Gangs of Wasseypur ★★★½

[Excerpted from a larger piece for my seminar]

Gangs of Wasseypur is what Robin Wood might refer to as an Incoherent Text—it continually critiques and satirizes the violence the film simultaneously celebrates and glorifies. As “cool” as many of the characters are made to be, wearing stylish clothes and receiving slow motion introductions set to rap music, they are often comically amateur. Their guns accidentally backfire, they lose the drugs they were trying to steal, and both sides walk into obvious traps due to their outsized egos. In one amusing sequence, Sardar rushes his son to a hospital in a frantic pain after he is shot in the arm, completely oblivious that the wound is minor and barely requires treatment.

Kashyap connects the amusing antics of his various protagonists to the movies they watch. Ramadir, who survives until the very end of the film, explains that he is only alive because all the younger gangsters always went to the movies. "Every fucker's got his own movie playing inside his head," he remarks, which is matched by the hyperstylized aesthetics of the film—an overexposed hued color palette, dissociative editing that recalls the Hong Kong films of John Woo, and an overly booming soundtrack that makes every bullet ring out as loud as possible. Kashyap uses this both as indulgence and critique. Part 1 ends with Sardar’s death in an elongated car death that recalls The Godfather (Coppola, 1972) with a tragic dimension. But when Sardar’s son kills Singh at the end of Part II, he pumps hundreds, perhaps even thousands of bullets into his body in an overly cartoon manner that suggests his entire thirst for revenge has been divorced from reality, emphasized by the overly pinkish color instead of something realistic.

The women of Gangs of Wasseypur thus ground the film’s masculine critique. The women often reject the men, holding back sex for their lack of family raising or questioning their reasons for getting married—during one proposal scene, Kashyap mocks the agency of the male character by staging a loud goat in the background of the frame that upstages his actions while the woman dismisses the proposal. Near the end of the film, the wife of the final grandson of Kahn asks him why he must finish the war when he was actually rejected by his father while he was young, and the man can only reply with “tradition.” Gangs does indulge some of the romantic impulses of its characters, such as an early montage where Sardar flirts and courts a woman who becomes his mistress, but it also critiques his philandering practices, as his abandonment of her and the son is what leads to his death.