Gangs of Wasseypur (2012): Part - I of Indian filmmaker Anurag Kashyap’s Epic Crime Saga

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Gangs of Wasseypur, Directed by Anurag Kashyap, Manoj Bajpai
Gangs of Wasseypur (2012) - By Anurag Kashyap

Our Rating: 8.0
IMDb Ratings: 8.6
Genre: Crime  | Drama
CastJaideep Ahlawat, Manoj Bajpai, Richa Chadda
Country: India
Language: Hindi
Runtime: 159 min
Color: Color

Note: For review of Gangs of Wasseypur II, please click here

Gangs of Wasseypur is a 2012 Hindi crime movie directed and co-written by Indian movie-maker Anurag Kashyap starring veteran Indian actor Manoj Bajpai in the lead role. The five hour long movie premiered at the Directors’ Fortnight section—an independent section held in parallel to the Cannes Film Festival—at the 65th Cannes Film Festival. However, as far as the commercial release of Gangs of Wasseypur is concerned, the makers have decided to screen it in two parts of roughly 150 minutes each. Set in Wasseypur—the Muslim-majority district surrounding Jharkhand’s (earlier a part of Bihar) coal capital, Dhanbad—Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur is a crime saga that revolves around a three-generation long sanguinary rivalry between two disputing Muslim clans: the ‘Khans’ and the ‘Qureshis’. However, this bloody battle is not religious but strictly territorial in nature as the two clans indulge in incessant fights seeking carte blanche to run their respective crime syndicates in Wasseypur. 

sardar khan, manoj bajpai, blood stained knife, Gangs of Wasseypur, directed by Anurag KAshyap
Manoj Bajpai as Sardar Khan in Gangs of Wasseypur
It’s worth mentioning that the events and circumstances depicted in Gangs of Wasseypur are fictionalized accounts of the real life events that occurred in the district of Wasseypur during the pre and post-independence India. Unable to overlook the hype preceding the release of Gangs of Wasseypur, I just couldn’t resist the temptation of catching it first day first show. And, I must concede that I wasn’t disappointed—at least not utterly. Gangs of Wasseypur had enough to keep me interested, especially from the academic point of view. Before going ahead any further with my analysis of Gangs of Wasseypur, I first want to emphasize upon the fact that Anurag Kashyap’s crime saga, irrespective of its entertainment quotient, marks a new beginning in Indian cinema. It is for this very reason that Gangs of Wasseypur serves to be an essential viewing for anyone whose purpose for indulging in cinema is not limited to seeking entertainment

anurag kashyap with huma qureshi, cannes, gangs of wasseypur
Anurag Kashyap and Huma Qureshi at Cannes 2012
Today, Indian cinema finds itself at the crossroads. The formula for movie’s commercial success has changed drastically over the last decade with the advent of multiplexes. The urban viewers have grown more intelligent while the rural viewers have become choosier. The Censor Board has grown more mature in its scrutiny of content. All this has made the medium more formidable than it had ever been, thus giving rise to cinema that is richer in content and more potent in propagation. However, Indian cinema still has a long way to reach the superlative standards set by International cinema, not only in terms of technique but also in terms of treatment. Today, despite some occasional spurs, Indian cinema is still on the lookout for someone who can lead the Indian contention on the international platform lest the world of cinema completely forgets the remarkable contribution made by the likes of Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak. In today's dynamic scenario, art-cinema is definitely not the need of the time, but what's really disconcerting is that Indian commercial cinema has been forced to become an inept instrument in the hands of those who have no understanding of cinema. We need to explore all the available opportunities and search for a middle path where a successful trade-off can be done between the two streams of cinema in order to reach the best possible outcome. In my own opinion, amongst the new crop of Indian moviemakers, Anurag Kashyap seems to have a definite edge over his peers to be the obvious choice to lead the Indian juggernaut in the global arena. With genre-breaking  films like Gulaal, No Smoking, and Dev D, he has definitely carved a niche for himself. Now, whether Kashyap lives up to the expectations is for the time to decide, but what can be safely said at this stage is that with Gangs of Wasseypur Kashyap has significantly bolstered his prospects as a moviemaker.

