Crime, Drama

Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)

Comments Off on Gangs of Wasseypur (2012) 06 January 2017

gow_front

Production Studio: Viacom 18 Motion Pictures

Blu-Ray Distributed By: Cinelicious Pics

Initial Release: May 2012 (Cannes), June 22, 2012 (India)

Blu-ray Release: July 14, 2015

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Rating: UnRated

Reviewed By James M. Dubs

I’ll watch anything…including Gangs of Wasseypur.

Gangs of Wasseypur is Anurag Kashyap’s 5 hour and 20 minute long epic Indian cinema opus to rival Francis Coppola’s The Godfather. Yes, you read that right. Five hours and twenty minutes. No one will blame you if your first instinct is one of intimidation and flight. Lord knows my heart sank when I opened the blu-ray case to find two blu-ray discs titled Part I and Part II. However, before you pass judgement and simply move on to the next new Marvel or Star Wars movie, please allow me a few moments to explain why you should devote the time to consume Gangs of Wasseypur.

Film Rating: ★★★★☆

gow_1Presented by Adi Shankar, producer of A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES, DREDD, LONE SURVIVOR, KILLING THEM SOFTLY and THE GREY.

From Guneet Monga, the producer of THE LUNCHBOX, the most successful foreign-language movie of 2014 to date in the U.S., GANGS OF WASSEYPUR is director/writer/producer Anurag Kashyap’s ambitious and extraordinary blood-and-bullets fueled crime saga that charts seventy years in the lives – and spectacular deaths – of two mafia-like families fighting for control of the coal-mining town of Wasseypur, India. Inspired by the real-life exploits of local gangs and beginning with the bandit-like career of Shahid Khan (Jaideep Ahlawat) in the 1940s, the film follows the ruthless rise of his son Sardar (a brilliant Manoj Bajpayee) and his offspring, the surreally-named Danish, Perpendicular and Definitive Khans and their numerous wives and girlfriends.

GANGS OF WASSEYPUR mirrors the tumultuous and explosive growth of modern India with the ferocious cinematic intensity of Scorsese’s Mean Streets and Goodfellas. As with Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone in THE GODFATHER, it’s the least likely of Sardar’s children – the perpetually stoned Faizal (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) – who rises to the top ranks of the Khan crime family, vowing brutal revenge on their longtime nemesis, the wily and seemingly unstoppable Ramadhir Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia). Composer Sneha Khanwalkar’s stunning soundtrack ranks with legends like R.D. Burman, but don’t expect Bollywood-style dance numbers: this is a movie that up-ends every expectation of what great Indian cinema should look (and sound) like.

gow_4As Americans we hate long movies. Remember the ending of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King? How many of you complained that the movie had “too many endings”? Well, I’ve got some more bad news. This movie has subtitles. Yes, American audiences hate over-long films, but we hate foreign films even more. “I don’t want to read while I watch a movie.”

Here’s the good news. The blu-ray’s official synopsis is not shy about comparing Gangs to Coppola’s American classic The Godfather and The Godfather Part 2, or evoking such names as Martin Scorsese. These comparisons are earned. Director Anurag Kashyap himself has described himself as “a child of Martin Scorsese who fantasizes about Quentin Tarantino films.” His style for Gangs is a blend of Tarantino’s uber-violence and pop-culture reference, Scorsese’s measured direction, and Mario Puzo’s (The Godfather) story craftsmanship.

gow_6And to be fair about the film’s run-time, if you watched The Godfather 1 & 2 back-to-back you would have a far longer movie experience than with Gangs. To ease the burden of sitting for nearly 5 and a half hours, the film has been split in half (a la Kill Bill style) to a more manageable 2 hour 40 minute per film. However, make no mistake, this is one epic story spanning multiple generations. Subscribers of Netflix can also find Gangs available as an 8-part episodic series for the binge watching generation.

I’m hesitant to speak in further detail about the plot of the film because I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises for those willing to watch. I do want to touch upon Anurag Kashyap’s frequent use of popular Indian songs and pop-culture references. Not once in the film does anyone break out into a traditional musical number found in many successful Bollywood films, but Kashyap masterfully finds a way to have his cake and eat it too. The film is filled with music. Whether people are singing a popular Bollywood song during a wedding, funeral, or in prison, Kashyap fills the film with songs and in a way that feels organic to the story, but would also appeal to a base Indian audience. There are also a lot of pop-culture references to famous Bollywood actors and TV shows. One of the opening shots of the film is a close up of a television airing a popular Indian sitcom. Most of this will fly straight over the heads of American audiences, but subconsciously you will understand the connections Kashyap is drawing between how pop culture shapes real life and vice-versa. It’s expertly crafted even if you don’t realize it’s happening.

gow_12Let’s go into my usual nit-pick territory so I can defend myself in explaining why this is not a 5-star film like The Godfather.

