ finery. Kashyap for all his naturalistic thoroughness runs dangerously close to creating a fantasy space of elemental men and women in the hinterland. It is an ‘ethnic’ paradise made resonant by feeding into similar strains in the current global (post-modern) moment. From multiplexes in Bombay to film festivals in Europe there is a decided market for such ethnic exotica. This is a pity because Kashyap is otherwise so careful in delineating many of the social complexities of this world. He is particularly singular in stressing the caste-like divisions within the Muslim communities of Wasseypur. He identifies so many of the key strains and motivating factors only to dissolve them into a somewhat bread-and-butter gangster code which is locally nuanced but not enough to sustain the whole show.

Despite all these objections the workshop that Kashyap puts on display in the first part is remarkable for its visceral depictions, its attention to sociological detail, and additionally a range of dazzling shots that pop up at different points. A few horizon-line shots are especially noteworthy in this context. Wasseypur is in Kashyap’s imagining also a marvelous memory palace devoted to masala cinema though symptomatically the distinctions between A-grade grandeur and B-grade kitsch are often blurred. Undoubtedly and in any number of ways an intricate world is evoked in this film which makes the problems that much more disappointing. Nonetheless this first part is richly suggestive in a variety of ways and is for all its narrative confusions a very absorbing one. The second part however is rather basic and straightforward. It carries over some of these choices but is dramatically inferior in most ways. It becomes routine very early on and its lead presence cannot quite make up for the loss of the first part’s characters. Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s is an assured performance but the character can never generate even the limited empathy that Manoj Bajpayee’s Sardar Khan could earlier in the work. This is not really the actor’s fault. More importantly Kashyap as a storyteller has nothing new to add to all the contexts he has already established in the first part. By this point even all the local color starts tiring one out a bit.

Anurag Kashyap is easily one of contemporary Hindi cinema’s leading talents. He has been this for a while. But he has definitely been in better form elsewhere from the early tightly knit Black Friday to the more recent, delightfully subversive (even if somewhat indulgent) Dev D and even including a misfire like Gulal which is very strong on the terrain that it does get right. Gangs of Wasseypur is lengthy without quite being sprawling, it means to be an epic but it does not quite manage the fusion of scale and intimacy that informs all the best examples of this mode, it is often gorgeously shot and brilliant in its verisimilitude but these are delights one gazes at from a half-detached distance. What the film delivers is far less than the magnum opus it has been heralded as in many quarters but what it promises is the outline of a rich terrain that can perhaps be mined more profitably by Kashyap in a future endeavor. It is assuredly a work to be taken seriously and even to revisit but its failures are sadly more instructive than its successes. If Anurag Kashyap were able to shake off the polemical monkey on his back he could fashion a truly great film…

* There is an utterly riveting action sequence involving him and his protagonist caked coal-black.

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98 Responses to “Arguing with Gangs of Wasseypur…”

  1. In terms of a diagnosis of where Kashyap has erred, the paragraph beginning “When the charismatic and near-mythic Shahid Khan exits the Wasseypur universe things are never the same….” is unparalleled in its precision in highlighting the road not taken.

    On the last sentence, while I appreciate that when you say “[i]f Anurag Kashyap were able to shake off the polemical monkey on his back he could fashion a truly great film” you are referring to a certain directorial “talent”, I must say I don’t think he will be able to shake that monkey off his back — after a decade directing films, I don’t see that sort of asceticism in him (the sort of self-denial needed to make great art, even art that presents an illusion of plenitude). And his great success over the last few years has anyway removed all external incentives for such growth.

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    • “after a decade directing films, I don’t see that sort of asceticism in him (the sort of self-denial needed to make great art, even art that presents an illusion of plenitude)”

      This is well-stated.. Kashyap should learn from the cautionary tale of RGV who in a very different sense and for much of the interesting work he’s done could never quite make a film for the ages. Once again there was the same insistence on remaining experimental and polemicizing constantly. Not that there’s anything wrong with this on its own but as you’ve suggested the great art work requires a ruthless focus. Put differently it’s not a flaw at all to make the kinds of films he has or to be associated with the sorts of productions he’s been involved with. I just think he could do more. He’s done very well with a brand of ‘minor’ cinema (and essentially it’s this ‘minor’ film operating within GoW’s epic framework) and he could keep doing so. I’m also not suggesting that everyone should make ‘greater’ films. Just that many of his formulations deserve greater vehicles. This is not necessarily about making more commercial ventures but equally the more perfect smaller one. In any case there is a kind of experimentation and similarly polemic that goes for the low-hanging fruit. It is especially easy to substitute the latter for the more sustained and thorough thought that a greater work requires when one is increasingly ‘busy’ in all sorts of ways. So yes a certain withdrawal is necessary. I’ve liked most of his films if not all at some level or the other but each newer attempt frustrates me to a degree because I see him refusing to leave a space that by now has become comfortable for him. GoW was certainly a fair attempt to go in a different direction, I wish it had worked out better. In some ways Black Friday remains his most focused work and completely realized work. Not surprisingly he was also working with a proper source in the sense of being more confined by the material.

