Penetrating deep into the psyche and habitat of rural India, the blood and gore spills from era to era between fierce, feuding families.
The plot: Plunder on trains is as much a part of our golden history as the famous Dandi March. Shahid Khan (Jaideep Ahlawat) plunders trains to steal coal and grains in the dead of the night in the name of Sultana Daku. Shoved out of his village, he starts working as a labourer at Ramadhir Singh’s (Tigmanshu Dhulia) colliery in Dhanbad. When Ramadhir kills Shahid, the next gen led by son Sardar Khan (Manoj Bajpayee) has to avenge his father’s death. However he chooses not to just pick up a gun and shoot his father’s killer, he wants to make Ramadhir realize the price that he must pay for the murder. Thus begins Sardar’s capricious and callous journey strewn with death, pain and revenge.
The good: The basic idea of the movie might sound antique with gangs, revenge and counter revenge. However, this one pushes the envelope to go beyond known boundaries with louder, darker and more disturbing treatment that gouges realism from secretive rural India. The story might have time travelled to the pre-Independence era but the way it’s treated, by adding contemporary appeal to the music or even the humour, gives it a compelling appeal. The direction is wide as Kashyap does not focus only on the stories of gang wars but adds several nuances of every era to the film, be it a song sung by Yashpal Sharma Mukesh-style or the overriding influence of Amitabh Bachchan, his films, his dressing, his dialogues or his aviators on the northern side of India.
A story and within it some more stories and within them some more sub-texts, this one cannot be watched while BBMing or Whatsapping, it demands total attention with the number of characters and things happening at all times. The film has some loose ends that are not tied too well. However, the film also has some metaphors which elevate it to intelligent cinema levels like the scene where a long shot is taken over the bridge with Manoj Bajpayee where a gangster’s car is cornering a minister’s car forcing it to go in reverse direction showing the state of affairs in that side of the world.
The music is curious with songs like ‘Keh ke loongi’ and ‘I am hunter’ (composed by Sound Trippin show fame Sneha Khanwalkar) adding a new flavour. Folksy and rustic, they are customised, adding to the mood. Amusing jive music in the background even in a mentally disturbing scene adds fun and avoids boredom.
The performances are drenched in genuineness. Manoj Bajpayee seems consumed by his role and he does it with complete ease. Even side characters like his two wives Nagma (Richa Chaddha) and Durga (Reema Sen) or Manoj Bajpayee’s children in the film, have given their best to Wasseypur. The cinematography (Rajeev Ravi) also scoops out certain beautiful frames like a boat in the lake at one moment and then he scares the daylights out of you with stark gory shots and an overdose of noir frames. The narration is gripping and the use of local dialect with authentic accent just completes its rawness.
The bad: The film can be disliked by people due to the feeling of self-indulgence. Commerce does not seem to have driven this film as it may lose some section of the audience who would find it exceedingly distressing, filthy, abusive and blood-spattered. The film has a lot of content at all times but it is also stretched to appear lengthy with unimportant scenes just going on and on even after their creative juices are drained.
There is humour in parts, but it’s mostly there only in the second half. The plot is also déjà vu with avenging a father’s death done literally to death in Hindi cinema. The film gets boring at times as seen-it-before staleness creeps in and the humour or the cleverness in dialogues sometimes loses its way. Scenes like Durga’s sensuousness which are over-depicted could have been reduced in length to retain their substance. The saving grace is the fresh treatment.
Overall: An intelligent film for those who enjoy the noire genre and digest bloodshed, abuses and politics with ease.
PS: This is just the first half of a complete 5 hour 20 minute film made by Anurag Kashyap. Shades of Ram Gopal Varma’s bloody Rakta Charitra?
– Pooja Thakkar