Manoj Bajpai as Sardar Khan, Gangs of Wasseypur
Manoj Bajpai as Sardar Khan in Gangs of Wasseypur 
sardar khan gang, gangs of wasseypur, Directed by anurag Kashyap
A Still from Anurag Kashyaps' Gangs of Wasseypur
Before I digress any further, let me first come straight to the point and ask myself the most critical question: Is Gangs of Wasseypur worth a watch? Unfortunately, there cannot be any objective answer to this question, for it purely depends on the taste of the viewer. While Gangs of Wasseypur has something for almost everyone, an average viewer may, at times, have to look into the most distant corners to search for that elusive moment. Now, I am not saying that Gangs of Wasseypur is a difficult movie to watch and that it would bore an average viewer to death. On the contrary, the movie has all the makings of a quintessential Bollywood Masala movie with its adrenaline-pumping screenplay, comic-like imposing style, relentless bursts of sanguinary action that’s up there with the ranks of a Western, and racy dialogue that’s surfeit with vernacular expletives, double entendres and dark humor. In fact, Gangs of Wasseypur offers too much of everything with such mastery and conviction that the plot gets lost somewhere amidst this abundance. If, as a viewer, you can prevent yourself from getting unsettled by this excess of everything and somehow fathom the substance wrapped in the thick layers of style then Gangs of Wasseypur can serve to be an unforgettable cinematic experience. Another thing that I observed while watching Gangs of Wasseypur was that many viewers were disgruntled by the movie’s abrupt ending, and the text flashing ‘to be continued’ came as a huge shock to most of them. While it may appear like a good marketing move on the part of the producers, the omission of a subtext like ‘Part – I’—that more than anything would have spared the less informed audience members a bout of horror—in the movie’s title is likely to have some serious repercussions, for the Indian audience is not accustomed to such unpleasant ‘surprises’.