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    • great point Q, however his so called great success over the last few year is also IMO debatable……

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      • PS — by “great success” I meant his lionization in the media, and among a certain crop of industry insiders…I agree with you that in terms of popular footprint in the culture at large, it’s probably not a deep one…

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  2. gread read Satyam….
    agree on -Faizal Khan whose story constitutes half the film but his character by design is too deconstructive to invite the viewer’s investment even in the limited way that Sardar Khan’s does
    may be that is why many of us did not like part-2, also agree on Shaid Khan,
    Disagree on the Band songs, Ithought they wer very nicely done.
    Also no mention of the perfomances, I thought Bajpai was superb, Nawaz was O.K. and Tigmanshu was pretty good.

    Aside-on Gulal you say -“even including a misfire like Gulal which is very strong on the terrain that it does get right.”
    did you mean ‘that it does get the right, right “…LOL!!!

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    • Thanks Rocky. Yes liked Bajpai a lot here. Found Nawaz quite overrated. Tigmanshu was effective too. I did like the songs, my point is that within the film this device is deconstructive (I did call it ‘inspired’ otherwise). so from the MKS song (where the male singer also does the female bit) to the Ek Jaan Hain Hum one and so on first off all of Bombay film culture seems like so much kitsch (note how even when Faizal Khan seems rather overwhelmed watching Trishul we as viewers are a meant to be a bit amused) and secondly this is one more example of how the past survives shorn of its transcendence. But the Sardar Khan track ought to be different from the Faizal one tonally much as there’s a world of difference between the MKS universe of signification and that of Ek Jaan Hain Hum! This is the larger point I’ve been trying to make. Even early on in the film you hear a Leone-like twang on the soundtrack, the riders dissolve in a similar vein, the gravitas of epic is never available to this film. But this isn’t meant to be a mock-epic either. Another example: the romantic tracks are once again put forth half-humorously as faded masala gestures. All of this isn’t a problem in itself but it doesn’t gel with the film’s more epic inclinations that are supposed to be taken seriously. Within this framework (as I see it) I found the band songs problematic. Not otherwise.

      On Gulal I meant that even though it’s a messy film in many ways (it had a troubled production history as well) it is very sharp when it gets everything right. In other words a film could get things right but still not be very challenging.

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    • Re: “did you mean ‘that it does get the right, right “…LOL!!!”

      Good one!

      Aside: I am quite disappointed that Abhimanyu Singh DIDN’T play a starring role in Wasseypur; he was better in Gulaal than most in the former!

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      • Abhimanyu Singh would have made a great leader of the Querishis, ( although the guy who played that character did a decent job as well)

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      • there is one consistent pattern all films of anurag kashyap has pretty strong first half and narrative falters later a case which is common from paanch to gow

        jadhwal of gulal has parallel in sultan here another side sub track villain who is interesting

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  3. I’ve echoed the Shahid Khan sentiment elsewhere, completely agree. It has an effect even more wounding than Abhimanyu Singh’s departure from Gulal. In general Kashyap has had a history with killing his “Gods” in some of his major outings from Bajpai’s Bhiku to this. Kind of says a lot about his vision of the world but for a movie audience it’s not always a treat. I’ve only seen GOW-1 but this was an absolute pleasure to read Satyam, especially in the comprehensiveness of its engagement with all the references you’re bringing in here. Loved the passage on Iruvar’s use of music videos as historical markers.

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    • thanks much GF..

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    • rockstar Says:

      Shahid khan cum jaideep ahlawat was the best of trio of generations and also performance wise but the whole notion of sultana daku angle again had historical innacuricies and sultana hailed from U.p

      Some of the scenes with jaideep ahlawat where shot nicely best being combat in mud and those animated animation

      Sardar angle of generational revenge was decent but again anurag concentrated mostly on his kameenagiri …..the macho Bihar ka Lala rise was instrumental mostly on disguise factor which was hidden from ramadhir

      The guy was womaniser but the child of his expect mother to be sati savitri which is evident from undercurrent of tension between Faisal and piyush when young Faisal just in time caught piyush and his mother making out again a submissive standard for lady being drawn …

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    • in gulal the subversion was character of karan the illegal who finishes off everything and here heir of a lady called durga

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  4. Today’s building collapse in Bangladesh is so similar to the Coal Mines disaster shown in GOW..
    The manager forcing the workers to work…….

