Friday, January 18, 2013

Gangs of Wasseypur (2012) Sundance 2013

Epic, and I do mean epic, decades spanning tale of crime, revenge and struggles for control. This is a film that in it's way and complexity kind of dwarfs most other crime sagas  and manages to stand alone among an elite group of similar crime films say The Godfather Saga, Once Upon a Time in America  and maybe one or two others.

Beginning in the now with a group of men shooting up a house and "killing" everyone inside the film flashes back to before the Partition of India and Pakistan when England gave the countries Independence. Salid Khan impersonates a well known train robber. Thrown out of Wasseypur with his wife he takes a job in a mine. Once the partition comes and mines fall into private hands Khan is hired to help Ramadhir Singh get his mine up and running and to maintain control.  However Singh fears Khan and has him killed.  This sparks a sixty year battle between the families as Khan's son vows revenge, becoming a big time criminal  in the process and setting the families on to a bloody path of destruction.

Running just under five and a half hours, the two films that tell the entire story are simply amazing.

For most people who think of Bollywood films as being huge bloated stories with the occasional big dance number this film is going to be a surprise. Yes, there are songs but they move the story along acting as an additional narrator. There are no big dance numbers only life on the street, the homes and jails. The music is incidental.

The violence when it comes is realistic and uncomfortable. people die badly, blood flows.  Only toward the very end does the film slip, momentarily into a slightly unrealistic moment where the blood is a tad too red, but it's for effect. Until then, and even after, you feel each stab, each gun shot, each smash with a rock, and it's jarring.

The film isn't perfect, some of the shifts in tone can be a bit jarring, and for me the second half is a bit too talky when compared to the first. Then again I was watching the second half of the film sometime around 2AM on New Years Eve so I was getting a bit sleepy- and yet I pushed through  because I had to see how it all came out.

To be honest I need to see the film again. I need to see it and take some notes and really write the film up. When I saw the film on New Years I simply was watching the film for pleasure. The idea was to start the film and then pick it up in the morning, I wasn't planning on falling into it and ending up being up until 4AM hoping to see how it all ended. I need to see the film again when I can really make all of the connections and see everything that is happening.

I should also mention that this is based on true stories, with various incidents woven together to make a one long story

If you're at Sundance you owe it to yourself to try and see the film (though be warned it is five hours twenty something minutes long before intermisssions) If you're not at Sundance do make an effort to see it when it plays near you- and I'm guessing this will play near many of you.

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