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Gangs of Wasseypur

Taare jo babuna, taarti babuniya… Babuna ke hatthe na chadhti babuniya… womaniya… Ho ho womaniya! womaniya… Aa ha womaniya!

It is a man’s world, Anurag Kashyap’s latest film is, but it is the ‘womaniya’ who fire life into the Gangs of Wasseypur. They don’t wear yellow boots or sport technicoloured wigs but their stares have the gamchhaas sweating in every hue. They make an otherwise rambling revenge rampage crumple and secure a snug spot around the sexy midriff.

The men are not the problem, the number of men is. To attach epic proportions to his gangster saga, Kashyap drapes his tale so elaborately that by the end of the 160-minute first part, you can hardly remember the names of the guys who set things in motion 60 years back.

Set entirely in and around the coal belt of Dhanbad, Gangs of Wasseypur takes off before Independence and then jumps a couple of decades a couple of times. The Teri and the Meri in this three-time-zone Kashyap Kahaani are Ramadhir Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia) and Sardar Khan (Manoj Bajpai). It all started when a very young Singh (played by another actor altogether) got Khan’s father killed. While the young Sardar was also ordered a death sentence, he got a Snow White-ish reprieve and thus was spawned the sinister saga of badla whose bad blood was to stream down generations.

“Goli nahin marenge usko... Keh ke lenge” — Sardar Khan.

But usse pehle family banayenge. Not the sukhi parivaar, chhota parivaar kind. Sardar first marries Najma (Richa Chadda) from whom he has two kids and then applies his uncontrollable baby-producing skills (“Yeh toh bas pyaar hai!”) to the Bangalan, Durga (Reemma Sen). He would go on to hop, skip and jump between the two families planting seeds of rage and (perhaps more) revenge in the minds of GeNext.

While this ‘Overactive Sperm’ track doesn’t help in the badla in any way — not in the first part, at least — it does give Gangs of Wasseypur some of its best moments. Whether it’s Najma initially losing her cool at her husband’s illicit ways and then learning to live with it or the kind of inflammable sexual tension that Durga generates, the women bring out the best in Sardar, Kashyap and the film.

Of the rest, despite the blood and gore and the trailblazing shootouts and the sumptuous set-pieces, you can feel that the revenge tale at the heart is really not going anywhere. Maybe the second part would throw some light on why Kashyap and his writers needed to spin this yarn so far and wide. Perhaps he felt obligated to translate on screen all the real-life characters his Wasseypur research threw up.

You’ll sure enjoy the pop culture references. Whether it’s the Mithunda lookalike disco-dancing on the streets to Kasam paida karne waale ki or Trishul being enjoyed in the local theatre (with a lovely little likeness of the film’s plot drawn to the Sanjeev Kumar-Waheeda Rahman marital bond) or a man singing Salaam-e-ishq meri jaan in falsetto at the family wedding.

While Godfather Part I started with the grand wedding, Wasseypur I comes to a close within minutes of the shaadi ceremony. Sardar’s elder son got married with the daughter of the Qureshi family, which had joined hands with Singh to take out Sardar. The last act of the film would have us believe that it is the younger son Faisal (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) who would be the Michael Corleone of the piece in Part II.

The plotting may feel plodding but kudos to Kashyap in creating the world of Wasseypur. The mise-en-scene is top notch (must have been a major reason why it was selected for Cannes) and along with his constant collaborator Rajeev Ravi, he creates textures and tones that just teleports you bang in the middle of the coal capital of the country.

The performances ring true to the setting. After long, Manoj Bajpai gets a role to sink his teeth into and he reminds us why we had got so excited about the man from Satya. Piyush Mishra as his Tom Hagen plus the narrator of the entire film is terrific as usual. Tigmanshu Dhulia is such a revelation that you pray the Paan Singh Tomar director takes his acting seriously henceforth.

Richa Chadda, who grabbed eyeballs in Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, is the knockout act in Wasseypur I, while Reemma Sen gives Bangali screen sexuality a whole new spin.

We’ll definitely see more of Kahaani man Nawazuddin and his on-screen lady love Huma Qureshi in the second part, but their one “permission” scene here is just epic.

If there’s one star of the movie, though, it’s got to be Sneha Khanwalkar. We had last heard her in Love Sex Aur Dhokha but here she comes up with a soundtrack so kickass, that the visuals are left with little choice but to waltz to her tunes. Whether it’s Jiya ho or Womaniya or Hunter, the songs just create this beautiful bed for Kashyap to go berserk with his images (very much like Amit Trivedi had done for him in Dev D). But nothing, quite nothing, is as brave and beautiful as Keh ke lunga.

It’s a double-edged sword that neither Sardar Khan nor Anurag Kashyap is in a rush for that ‘lunga’. They have so much to ‘keh’ that they would need another Friday in the future to finish their payback party.

While this first volume is a little too uneven, possibly at the end of it all, the Gangs of Wasseypur revenge would be that one dish best served cold.

P.S.: The trailer of Gangs of Wasseypur II comes after the end credits. Stay back to catch it and shout out loud if the screen’s shut down before that.