Sunday, July 01, 2012

Anurag Kashyap's 'Gangs of Wasseypur' an example of the aesthetics of structureless crudeness


Anurag Kashyap believes that he is revolutionising Hindi films. Of course, his predecessors Ram Gopal Varma and Vishal Bhardwaj believed that they were revolutionaries too. What unites all these film-makers, whom their indiscriminate and uninformed admirers describe as independent film-makers, is their ignorance of cinematic grammar. They break rules not knowingly but because they do not know anything better. So, when they unconsciously make those grammatical mistakes they do not endear themselves for their lisp but irritate you because they are doing so under the belief that they are doing something revolutionary. When  Kashyap uses documentary footage to show the historical background for the period of his narration -- the 1950s, the 1960s, the 1970s -- it just shows that he is not able to recreate the period in his narration and in his characters through narrative and visual devices. Perhaps, Kashyap should have seen "L.A.Confidential" to get a hang of how that is done.

We also do not know as to why we should be interested in the family history of a minor gangster in the coal belt area. There is no particular reason really. It is an attempt to document the life of one gangster's family to tell the social and political tale of the decade and the decades. The film fails to show the life of the miners in any great detail or with any great sympathy. What Kashyap is really interested in is the guns and the shoot-outs and the rivalries. Even on this count, he does not fully establish the supposed fight between the Qureishis, the butchers, and the Pathans, and how the cynical politicians. Except for the irritating voice-over of Piyush Mishra telling us about the changes taking place in Wasseypur, there is no other evidence of what is really happening to the lives of the people.
 Kashyap also resorts to the silly and irritating ways of aping popular Hindi film culture as he does in the last patches of this first part. What seems to hold the movie is the sober acting of Manoj Bajpai as Sardar Khan. There is not much depth here but he gives it a certain credibility. Something that Irfan Khan had done with the role of Paan Singh Tomar. Unlike in the case of Tomar, the character of Sardar Khan is not interesting in itself. He is really a cipher as far as his character is concerned, and at most he can be a sociological statistic. The only convincing scene of the nearly three-hour film is the last scene when Sardar Khan walks out of the house early in the morning even as his sons, and henchmen are still sleeping. The wife is up and chopping onions. He goes to the house of the other woman, and the woman takes the money and turns away. There is a sense of loneliness which he is not aware of. Life catches up with you when you are alone. The lingering, slow motion final shot again has no meaning, either visually or emotionally, though it should have conveyed much more.
 The attempt of Kashyap to capture the maudlin gaudiness of mofussil north India shows utter lack of sensitivity. He reduces people in these places into caricatures and he is not even aware that he is demeaning people by showing them to be no more than puppets.
The sexuality of the women in these classes and in these small places is certainly revoltingly crass, but he fails to capture the emotional nuances of these women, who do experience moments of love and passion. Kashyap robs them of dignity, especially in his portrayal of the character of Durga (played by Reemi Sen).
Illiterate critics will continue to praise the silly antics of Kashyap and Co as some kind of radical cinema, but these films and these filmmakers will fade away soon. Quentin Tarantino, who is the unconscious and unacknowledged inspiration for Varma, Bharadwaj, Kashyap et al has made amends for his early pretentious gigs by making a superb "The Inglourious Basterds" which combines cinematic history with a moving historical episode. The Hindi independent film-makers have no sense of history much less of cinematic aesthetics. They revel in vulgarity and crudeness and consider that to be their ode to realism. Their realism lacks depth, light and darkness. 

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