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  5. This latest fatal accident, coming five months after a fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory killed at least 112 garment workers, is likely to again raise questions about work conditions in Bangladesh: workers told Bangladeshi news outlets that supervisors had ordered them to attend work on Wednesday, even though cracks were discovered in the building on Tuesday.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/25/world/asia/bangladesh-building-collapse.html?_r=0

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  6. Many thanx satyam for this exquisite post on GoW
    Obviously i loved it much more
    As mentioned, I try to avoid overanalysing (atleast initially) and let the movie talk…
    In most cases, (unless locked in a cinema hall) moves dont engorss u and i reach for the remote..
    even in the cinema halls i find other pursuits to keep me busy (!)
    But after GoW i was literally swept off my feet –i thought of ranking—4.5/5 seemed less to me…
    Watched it with a french buddy and an american –both were highly impressed -infact the former arranged the viewing.
    BUt thats beside the point..
    Anyhow as pointed earleir, i cant articulate well when i really like a film==
    maybe sometime soon may jot more on it.
    These films are not to be seen with the ‘brain; predominantly…
    GoW is indian cinema at its best!
    brazen passionate
    testosterone- laced
    blistering compelling
    and the opposite of the ‘pussification’ celebratory ‘descendant- like’ deals (not saying the latter are inferior though)

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  7. i think this is the best most ‘complete’ piece on gow ive read –inspite of not being too long
    Satyam, u have taken into account everything really ..
    and touched on all angles…
    The only slight thing missing here was the ‘machismo’ laden vibe which was laced with the sociocultural milieu, uncompromising unrelenting gruesome reality further compounded by kashyaps own maverick bravado.
    It was incidental that the sequence of my viewings was descendants follwoed by gow 1 then 2!
    i enjoyed part 1 > 2
    Nawaaz is over rated (from bits ive seen)
    it was manoj bajpai and dhulia all the way…

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    • can’t disagree more…

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    • yes didn’t talk about the machismo here because partly it goes with the gangster terrain and I pointed out how it belonged to this history. I also mentioned Scorsese and Tarantino in different contexts.

      I will say that though Kashyap doesn’t spend as much time with them some of the key female characters here, specially the ones Sardar Khan is connected with, are more interesting than the men. Or more precisely they’re more fully fleshed out characters whereas the men are types more than anything else. Bajpayi still does a great deal with his performance given the limitations but the others are just the same throughout. They hardly ‘change’ in any serious sense and therefore there are no surprises they can offer.

      On the same machismo front by the time you get to ‘Perpendicular’ and ‘Tangent’ and so on the in the second half things start looking a bit silly. This is the sort of impulse Kashyap should really tame. But the men in Kashyap’s world are never more than the sum of their gesturality. They sometimes command attention for reasons unrelated to this.

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      • “are more interesting than the men. Or more precisely they’re more fully fleshed out characters “–agree
        Even guys in gow are ‘specimens’ each one of em hahah

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      • ya perpendicular and tangent where outright silly and themselves deconstructed machismo but there is a crowd in single screen who for instance will say mc bc sahi hai and thats where narrative falters the machismo constructed in first part falters with deconstruction all around in second part and a story which at times appears to be massy and a times flowing around with various tribute most in deconstructive way …again a confusion in narrative precisely

        there a reason why gow1 did commercially better than second part as rocky said

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  8. when theres talk of GoW–
    dialogues have to be thown around
    ok lemme see…

    ‘yeh Satyamshot hai.
    Yahaan kabootar bhi ek pankh se udta hai
    aur doosre se apni izzat bachata hai’

    be careful folks

    🙂

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  9. What a piece, Satyam. I wish Kashyap reads it and offer his own opinions.

    However, at the risk of sounding presumptuous, I think much of your criticism stems from the fact that there is a disconnect between the kind of filmmaker Kashyap wants to be, which in my opinion is detached, ironic, and mischievous, and the kind of filmmaker that you would like him to be. The kind of emotional connect or grander ambition that you (and most viewers, including myself) are looking for is something he intentionally avoids. The whole film is an example of utter subversion of expectations, especially with regard to the revenge angle (everyone talks about revenge here without ever taking it). Anyway, so I guess my question is can we really criticize a filmmaker for having different ambitions than the ones we, as viewers, feel it should have?

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    • mksrooney Says:

      Interesting observation Henry! I guess i felt the same, but you make it sound better!!

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    • This is a valuable comment, Henry.

