TIFF 2012 – Gangs of Wasseypur Part 1 & 2 Review (Robert Harding)

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

Gangs of Wasseypur Part 1 and Part 2 (2012)

Starring Manoj Bajpayee, Richa Chadda, Reemma Sen, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Nawazuddin Siddique

Directed by Anurag Kashyap

The City to City program at the Toronto International Film Festival focuses on films from a specific city every year. 2012 was the year of Mumbai. In the listing of films playing in the City to City program was a film called the Gangs of Wasseypur… or rather two films. Much like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Gangs of Wasseypur was released in two parts.  But unlike Deathly Hallows, the two parts of Gangs of Wasseypur were not released six months apart, but rather, a little over a month separated the two films. Of course, in Toronto we had them released on the same day thanks to TIFF.  Outside of the subject matter the fact that, in film festival time, watching these two films back to back meant blocking out at least 6.5 hours of a day to watch them, interested me. To some, that might seem daunting but to a veteran film festival goer, that seemed more like a challenge.

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

It would be an injustice to review each film separately. Though separated into two parts, the second part is a direct continuation of the first and continues the story where the first film left off.

Starting from the 1940s and making its way right into the 2000s, Gangs of Wasseypur is a gangster epic which chronicles a bloody turf war between two rival criminal families, the Singhs and the Khans, during the era of Indian independence and industrialization. Part 1 begins by explaining the two families, their connections to each other (socially and politically), the geography of the region as it changed over time, and eventually concentrates on the rise of Sardar Khan as he first struggles to make a name for himself and eventually rises, becoming a name to be feared. Part 2 focuses on Sardar Khan’s children (Definite, Faizal and Perpendicular), now grown, as they compete to be the families next Don.

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

Considering that between the two films we’re looking at a time span of roughly 60 years, you’d almost expect the films to be disjunctive and confusing with varying story lines, and a multitude of characters.  This is far from the case. Short of the beginning of part 1, the films are very well structured and relatively easy to follow.

The characters in the film are very interesting and entertaining. Each has their own idiosyncrasies and thanks to some fantastic writing and equally fantastic acting the viewer is able to get a real sense of who they are and why they became that way.  You can’t help but want to see what’s going to happen next between the members of the two families. It is this drama and character interaction that drives the story forward, and pulling the viewer in many different directions. Everyone is both a bad guy and a good guy. It’s up to you to decide who to root for.

It wouldn’t be my idea of Bollywood film if it didn’t have song and dance numbers. But these are not the songs I’ve come to expect. In fact, I’d say the music is quite unconventional (both the expected Bollywood style songs and some very sexually charged background numbers as well). It’s been a long time since a film has made me seek out the music contained within but Gangs of Wasseypur did just that. I absolutely loved the music!

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

If great writing, acting, and music weren’t enough, Gangs of Wasseypur also manages to deliver on the one aspect I was hoping for: action. From the start of the films, there is treachery, back stabbing, fist fights, gun fights and it’s forever escalating as the two films go on until it finally climaxes in a bloody scene I’ve never seen the likes of before. It’s the eye for an eye, revenge for the sake of revenge and the never ending cycle that gets repeated generation after generation that makes this film the enjoyable ultra violent ride that it is.

Gangs of Wasseypur ended up being my favourite film of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and with good reason. Despite a total run time of over 5 hours and a long day devoted to watching both parts, this film educated, enthralled and most importantly, entertained. At no point through either film did I find myself bored, checking my watch or not entertained. As both parts should be watched back to back I can honestly say Gangs of Wasseypur, as a whole, is a fantastic film that comes highly recommended. Fans of action and crime dramas should not miss out.

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