manoj bajpai in gangs of wasseypur, Sardar Khan and Gang on Two Wheeler, Directed by Anurag Kashyap
Sardar Khan and Gang in Gangs of Wasseypur
Despite a taut narrative, Gangs of Wasseypur occasionally suffers from redundancy in its plot that often reflects in its expletive-driven, harangue-like dialogue. Another thing that can be disconcerting to a seasoned movie viewer is Gangs of Wasseypur’s obvious similarity to Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather Trilogy. Now, as much as it may sound like a disparaging remark for Gangs of Wasseypur, in reality it’s a testament to the timelessness and universality of Coppola’s masterful crime saga that continues to inspire movie-makers worldwide even after so many decades. Ram Gopal Verma triumphed with his Desi rendition, Sarkar (2005) but failed miserably with its sequel, Sarkar Raj (2008). Anurag Kashyap has indeed succeeded in leaving a mark with his rustic adaptation. While I am yet to watch the second and final part of the Kashyap’s crime saga, from what I have heard it wouldn’t be farfetched to proclaim that in Gangs of Wasseypur we have finally found a worthy successor to Coppola’s epic trilogy.
manoj bajpai, wife Nagma, in gangs of wasseypur, directed by Anurag Kashyap
Gangs of Wasseypur: Sardar Khan and his wife Nagma
Another interesting thing to note is that the name ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ bears a striking similarity to Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York. The similarity is obviously not limited to the name, for the battle scenes filmed in Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur match and at times surpass the gore and grotesquery depicted in Scorsese’s larger than life portrayal of gang wars in the nineteenth century New York City.  In Gangs of Wasseypur, Kashyap strives to strike the right balance between various cinematic elements that helps the movie touch the lows and highs of cinema, thereby helping it break the stereotype associated with quintessential Bollywood cinema. Gangs of Wasseypur serves to be a highlight-reel of some of the most disturbing sequences ever filmed in Indian cinema depicting shootouts, prison-breaks, brawls, bomb blasts, rallies, kidnappings, rapes, train-robberies, forced marriages, women in labor, lovemaking, killings, and butchery. One interesting facet that makes these scenes really effective is the level of realism and conviction with which they are carried forward in the movie.  
manoj bajpai as Sardar Khan, Reema Sen as Durga, gangs of wasseypur, Directed by Anurag Kashyap
A Still from Gangs of Wasseypur
In Gangs of Wasseypur, Anurag Kashyap presents a grim picture of human decadence: Amongst the hundreds of masculine characters depicted in the movie, one doesn't get to witness a single likable character, for most of them come across as bestial beings desperate to serve their basic instincts of survival, physical love, wealth and power. On the other hand, the women are portrayed as secondary beings who are looked upon by men as materialistic pleasures rather than meaningful pursuits. Manoj Bajpai delivers a tour de force in Gangs of Wasseypur. His portrayal of Sardar Khan ranks right up there with the very best performances in the history of Indian cinema. Sardar is ferocious killer as well as a voracious lover whose feral instincts to kill (his adversaries) are remarkably matched by his play boyish passion to for physical love. It is this balance that helps him keep his composure amidst pervasive insanity and gives him the courage to single-handedly knockout his adversaries. Sardar Khan uses a combination of brute force and acumen to rise to the top of the food chain. Manoj Bajpai musters all his talent and courage to perfectly fit into the shoes of Sardar Khan. It wouldn't be a hyperbole to say that no other actor could have fit better in the role of a 'Desi Bahubali' than Bajpai himself.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Faisal Khan in Gangs of Wasseypur, directed by Anurag Kashyap
Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Gangs of Wasseypur
Manoj Bajpai as Sardar Khan, Reema Sen as Durga (serving food), Gangs of Wasseypur, directed by anurag kashyap
A Still from Gangs of Wasseypur
The rest of the cast gives memorable performances that help bring characters to life with a special mention of Nawazuddin Siddiqui whose underplayed cameo as Sardar Khan’s younger son offered a great contrast to Manoj Bajpai’s over the top portrayal. Siddiqui’s low-key portrayal is also in great contrast to his portrayal of a tough, haughty cop in Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani. It’s remarkable that in such a shot period of time he has shown such great versatility as an actor. Siddiqui is expected to have a major role in the second part of Gangs of Wasseypur considering the similarities of his part to Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone. Whether Siddiqui will succeed in carving a niche for himself as Pacino had managed with his portrayal in The Godfather I & II is for the time to decide. The cinematography of Gangs of Wasseypur is at par with the best in the world. Kashyap's sense of timing with the use of music is also exemplary. Kashyap expertly introduces occasional bursts of music and comedy to punctuate the slowly augmenting tension tension at different junctures in the movie. Kashyap's use of dark humor to judiciously propagate violence has an uncanny similarity to Quentin Tarantino’s style of filmmaking. His choice of music in the movie’s final sequence that depicts the brutal killing of one of movie’s major characters à la ‘Sonny Corleone’ assassination in The Godfather is bizarre yet remarkably effective.

Manoj Bajpai as Sardar Khan, Tigmanshu Dhulia as Ramadhir Singh, Gangs of Wasseypur, directed by Anurag Kashyap
A Still from Gangs of Wasseypur
Overall, Gangs of Wasseypur serves to be a unique cinematic experience that’s not free of its flaws. However, despite its apparent flaws, Gangs of Wasseypur has enough to offer to a keen movie-viewer who would not allow him/her to be overwhelmed by movie’s abundance of everything. Gangs of Wasseypur serves be a sanguinary carnival of epic proportions that's surely not meant for the faint-hearted. The first hour of the movie is ought to pose a greater impediment to viewers who are not accustomed to Indian cinema, for it would take sometime for them to get hold of movie’s complex plot and its several characters. Once the base is established it becomes a cinch to fit the pieces into the puzzle. The movie is an essential viewing for the lovers of Indian cinema, for they will get to see something quite refreshing in Gangs of Wasseypur, and also for those who want to get acquainted with it.

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your feedback is highly appreciated!  