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    • That’s a very fair point Henry. I think to the extent that you frame the question this way it is true that Kashyap doesn’t have to be any other kind of filmmaker than the one he is. But I’d argue that Wasseypur is problematic even on his own terms (much as I always found pre-Django Tarantino problematic in the same way). Or perhaps more accurately I see an impasse in this kind of cinema. The deconstruction of the relevant sources ends up also deconstructing the very possibility of a fiction which is to say one an audience can really be invested in. In others words GoW is ‘about’ other films, other traditions much more than it is about itself. Because once that mischievous subversion (as you rightly put it) is removed there is not very much to see. Which in a way is the postmodern conundrum. Not the modernist one. There’s a difference between Godard’s Breathless and Kill Bill. What Tarantino tries to deconstruct is already available in his original sources from Leone to Lady Snowblood. The result is then an often dazzling pastiche attempt but it doesn’t mean much more than this. Meanwhile Godard even as he too mischievously subverts entire genres and the machismo associated with these as well as our expectations of cinematic storytelling (with his editing) he nonetheless also puts forth his own fiction. The film is meant to herald a new moment, a new age in cinema. He creates his own Leone-like balance and even as the old is deconstructed it is rescued through a backdoor. Hence the film creates its own signature in multiple ways. The purposes of commentary are completely fused with the necessity (as Godard feels it) to create a new fiction. The same happens in Leone. Once Upon a Time in the West accounts for the entire tradition of Westerns, in an elegiac mode it offers to close this entire history but it still succeeds as a potent fiction on its own. Whether it’s Godard or Leone or the Tarantino of Django (who in my view finally corrects himself) the gambit is the modernist one where the deconstruction of tradition is almost a kind of red herring, a trope meant to enable the newer one. The pretense of modernism is taken seriously by post-modernism. The compromise the former offers is refused by the latter. Joyce’s Ulysses isn’t really about the Odyssey but Joyce takes great pains to construct an elaborate schema with all possible correspondences. His book pretends to be a modern mock-Odyssey but it is really something else. For post-modernist however such referencing and ironic commentary is really the ‘thing itself’. Leone’s Western could work even without the references as could Joyce’s novel. But Wasseypur cannot because its creator simply isn’t invested in anything but the commentary. In other words it’s not a film but a meta-film. It is about other films.

      Beyond this the epic structure here doesn’t suggest just an attempt at minor cinema a la Dev D or No Smoking or something. It is clearly an ambitious film. Your revenge point is incidentally a great one. And thanks greatly for a fine comment overall.

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      • I wish Kashap directs a regular film without bloodshed, criminals, exploitation and revenge angle etc. Without casting Manoj Bajpai, Kalki koechlin, Nawajuddin,ajay Devgn.

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      • so you were waiting for kashyap’s film to write something as fantastic as this? kidding!
        anyways, great piece! i haven’t watched the film, but i am more motivated to do so now so i can come back to this. honestly, i haven’t been too enthusiastic about checking this out, especially with the length of the double-feature. but will do so when i have the time.
        agree with henry that it is partially about expectations. but even though i have liked black friday and dev d immensely, i still think there is a better, even a great film, in kashyap.

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        • thanks Anu, it should definitely be checked out. I did find part 2 a bit of a chore.

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          • Was actually going to ask how you felt the structure and overall work compared to the Rakht Charitra duo.

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          • Ideally someone should do a comparison of these two works. This piece has exhausted me (!) and I can’t attempt it. But I will say I think RGV has the superior effort. Somewhat related comments (think you’ve seen some of these before):

            https://satyamshot.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/gangs-of-wasseypur-trailer/#comment-157892

            https://satyamshot.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/murder-3-special-26-ongoing-the-rest-of-the-box-office/#comment-210666

            other than this I can only direct folks here to a comment on RGV’s work:

            https://satyamshot.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/gf-on-rakht-charitra-1-2/#comment-80840

            and of course your own fantastic piece within which that comment is embedded.

            I’d only add here RGV’s film whatever one thinks of it to my mind accounts for some of these impasses. Interestingly though RGV never quite took the Tarantino/Kashyap route. Whether it’s Satya or Company, the Sarkar films or the RC double he too deals with some of the same post-Scorsese, post-Leone legacies (too early for Tarantino) but he never quite arrives at that ‘postmodern’ moment. The fictions are always meant to be taken seriously. I think between him and Kashyap occurs in this sense — Kashyap follows the Tarantino impulse while RGV strives for an operatic aesthetic and increasingly stylization to break out of the naturalist/realist heritage. It could however be fairly argued that sometimes these aesthetic gestures risk too much (both in Sarkar and RC) because they run dangerously close to reducing all politics to aesthetics, a deeply troubling move. But I find the mix to be nonetheless a far better formulation in terms of addressing some of these challenges. And the cinema is visceral enough that it cannot simply be consumed in the ways that Tarantino’s work (and by extension Wasseypur) has often lent itself to. The RC double especially is arguably the most overlooked film in contemporary Bombay cinema. Even with Raavan at least the extremely hostile reaction meant something. With RC it was more or less indifference. I want to revisit the films again after Wasseypur. In fact it’s one of those rare contemporary works I feel I can revisit quite often.

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          • It’s true that no RGV film has suffered as undeserving a reception as a result of his recent career debacles as the RCs. Hope history is kinder on this film.

