An epic called ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ – Movie Review (No spoilers)

  • Rarely, does a Hindi movie manage to attract international critics as well as the ‘mass’ Indian audience.
  • Rarely, has an Indian director compared to the likes of Quentin Tarentino and Francis Ford Copolla – and that, by international film critics at Cannes.
  • Rarely, does a film have so many strong characters, and portray each one without compromising on the strength of characterisation.
  • Rarely, does a movie like Gangs of Wasseypur ever get made.

A section of my fellow conversationalists might beleive that I am pushing the envelope here with my opinion on Gangs of Wasseypur. But I will still hold ground. Gangs of Wasseypur is a movie that you want to watch again, for a second time, probably the third – because each time you feel you are able to connect the dots a little better. The slight nudge, the muted reactions, the deeper reasons and the hidden intentions. It is like an epic that unfolds itself – thread by thread.

If you like GOW1, you are probably going to like GOW2 even more. If not for the cinematic experience itself, you will love it for the characters. They have a way of endearing themselves to you. Even though they may be negative. In the past, there have been movies where negative roles ‘rocked’ because the characters were overtly negative and perhaps even repulsive. GOW takes ‘the middle path’ – perhaps making sure that ‘grey’ characters are loveable – simply because of who they are. And Anurag Kashyap has managed to do this without broaching or preaching morality. Quite commendable in a country with a ‘holier than thou’ audience like ourselves.

If Manoj Bajpayee’s portrayal of ‘Sardar Khan’ in GOW1 gave you a sense of familiar brilliance, you have fresh brilliance to contend with in GOW2. ‘Faizal Khan’ (played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is flawless. While the performances of virtually all actors was excellent (and that again, is rare), one performance that still managed to stand out – is that of ‘Definite’ – played by Zeishan Qadri, incidentally also the script-writer of the film. I found this interesting piece about the evolution of the script (and the script-writer) on wikipedia which is worth a read:

“..and started writing a concept note for a film based on real-life incidents in Dhanbad. On May 30, 2009, he sold the concept to Anurag Kashyap, who he had been chasing for about a fortnight.Quadriā€™s deal was simple. He would write the script and play the character Definite, a key character in the second part of the two-part film.[6] In 35 days, he produced a script of 140 pages, which read like a novel. Anurag didn’t want to leave out any detail therefore it was decided that Gangs of Wasseypur would be made in two parts, a story that would span several decades and generations, from 1941 to 2009. Zeishan Quadri brought the real story of gang war, involving the coal mafia, on big screen with Gangs of Wasseypur.”

A strong, impactful and deeply influential performer int he movie is the music. For a script with strong characterization, it is the music of GOW which adds character to the script itself. Sneha Khanwalkar, is in my opinion, an absolute rock-star (and I mean don’t mean the genre!). She has the ability to get immersed and get her listeners immersed along with her. True genius. Being authentic without belonging to a certain place is a skill that she seems to have mastered (a case in point being the music of ‘Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye’, also by the same lady). Personally, I liked the music of GOW1 better than GOW2, but Sneha – beating your own record is totally permissible! šŸ˜‰

A close friend attributes my fondness for the movie to the “relatability” factor. He thinks I like Gangs of Wasseypur so much because I spent 4 years of my engineering in the state. I beg to differ. I like the movie because it is a piece of art. Period.

Rating: 4.5 Stars out of 5.

Kahaani: Pre-release opinion – Oh Calcutta!

What is a pre-release review? – It is an opinion about a movie, about expectations BEFORE the movie is released. I hadn’t really thought I would ever write about a movie before even seeing it. But the Calcuttan in me (notice the archaic spelling!) could not resist.

I was quite ‘taken’ by the trailer of the movie – it is distinctively Calcutta. Right from “Durga Pujo” to the Kolkata Police inspector in his trademark white uniform registering “Bidya”‘s complaint. While pursuing the research to know more about the movie, I also realized that I happen to somewhat know the script writer – Advaita Kala. We had met briefly last year through a common friend, she was just about launched her first book Almost Single, and she seems to have done pretty well for herself. She also wrote the script for Anjaana Ajnaani.