For more information on the title, please click on the following links:

Gangs of Wasseypur I Trailer  

Gangs of Wasseypur: Part II Trailer   

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  1. Bro, definitely one of your best reviews. It was like, someone, stripped GOW naked and presented to me to have a good look at what's inside. Excellent review and keep up the good work :) You're fan - Hari

  2. Thanks a ton, bro! I feel really indebted to you for your continuous backing and motivation. It's really heartening to know that you liked the review. Thanks once again :-)

  3. Rachna Srivastava ParmarJune 23, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    A very exhaustive review! I have heard good things about the movie.

  4. Thanks Rachna... please do share your thoughts once you have watched the movie! In my personal opinion, a movie as exhaustive as Gangs of Wasseypur does deserve an exhaustive review :-)

  5. nice review... its last para what i read according to my strength :) I watched it 1st day 1st show... coz i knew TMK is not going to survive.. love stories in bollywood doesnt work these days... 4/5 is perfect for GOW

  6. Thanks Ravi! I agree with you that love stories are no longer in demand in Bollywood, and for that matter in World Cinema. I am glad you chose wisely between GOW and TMK :-P

  7. Being a Bihari, I will watch this movie. I do watch movies that are different compared to mainstream cinema. Sounds interesting.

  8. Thans Shalu for sharing your thoughts! You will surely find Gangs of Wasseypur to be refreshingly exciting. I would love to hear from you once you have watched it.

  9. I liked the similarity drawn between Godfather trilogy and GOW, I didn't notice it myself while watching the movie myself although now it appears pretty clearly ..but what is interesting and commendable is Anurag Kashyap's way of concealing it .
    Waiting eagerly for the second part .
    Awesome review as always :)

  10. Thanks a ton, bro! I am glad that you liked it. Anurag Kashyap has really succeeded in painting a whole new canvas for the perturbed Indian fans. I just can't wait to watch the second part of the epic saga.

  11. Interesting comparing this to gangs of New york which I felt is one of the finest movies not to have won an Oscar. I feel it is films like these that are giving main stream cinema a run for the money. Interesting take though I am yet to watch it, After watching shanghai thought i will give this genre a break...

  12. Thanks a lot, Dr. Vikram for sharing your valuable thoughts. I myself am a great fan of Gangs of New York and loved Daniel Day-Lewis' portrayal of Bill the Butcher. While Scorsese's masterpiece still remains unparalleled in many ways, I still believe, within in its limitations, Gangs of Wasseypur does succeed in delivering a knockout punch. While I not not certain about the movie's commercial prospects, I am certain that it would definitely succeed in breaking the stereotype associated with escapist commercial Hindi Cinema.

  13. Yet to see the film, it has a rustic charm that is appealing to viewers like me :)

  14. Indeed, it does! I would love to hear from you once you have watched it :-)

  15. Thanks for the review:). Will watch it soon:).

  16. Pleasure... I hope you like the movie :-)

  17. Mindblowing stuff! I totally agree that Nawazuddin is an outstanding actor especially after his two roles in Kahaani and Wasseypur, which are diametrically opposite. He will surely hog the limelight in the days to come...By the way you're website's really cool...

  18. Thanks a ton mate! I am glad that you liked the movie. As far as
    Nawazuddin is concerned, I dare say that Indian Cinema has finally discovered a worthy successor to the legacy of great Indian actors (and I don't mean stars) of the bygone era.

  19. Subhorup DasguptaJuly 9, 2012 at 8:22 PM

    Great review, Murtaza. I have been struggling to write about this film for the last few days, and you have pretty much said everything I wanted to and then some. I totally agree with you about the density of the movie. I am yet to watch it a second time, but I think it will take several viewings to get a general idea of all the things that the film has tried to touch on. At the most obvious level is the tribute to the cinema of the 70s and 80s. Almost every new sequence leaves you with the feeling that it is talking about some classic or the other. Great film. Great review.

  20. I am glad that you liked it, Subhro... I would love to read your review once you publish it. I am also quite eager to watch it the second time. I will really appreciate it if the makers come up with a dvd set that presents the full 5.5 hrs cut, for it would be better to access it that way :-)

  21. That's a good detailed review. loved it.

  22. I am glad that you liked it... thanks :-)


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