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  10. Meant to say “he should have”

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  11. Insects are attracted to the fire and then they are consumed, destroyed by it.

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  12. Same way Ostrich hides head in sand not to see things that are so naked.

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  13. When threatened, the ostrich will either hide itself by lying flat against the ground, or run away. If cornered, it can attack with a kick of its powerful legs.

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  14. Ostrich is always cornered, so he hides in sand. Its not Kick but Ostrichs natural Instinct to hide in sand that is important… Natural instinct 🙂

    If he wanted to kick then Why hide head in sand 🙂 ???

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  15. One can go to Ostrich and ask it !

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  16. Utkal Mohanty Says:

    I have no quarrel with the weaknesses pointed out. They are very much there. But the strengths are much too overwhelming for me to even think about the weaknesses, which from another perspective are not even weaknesses. The emotional connect at many crucial points have been deconstructed by postmodern irony or just playfulness. But then whoever reads One Hundred Years of Solitude for emotional connect. That’s the other thing. For me it did not seem like a film about other films at all. When I think back on the film and the scenes that I have taken back home with me from the film don’t remind me of other films at all. I think of Marquez, Murakami and Mahabharata…rather than Leone, Tarantino or Godard. I guess if you see a film wearing the glasses of Film Theory, every wfilm will appear as a success or failure in terms of a particular film theory. On the other hand, if you look at it as a human document …( which I do with a film or a novel or a painting or a piece of music), what you will take home is the rich, quirky and singular lives of Sardar Kahn, Faizal, Durga, Mohsina, Definite, Perpendicular and Tangent. The other principle I apply while gading a film is the Pleasure Principle – this gave me about ten times more pleasure than Black Friday ( Dev D is pretty close). And the pleasure was pretty similar to that of reading a novel by a modern master.

    “Beyond this the film is simply effective docu-drama…”

    Yeah, right! And like the old ad caption says, ” The Ferrari is simply an efficient car…”!

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  17. I don’t think Satyam is arguing from a ‘film theory’ perspective at all. In fact, quite the contrary, he is saying that he just could not connect with the film. That, to me, is the most basic and important criticism one could have about a film.

    However, I would argue that GOWs narrative works well enough on its own at least for me that I wouldn’t call it just a ‘meta’ film. I would use that criticism, however, for something like Jhoom Barabar Jhoom.

    And I don’t think Django offers any kind of correction on the usual Tarantino. The characters are still too meta, with character development (if there is any) that is basically born out of other films, not out of any degree of emotional realism. Specifically, Django is a creation of movie gods, not a real character imo. Having said that, I loved that film immensely.

    Like

    • The first half of JBJ was indeed a meta-film and it was the more interesting part. The second half was quite amusing on its own but it suddenly became a regular comedy in this segment. So the two halves are really at odds with each other. There is tonal leap that occurs. But this was supposed to be a small town film and a film along the same lines. They erred in giving it the kind of treatment they did. But this is in line with my claim on GoW. A smaller, quicker film inhabits the body of JBJ. By trying to make a more expansive film out of it they blundered. There are still moments I like a great deal here but I always rue the missed opportunity.

      Like

      • I am very partial to first half of jbj, even with too many songs and the silly cameo by bachchan that it cold have done without. The second was a mess and very much a yrf film which ruined the whole. It’s still enjoyable in parts

        Like

    • and thanks for the initial paragraph. People tend to be rather confused about what constitutes ‘film theory’ anyway. Of course there are more rarefied forms in this sense that rely on a much more academic approach (which doesn’t disqualify it by any means) but my attempt has always been to frame a more impressionistic approach that is (hopefully) theoretically consistent but for the most part isn’t about positing a theoretical framework in any formal sense. Leaving this aside even the more usual pieces one sees in the film media (in India) still belong to certain schools of film theory or even larger theoretical concerns. These might be expressed in more ‘obvious’ or accessible language but this hardly removes those underpinnings. Critics don’t just say a film is good or bad, they offer reasons and these rely on certain approaches to cinema.

      Like

    • Django IMHO is Tarantino’s homage to ‘Mard’ and Manmohan Desai. I wud add Inglorious Basterds to the list as well. Its as if Tarantino wanted to follow Desai’s lead of recreating history within a Masala framework (as he did with Mard, Dharam-Veer, Desh Premi). Maybe add Kranti to that list as well. Beyond a Masala rendition of history, I fail to see what the heck critics found so elevating in both these Tarantino movies.

      Like

  18. masterpraz Says:

    Remarkable reading here Satyam…dont agree with everything here but its a fine reading.

