Eye For Film >> Movies >> Gangs Of Wasseypur Part One (2012) Film Review
Gangs Of Wasseypur Part One
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
A 216 minute epic - and only the first part of a longer saga - Gangs Of Wasseypur is a story that spans 50 years and charts the struggle for dominance both between and within families living in the small town of Wasseypur and the nearby city. Centered on competition for legal and illegal businesses, it also takes in political corruption, concern for family honour, historical changes, revenge and romance.
Sardar Khan (Manoj Bajpayee) is the man in the middle. The son of notorious outlaw Shahid Khan (a gloweringly charismatic Jaideep Ahlawat) he has dedicated his life to avenging his father's death, yet he's determined to do it slowly, first destroying everything his enemy holds dear. Between the bouts of violence this requires, he spends his time plotting, arguing and womanising, cheerfully misinterpreting the Qur'an's advice that a man may have up to four wives if he can support them as a holy command to marry four times. First wife Nagma (Richa Chadda) is unimpressed by this and holds her own as few women do in such dramas, continually threatening to chop people up. His second wife is superficially more submissive but also comes to wield a powerful influence as the tale develops. Meanwhile, Sardar's sons are growing up, and at least one of them, Faizal (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), seems to have a natural taste for the gangster life, hinting at still greater troubles ahead.
Opening with soap opera music and interrupted at intervals by traditional Bollywood-style musical numbers playfully reimagined and astutely woven into the script, this is a film that never takes itself too seriously. The interaction between characters is beautifully observed and full of subtle humour. Changing social ideas are explored and made explicit in ways that never distract from the cental tale. There's also an abundance of elaborate insults that would make Malcolm Tucker blush with envy. Despite its length, the film rarely drags, and its dramatic passages give one a chance to rest between episodes of stomach-churning violence. Whilst its playful camerawork makes clear the director's familiarity with recent US takes on the genre, there is no stylistic obfuscation here - stabblings, beatings and gunfights are shown in a much more brutal, verité manner.
This balance of action, humour and social commentary gives the film a lot to play with and, in combination with a story full of shifting loyalties, sometimes threatens to overwhelm. There are stretches where it's difficult to tell exactly what's going on, both in fight scenes and in negotiations, but fortunately it's a film that should bear the repeat viewings necessary to pick it all apart. Destined to attract a cult following, it's a film that draws much from the rich history of Indian cinema and that heralds great things to come.Reviewed on: 28 Jan 2013