Kahaani has been directed by Sujoy Ghosh – ‘the man’ behind the distinctively Calcutta flavour of the movie, I guess. Some of the visuals are extremely pleasing – the ambassador taxis, the metro, the ‘dhak’ sound and the bells, the tram, the autos, victorial memorial, the narrow by-lanes.. I always seem to have an inexplicable eagerness to watch any movie based out of/shot in Calcutta. The familiarity and flavour is something that sticks deep. In fact, I don’t know why I seem to like watching this random Bengali movie called Bong Connection, which other than ‘Calcutta’ connection has nothing else to keep me too engaged!

I guess it is the city – its like a magnet. Binds people together. Keeps you hooked to it if you have a connection. As is often said, cornily, you can take a man out of Calcutta, but you can’t take Calcutta out of a man. Applies to me.

‘Kahaani.: Bring it on! Here’s the official theatrical trailer on youtube.

MOVIE REVIEW: Aarakshan: Based on a true, inspirational story!

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Director: Prakash Jha

Key Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Manoj Bajpai

Music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy

Rating: 4/5

Plot Summary: Amitabh Bachchan plays the anchor role of the legendary college professor who single-handedly grows and runs a privately-run institution. His values of sincerity, honesty and giving equitable opportunities to deserving students from all sections of society land him in a situation where he is caught in the midst of a society torn apart by the issue of reservation. Set in the backdrop of the Supreme Court judgement affirming 27% of reservations in favour of OBCs (Other Backward Castes), the movie tells the story of a few lives, their interactions and the solution of a people’s conflict.

REVIEW: There are 3 things that stand out about the movie. Firstly, iconic performances by Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan and Manoj Bajpai. In fact, one thing I have observed and appreciated throughout is Manoj Bajpai’s uncanny ability to pull of a negative role with immense finesse. If you remember the movie “Aks” you would love how one would get repelled everytime he got onto the screen. I see milder shades of that negative streak in his portrayal of the character o theĀ corruptĀ educationist ‘Mithilesh Singh’ in Aarakshan.

The second thing that stands out about the movie is Prakash Jha’s signature style and approach to bringing out an issue into the open. He does it in a way that touches the masses and forces one to think about it and have an opinion. After all, how many Indians can avoid taking a stand on ‘Reservations’, if they see a figure as recognized as Amitabh Bachchan playing the role of the confused protagonist who, despite his sincerest efforts, is literally shunned by society for taking a stand and sticking to it.

TRUE STORY: Incidentally, a part of the movie is based on a real-life story of mathematician Anand Kumar who started ‘Super 30’ in Patna, Bihar. Anand Kumar, thanks to his deep love for mathematics, started a ‘Super 30’ coaching class in 2002 – where he would admit 30 students every year from economically backward families and train them to clear the IIT-JEE. THe first year (2003) saw 18 out of the 30 students gain entry into the IITs, but the team struck gold for 2 years in a row from 2008, 2009 and 2010 when 30 out of 30 made it into the IITs. Of course, the icing on the cake is that these classes are offered FREE of cost to the 30 selected students.

The institute has received praise from all quarters.Ā United States President Barack Obama’s special envoy Rashad Hussain termed it the ā€œbestā€ institute in the country.[4]. Newsweek Magazine has taken note of the initiative of mathematician Anand Kumarā€™s Super 30 and included his school in the list of four most innovative schools in the world.

My third and final observation is that in typical Prakash Jha style, the movie is centred around the ‘Hindi heartland’ of the country. Most of his movies – Gangaajal, Apaharan, Rajneeti and (now!) Aarakshan are based in the central states of Uttar Pradesh & Bihar. Aarakshan is shot entirely in Bhopal.Ā In fact, one thing that strikes you about the movie is the way the song-and-dance sequences blend seamlessly with the movie.

I will end the review with the song “Mauka Toh De Do” – ‘Ek channas toh de de meri jaan tu, phir udaan dekhna.’ It forceully drives home the point in a very ‘grasroot’ kind o a way – just as it is. On the ground. Hats off Jha-ji – We need more like you to open our eyes and think more deeply about the issues thatĀ surroundĀ us. The video follows..

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