    Just shared it on Showwizz…

    http://www.showwizz.com/arguing-with-gangs-of-wasseypur/

    I’ll get around to reviewing it soon, though IMO its the finest Hindi film of the last decade (arguably)

    Like

  19. I somewhat agree with that assessment masterpraz
    Somehow I go instinctively and don’t use notes, tick boxes and another analytical tools while assessing films
    It’s in the moment vibe and to me 4.5/5 made me uncomfortable.
    I wanted to give it 5/5
    I will now make a statement which many may feel preposterous
    In his lifetime, I won’t be surprised if anurag kashyap creates an Oscar winning film!!!
    He has it in him (which can’t be said for most /maybe all indian film-makers)
    Obviously for that to happen, the coming decadesm the Indian film market will expand further . also I feel the foreign film category impedes rather than celebrated foreign films. In the current state of affairs, oscars remains an old boys club based in the America
    I’m talkin purely quality
    Anurag kashyap has it in him and with age and maturity his juvenile maverick tendencies will subside and vision will hopefully develop further. The raw material is all there
    I saw it in Gangs of wasseypur

    Like

  20. While Modi was ‘apparently’ drawing huge crowds in Kerala someone should have asked him to stop over in Karnataka!

    Like

    • He did.. but it did not work since Yeddy bear ensured BJP’s downfall..the Lingayat sect in Karnataka is a tremendous force..you cannot antagonize it and expect to walk away with your arms flailing..Yeddy bear with his under and over the table donations to the Lingayat mathas in the state has ensure he has them under his control..Even the Brahmins from North karnataka or Mysore/Bangalore area are a minuscule force in Karnataka..Well Brahmins are a minuscule force in present days anywhere in India..

      It was more of Yeddy’s Machiavelian machinations than ‘performance’ factor that decided the tilt..

      Like

      • yes the BJP votes were split but hey I’ll take a BJP loss any which way!

        Like

        • Yep..and this ‘any which way’ is also the main factor that helped the tele-genic President of the Century to regain power..though the ‘spin’ Pundits on TV and press tried/try their level best to soap it up with many weird factors like ‘performance’ and ‘scholastics.’ Hell, even the Nobel Peace academy gave him a degree even before the completion of his course for ‘encouragement.’ Jeez!! Wish Gandhi had access to television..

          Strange but predictable are the ways of caste and color politics..

          Like

          • ha! as somebody on twitter said “that awkward moment when you end up choosing congress in your state because the state bjp govt. is so bad”

            Like

          • hoping for two Hillary terms now to make it 16 years of Dem rule! At least one to create some more history.

            Like

          • i don’t know if hillary is going to run though. she has been very demure about the whole thing.

            Like

        • And I’ll wait for Day when congress is completely destroyed in India..
          Congress Mukt Bharat !

          Congress has left nothing more to destroy in India. The plunder and loot is complete by congi’s

          Like

        • India is presided by 2 persons, One most dishonest. despicable, disgusting PM ever MMS and 2nd one, SG holding all powers without any accountability….

          Now Desh ka Damaad will travel to Bang to Swallow real estate there after galloping real estate in Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi.

          Like

          • with all due respect it’s an old Indian trope to always accuse the other side of being the most dishonest etc. I know people in TN who are supporters of Jayalalitha and who accuse the DMK of housing the biggest thugs and what not. The problem I also have with this is that ideological commitments are masked as general law and order complaints and concerns with corruption and so forth.

            Like

  21. sanjana Says:

    Salvation lies in starvation.

    The snacks looks small. But they make you big.

    Who says elephants are the largest animals? Just go to america to watch human elephants.

    The way to hell is through your mouth.

    Be slim. It takes less fuel to burn you and less ground to bury you.

    Food is poison. Hunger is the devil.

    The devil is waiting to be provoked. So stay away.

    The devil is there itching to trap you. Beware.

    What looks good is not always good.

    What is tasty is nasty.

    A multi billion dollar industry depends on the unshapely.

    Like

  22. aryanzzblog Says:

    Well…you call it a failure but i cant see why….
    It was good man…for Indian standards, it was an epic. Please, give them some time…they will evolve.
    I have written about some of the motifs used in the film on my blog, and about the dialogues. I have also provided a link to your blog in it. Please visit it… I will be happy if you like it.

    http://aryanzzblog.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/aryan-speaks-an-ode-to-the-gangs/

    Like

  23. With all due respect, I’d like to say ‘ fuck you’. Picking up shortcomings from this brilliant movie by Anurag Kashyap and enlisting them just to find a bunch of other dumb people in unison with your views is not a real talent. If you really know this much about film-making, why don’t you make a film and we’ll see if it turns out to be perfect in each frame for another egoistic critic like you.

    Like

    • would hate to find out what you felt like when there wasn’t ‘due respect’!

      On the rest though perhaps the person who critiques the politician should first be in politics himself (or herself), similarly the person criticizing a sportsperson should start playing that sport first and better, the one criticizing an actor should first act and do a better job than the actor he or she is tough on. Etc. This logic as you see creates a bit of a conundrum for me. I can’t criticize you for your temperate views or your sense of balance because you’d expect me to go one up on you in this respect and I must admit I lack these refined skills.