Part I: The rise of Sardar Khan. The first half of the film focuses primarily on the character of Sardar Khan as he seeks power and revenge against nemesis and rival Ramadhir Singh. This first half is easily 5-star filmmaking. Every character has motivation and purpose in the film. The pacing and structure is perfectly played out to the thrilling midway point of the larger story. Which takes me to…

Part II: The sons of Sardar Khan take over the family business. My largest complaint with Part II is that the pacing and momentum feels unbalanced and there are many characters that are superfluous to the overall plot. Part I was anchored with the singular character of Sardar, while also exploring other characters around him in the narrative. Part II tries to constantly shift focus between Sardar’s four sons. In the first half, the narrative focuses primarily on elder sons Danish and Faizal, but doesn’t find balance until Faizal becomes the primary focus of the story. The second half plays better with Faizal mostly front and center, but the film goes off on small tangents with the introduction of younger sons “Perpendicular” and “Definite”.

gow_5Ultimately these are very small problems in an otherwise near-perfect film. Focusing more fully on a couple of characters would have sharpened the script and may have even cut back on the run-time. However, in the end if you’re the kind of film fan that loves great gangster crime films in the vain of Scorsese, Tarantino, or Coppola, you will be delighted in a retelling of a familiar story in a world, town, and lifestyle rarely seen by American audiences.

Video & Audio Rating: ★★★★★

gow_8You may be hard pressed to find a blu-ray with technical merits more pristine and perfect than this one. The image is simply astonishing and you will be immediately struck by the lush and vibrant color palette. Image detail is also incredible, displaying the smallest blemish on an actor’s face, or the grit and grime of the impoverished residents of Wasseypur. I can’t recall any image abnormalities or blemishes throughout the entire experience.

Audio comes in the form of a DTS-HD Master 5.1 Hindi language track. English subtitles are optional, but necessary for most of us. The surround track is incredibly impressive, proving bombastic during action sequences. Individual tracks are expertly separated and allow for great spacial movement around the room while preserving central speaker clarity for clean and clear dialogue.

Extras Rating: ★★★☆☆

gow_3The primary bonus in this 2-disc set is an audio commentary track. And guess what you dumb Americans? It’s in English (so no more reading)! With so many people contributing, the information and topics are all over the place, but that’s not a complaint. The information and stories shared are always insightful and entertaining, rarely getting too heavy or dry. The only other item of note is the nice 12-page booklet within. As a film collector I typically ignore page inserts in my releases because I often find the information to be repetitive, but without any behind-the-scenes or documentary type of supplemental videos, the booklet is a welcome addition (and a source for some of the information for this review).

  • Audio Commentary with Director Anurag Kashyap, Actors Huma Qureshi and Richa Chaddha,Composer Sneha Khanwalkar, Lyricist Varun Grover, Associate Director Anubhuti Kashyap, and Assistant Director Neeraj Ghaywan.
  • Red Band Trailer
  • 12-page booklet

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

gow_9Gangs of Wasseypur sits proudly next to my copy of The Godfather trilogy (technically because it’s in alphabetical order, but metaphorically because it’s awesome!) I will admit to having reservations about the film because of its run-time, because who wants to devote so much time to a terrible film. I’m here to assure you that Gangs is quite the opposite. It may very well be one of the best films from 2012, and most Americans have never heard of its existence.

So do yourself a favor when you’re looking for another great crime drama. Netflix has done American audiences a favor by breaking the film into eight episodes. When you’re done falling in love with the series, pick up CineliciousPics excellent blu-ray for the exceptional audio commentary from Director, cast, and crew.

Author

- who has written 64 posts on UnRated Film Review Magazine | Movie Reviews, Interviews.

James Dubs is a father and husband who loves his family first and movies a close second. He believes every movie is worth watching once and, as a film fan and critic, believes that even the worst movies offer something in return. His mission is to watch anything and report without pretension. Follow James Dubs on Twitter and send him suggestions on movies you would like reviewed - popular, obscure, independent, etc. He'll watch anything for you.

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