Saturday, June 23, 2012

Gangs of Whaa(?)sseypur...

Sometimes, some things happen that shake the blogger in your heart to the very core. Shake him out of his self-imposed (not deliberate) exile and make him take up a pen, umm keyboard, again.

Anurag Kashyap you great, great guy. You made me come back to the blogosphere.

So as the sophisticated and intellectual reader base of this blog would've understood by now, this post is about the modern day classic, Gangs of Wasseypur.
Now, the problem with modern day classics is that they seem to be made with the intention of making a 'modern day classics'. 
And that's not how these classics should be made. They should be telling a story in a way that is stylistically true to the directors vision, in a way that lingers with you after you leave the theatre. Unfortunately, the only thing that lingers as you leave the theatre here is a sense of "Whaa?? What just happened here?" And of course when during a film you glance at your Dad, and both of you start laughing as you try to figure out just what the hell was happening in the film, you can be sure that things are not going well with the film.

On the positive side, it did help me in continuing what is fast becoming a family tradition. Whenever I choose a movie and take my parents and/or my grandmother to watch it, I invariably come out of the theatre thinking "What the hell were you thinking SB! Why did you choose this movie?"

To give you a background I have taken my parents and grandmother to watch Dus Kahaniyan which was mostly fine, except six of those Kahaniyan were on infidelity, extramarital affairs, drugs and violence. And then I took them to what I thought was my magnum opus Kaminey. Yes, I know I was asking for it, didn't the name strike me as a potential problem?

Yes it did.

And yes, I still took them.

And yes, I banged my head against a wall afterwards.

Coming back to this film, it is a kaleidoscope of excellent pieces. The performances are powerful and individual brilliance is positively reeking from the film. But does the story come together tightly, or even loosely? No, I'm sorry to say it doesn't.

Now, I loved Dev.D. Really, truly I loved the film. It was a known (and by then fairly commonplace) story told in a stylistic and truly different manner. Against many a riling people I defended the film, recommended it to one and all, and waited with baited breath about what this brilliant, quirky director would do next. But since then there seems to be a movement towards more style and less substance. Add to that the aura that has been created that if you do not like his work, you're probably not smart enough to understand his vision, and I think he's just taking his avant garde-ness too seriously.

Gangs also begins promisingly. Excellent opening sequence and the way the character of Shahid Khan was etched and then evolved had me asking for more. The first part also strongly established the raw brutality that could be expected in the film. But then it just devolved into a whole mixed pot of brilliant short films. New characters appeared by the dozen, did their little parts and then either disappeared or got relegated to the sidelines. So many characters, with similar mannerisms, that it was difficult even to connect them all.

There were also some plat gaps which I will not go into detail as it may be a spoiler. However, for me one question that I could not reconcile to was that when life was such a casual commodity in Wasseypur/Dhanbad, why didn't the powerful vidhayak just shoot Manoj Vajpayee's character when he was still weak? I couldn't understand it and AV and I were both convinced that there has to be a back-story that explains this. If there isn't, then I'm afraid the story loses its plausibility. For me the love/lust angle of the story was a bit unnecessary. It was good, and well done, but did not carry the story along, nor did it really throw up any insights on how the main character functioned.

As a clubbing together of excellent short films with powerful performances, Gangs of Wasseypur works. As a coherent story with well etched characters, I'm afraid it doesn't.
Now that I've come back to the blog after a long time, I should probably not have such a negative post to start off.

So on a positive note, we also saw a play Hayavadana last weekend. Its a play written in 1971 by Girish Karnad. Excellent performance all around and a captivating story. It was open to a lot of interpretation too and it is always nice to watch a play that you want to discuss and think about later. And the icing on the cake was that as it was the last performance of the play in Bangalore, the playwright, Mr. Girish Karnad, was also there at the venue. We didn't really talk to him, but as AV says, she had samosas with him during the interval. He, in one corner of the room, and she in the other!