      Like

      • Dude, do you even understand the bhojpuri accent that was used in the entire movie? The movie left an impact due to the bhojpuri language that no movie till date couldn’t achieve. The movie might have gotten few facts wrong, so take it as a work of fiction. Who claimed that it was an account of real events that took place?
        I just meant to convey that a person with acute observations like yours sits in his room, writes up a post suggesting legends like tarantino & kashyap to improve upon their film-making skills and gets appreciated by others too was too difficult to digest for me.
        Sportsperson sweat it out on the field, not the journalists ; filmmakers spend usually years to make a movie that you analyze within hours. I’m a big fan of the movie and would happily ignore any fallacies if even they were there.

        Like

        • rockstar Says:

          chee cha one of the song have huge hangover of magahi…accent was hindi with hardly anything bhojpuri apart from folk song

          chalat musafir moh liya re is one legendary song of mr raj kapoor it has the bhojpuri hangover

          Like

          • rockstar Says:

            btw agree with one thing which anurag says punjafication of bollywood is curse

            hindi films shold be made fir hindi audiences

            Like

        • Only Bajpai spoke Bihari..rest of them spoke hindi or Govinda’s Bihari.
          ps – Proper Bhojpuri will go above head of average audience.

          Like

    • rockstar Says:

      [edited] as well so you are calling others dumb

      wonder why an epic did not managed to even have proper research even on historical part

      http://www.indiatimes.com/bollywood/wasseypur-people-angry-with-anurag-kashyap-30622.html

      Like

  24. This is something very interesting- connects GoW to Bachchan’s iconography and so on. And I think this is one of the very few ‘HINDI’ blogs on Indian cinema (would love this one to be added to the blogroll)-

    बच्चन सिनेमा और उसकी ईर्ष्यालु संतति-गिरिराज किराडू

    http://chavannichap.blogspot.in/2012/07/blog-post_05.html

    ” अनुराग कश्यप ने सिनेमा की जैसी बौद्धिक संभावनाएं जगाई थीं उनकी फ़िल्में उन संभावनाओं पर वैसी खरी नहीं उतर पाती हैं.’गैंग्स ऑफ वासेपुर’ का भी वही हाल हुआ. इस फिल्म ने सिनेमा देखने वाले बौद्धिक समाज को सबसे अधिक निराश किया है. हमारे विशेष आग्रह पर कवि-संपादक-आलोचक गिरिराज किराडू ने इस फिल्म का विश्लेषण किया है, अपने निराले अंदाज में- जानकी पुल.
    ============================================

    [गैंग्स ऑफ वासेपुर की ‘कला’ के बारे में बात करना उसके फरेब में आना है, उसके बारे में उस तरह से बात करना है जैसे वह चाहती है कि उसके बारे में बात की जाए. समीरा मखमलबाफ़ की ‘तख़्त-ए-सियाह’ के बाद फिल्म पर लिखने का पहला अवसर है. गर्मियों की छुट्टियाँ थीं, दो बार (एक बार सिंगल स्क्रीन एक बार मल्टीप्लेक्स) देखने जितना समय था और सबसे ऊपर जानकीपुल संपादक का हुक्म था]

    अमिताभ बच्चन अपनी फिल्मों में ‘बदला’ लेने में नाकाम नहीं होता. तब तो बिल्कुल नहीं जब वह बदला लेने के लिए अपराधी बन जाय. बदला लेने में कामयाब होना उन कई फार्मूलों में से एक अहम फार्मूला है जो अमिताभ बच्चन के सिनेमा ने बनाया. और यह फार्मूला – ‘व्यक्तिगत’ स्पेस में हुए अन्याय का प्रतिकार कानून और सामाजिक नैतिकता = स्टेट की मशीनरी से बाहर जा कर ही संभव है उर्फ अपराधी होना एंटी-स्टेट होना है – उन कई फार्मूलों में से एक है जिन पर गैंग्स ऑफ वासेपुर बनी है. ‘मर्दानगी’ का ‘प्रदर्शनवाद’ (एग्जिबिशनिज्म) और उसका सफल कमोडिफिकेशन; स्त्री-‘बोल्डनेस’ के दो बेसिक प्रकारों – एरोटिक (दुर्गा) और लिंग्विस्टिक (नग्मा) – का उतना ही सफल कमोडिफिकेशन और ज़बरदस्त संगीत (चाहे वह हमेशा संगत न हो) ऐसे ही कुछ दीगर फार्मूले हैं जिन पर यह फिल्म बनी है, वैसे ही जैसे बहुत सारी फिल्में बनती आयी हैं.


