The Gyrating, Funny, Brutal Gangs

People have been heaping praises on it and comparing to works of some great names. Tarantino is frequently invoked, and so were Coppola, and Scorsese. Is this a bastardization of those films with Hindi cuss words? Is this an “art film”? Or is this a Bollywood potboiler?

In one of best scenes of the film, Manoj Bajpayee’s character publicly threatens and humiliates Tigmanshu Dhulia’s character on a megaphone. And a man is gyrating to Mithun’s “Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki”. It is a bully making a threat, a guy who attempting to get popular rage directed against a politician, and a romanticization of 80’s bollywood, all in one scene. And the language is utterly foul.

It’s easy to get distracted by the bad language of this film. It’s also easy to forget you are watching a film. This often feels like a documentary. But wait, that’s a compliment. It takes it’s time to get going, delves deep into the history of gang violence in Dhanbad region, and it’s so detailed in each period that it could easily be a film made in those times. But it could’t, really. Because no one made this kind of cinema then, and few enough make such cinema now.

On its surface, this is a simple revenge story. Dig just a little deeper though, and its a comment on how Bihar in particular, and our country in general have come to be dominated by dirty politicians and gangsters. Its triumph is that it is typically Indian, comfortable with contradictions. This is a film that straddles between the big picture politics and domestic drama; between grimy reality and flights of fancy, and between brutal violence and laugh out loud humor.

In the end, however, it’s a story of a bunch of powerful characters. Everyone is comparing this to Tarantino because of the collection of badass characters. The gangsters, the politician, and the women. The gangsters are powerful, but always end up being overpowered by their women. To see where the power lies, watch the scene where Bajpayee’s character is forced out of his chair by his wife played by Richa Chaddha. Or the scene where a budding gangster is chastised by his date for touching her.

Some characters speak with their silences. Reemma Sen is silent, except when she is enraged. A gun seller who pivots the plot of two major characters doesn’t speak a word throughout the film. And in one of the crucial scenes, where he is seeing his arch enemy  clearly for the first time, Dhulia’s silence is most eloquent.

From the philosophical “Ik Bagal” to gyrating “Womaniya” via the naughty “Hunter”, the music is as eloquent as any. Sneha Khanwalkar stays true not only to the mood, but also to the era in question. So does the background music. Some of the action shots have the full on 80’s vibe.

Could it have been shorter? Sure. Could it have done with a little less self-indulgence? Sure. Did it leave us unsatisfied because we have to wait for part 2? Yes.

But is whether this is Bollywood. It has everything: comedy, romance, family drama, violence, clash of strong characters, and scintillating music. What it doesn’t have is escapism. It keeps you totally and thoroughly in the bad, brutal world even during its flights of fancy. But hey, this is India. We redefine ourselves every few years. In the year of Vicky Donor, Kahaani, Shanghai etc, this is the new Bollywood.

Kudos, Anurag Kashyap. This will be remembered in the history of Indian films.