Originally published for the Hindu Metroplus in June 2012.
“This picture is a mirror to what really exists in Bihar. You see so many gangster films coming out of Bombay, but do you really think there are so many gangsters in Bombay?”
Director Anurag Kashyap’s latest two-part offering ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ opened the London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) on Wednesday. The film, which is being released in two parts due to its five hour running time, is based on real events of a gang war that has carried on for the past 60 years due to the emergence of a coal mafia in the post-independence era.
The world premiere at LIFF saw the likes of actors Anushka Sharma, Tannishtha Chatterjee, director Kaushik ‘Q’ Mukherjee, musician Raghu Dixit, Bollywood academic Dr. Rachel Dwyer, Upen Patel and Kashyap present on the red carpet hosted at a theatre in central London.
Now in its third year, Cary Sawhney, the director of the London Indian Film Festival said: “The idea was always to show new independent film. It just happens that you end up with a theme, even though we didn’t pick one. This year it’s about gangsters and gang violence.”
Having watched the movie during its editing stages, Sawhney likened Gangs of Wasseypur to an “Indian Godfather”, adding: “The two parts have a different style about them, which makes each part watchable.”
Kashyap spoke of the film as “a labour of love”, dedicating it to Sohail Shah, the chief assistant director who was killed in an accident during the shoot in December 2010.
Controversy did not stop plaguing the film even then. Scriptwriter Zeishan Quadri recently received threats, advising him not to enter Wasseypur. Quadri had pitched the story to Kashyap, drawing inspiration from mafia stories such as ‘City of God’.
“The entire thinking process changed with this film, the way we sold the film wasn’t the same when we started. We had no money two days before shooting started. The idea was to have the lowest budget possible,” the director said in a discussion after the screening of the film. “I would like anybody who has the patience to see the two parts together,” Kashyap added.
Despite that, ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ is seeing signs of commercial success and critical acclaim. The film has reached distribution deals in France, the Middle East and even Latin America. The first part packs in a long history of violence, exploitation, politics and rivalry between three groups – the Qureshis, Shahid Khan’s family (Manoj Bajpai plays the father and the son), and coal mine contractor-turned-minister Ramadhir Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia). Through the periods of ceasefire and violence, the second part will see the war being reignited.
Wasseypur was Kashyap’s childhood home; he says they “shot in places we grew up”. One of the locations was the house where his brother Abhinav Kashyap was born. The town has not changed much since those days, he says.
“Wasseypur is very excited about the film, except for one politician. It’s only two streets. I made the film because that world was very funny. It was bizarre because for the past 60 years, no one knows anything that exists outside Wasseypur, except for who gets to be the boss of the place.”
Speaking about his equation with the Censor Board, the director proudly announced ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ had passed through censors without a single scene deleted. “They (censor board) are much more liberated, even though they’re not autonomous,” he added.
The film’s music is rooted in Bihar and U.P, drawing from Old Hindi and North Indian folk songs. Speaking about his stance on using music, Kashyap said: “I love music, but I have a problem with an actor suddenly breaking into song. But I cannot let go of it, so for years I’ve been struggling with how to integrate music in my films such as Black Friday, Dev D and Gulaal. I think I just arrived at some point where I can use music I love so much.”
Several British viewers compared his work to Tarantino, but Kashyap wishes to stay away from compartmentalisation, or any particular aim through films. “For twenty years, all I have ever wanted is the ability make the kind of films I want. That’s the only fight that has been there.”