    फिल्म का आखिरी दृश्य है. फिल्म के ‘हीरो’ सरदार खान को उसी जगह – एक पेट्रोल पम्प – पर शूट किया जा रहा है जहाँ उसे पहला अपराध करते हुए दिखाया जाता है.
    उसे गिर के मर जाना चाहिए, हो सके तो स्क्रीन पर उसका चेहरा नहीं आना चाहिए (वैसे ही जैसे उन बहुत सारे लोगों के चेहरे नहीं आये मरते वक्त स्क्रीन पर जिनकी वह हत्या करता है: इसी तरह, पब्लिक स्पेस में). लेकिन एक बेहद वल्गर (पहली बार देखते हुए/ मुझे इस फिल्म में, इसकी गालियों समेत और कुछ भी ‘वल्गर’ नहीं लगा — यह भी वल्गर इस अर्थ में है कि यह देसी मेचोइज्म को एक प्रोडक्ट में बदलता है और बतौर बोनस एक सामूहिक पहचान – बिहारी- को एक उपभोक्ता समूह के तौर पर सीधे एड्रैस करता है ) और बेहद हास्यास्पद (दूसरी बार देखते हुए) दृश्य में वह स्लोमोशन में गिरता है और पार्श्व में उसके हीरोइज्म को सेलेब्रेट करता हुआ एक गीत बजता है जो बीसियों लोगों को क़त्ल कर चुके सरदार खान को ऐसे हीरो के रूप में याद करता है जिसके
    “पुरखे जिये अँधेरा
    और तूने जना उजाला”
    रस ले लेकर हत्याएं करने वाले सरदार ने कौनसा उजाला पैदा किया है इसके बारे में मत सोचिये न ही उसके पिता के कोयला मजदूर और ‘पहलवान’ के तौर पर जिये अंधेरों के बारे में आप कल्पना करिये कि सरदार के बर्फ छीलने वाले पेंचकस से सरे राह हत्या करने वाले हाथ उन कन्धों से जुड़े हैं जिन पर ‘चढ़ के सूरज आकाश में रोज पहुँचता’ (एकदम वीरगाथा काव्य है!) है और इस तरह याद रखिये कि आपके अपने जीवन के उजाले का ‘बाप’ भी कौन है.
    अगर आप बिहार से हैं तो मनोज वाजपेयी पर बलिहारी होते हुए दुआएं दीजिए कि ‘आपका’ लाला हज़ार साल जिये, बची हुई दो बीवियां और रक्खे, दोनों से ‘प्यारे’ लगने वाले दो-चार ‘सपूत’ और पैदा करे और नाची गाई आपका ‘मनोरंजन’ करता रहे.
    और अगर आप अंग्रेजी में दुनिया देखते हैं तो एग्जोटिका के परफेक्ट एग्जोटिक अंत पर प्रभावित हो जाइये. लिरिक्स पूरी तरह समझ में न आये तो कोई बात नहीं……

    More here- http://chavannichap.blogspot.in/2012/07/blog-post_05.html

    Like

    • haven’t read this but do agree that GoW is soaked in Bachchan’s history. It’s not even just this film. So much of Indian commercial cinema since Bachchan, whether in Hindi or elsewhere, is simply not fully comprehensible without accounting for his event. It’s not just about genre or thematic continuity, it’s equally about an entire brand of gesturality. So on and so forth. For instance when women are ‘avengers’ or authoritarian figures in some of the commercial films (and even otherwise) over the last thirty years or more they are so on in Bacchanesque ways. This applies as much to Rekha in Insaaf ki Awaaz as it does to Shabana Azmi in Godmother. Once again the event enframes everything, reorders the entire field and everything becomes a ‘response’ to it till the event holds sway. I’ve mentioned this before but both Aditya Chopra and Johar had dream films that incorporated the Bachchan history but which they got to later for one reason or another. Even as the Yahsraj world was dominant it was a response to Bachchan’s decades which was proven by the fact that the Bachchan ‘gap’ was always felt here and eventually Bachchan himself stepped into these worlds. More broadly the very world in which SRK could prosper was also one in which Bachchan became India’s most transcendent cultural icon in the ‘consumption’ sense. Then there has been the ‘troubled’ history of Abhishek and the degree to which much of the reception surrounding him and his peers accounts for his genealogical singularity. So for example all the negativity about him, even on his best days, all the uncertainty with which even his pure successes are greeted, etc attest to something beyond his career. I’ve expanded on all these points before and won’t repeat everything. This is just a rough schema but my point is that the GoW thing is not surprising in any way. of course the whole ‘tongue-in-cheek’ tone Kashyap adopts with respect to Bachchan and masala cinema is in one sense an affectionate homage but at another level is problematic. Because it is yet another instance of masala not being ‘acceptable’ in the present unless it is examined with ironic distance.

      Like

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