Gangs of Wasseypur (Part 1) (4 stars)

Gangs of Wasseypur (Part 1)

Epic Bollywood gangster saga influenced by The Godfather

Anurag Kashyap’s Hindi gangster saga is a considerable undertaking; split into two parts of over 160 minutes each, it follows the fortunes of a criminal dynasty with exhaustive attention to detail. The model is clearly Francis Ford Coppola’s study of the Corleone family in The Godfather Trilogy, with part one given over to the rise and sudden fall of patriarch Sardar Khan (Manoj Bajpayee), while part two sees his unwilling son Faizal (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) set out to revenge his father and consolidate the business which his family rules over. While owing much to the relationship between Vito and Michael in Coppola’s film, Kashyap manages to bring an intensity and energy to the familiar drama in Gangs of Wasseypur, giving it a vibrancy of its own.

Described by one character as a ‘jungle of hyenas’, Wasseypur in India is presented as ripe of exploitation by criminals; Anurag opens his story with Sardar’s father, Shahid (Jaideep Ahlawat) who robs British trains by disguising himself as a famous outlaw. Captured and forced to work in an iron ore mine, Shahid raises his son Sardar to fear no-one, but is cruelly murdered by crime boss Ramadhir Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia). The charismatic Sardar grows up to rule Wasseypur with an iron fist, but his five children know that his rule is likely to end someday…

In 2012, Gangs of Wasseypur was selected for the Cannes Film Festival (one of a tiny number of Bollywood films to have shown at the festival), and it’s easy to see why; the scale is epic, but the details of Hindi music, movies and tradition are unfamiliar and vividly depicted. There may not be the depth of Coppola’s film, and the female characters are weakly drawn, but Kashyap’s film is lightning paced, well-acted and breathlessly observes a complex story about a snake-pit of casual killers.

Gangs of Wasseypur (Part 1) screened at Glasgow Film Festival. Limited release from Fri 22 Feb.

Gangs of Wasseypur – Part 1

  • 4 stars
  • 2012
  • India
  • 2h 39min
  • Directed by: Anurag Kashyap
  • Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Richa Chadda, Nawazuddin Siddiqui
  • UK release: 22 February 2013

Epic, two-part Bollywood gangster movie, with part one chronicling the rise of crime patriarch Sardar Khan (Bajpayee) as he gains control of Wasseypur. Kashyap's saga clearly owes much to Coppola's Godfather trilogy, but it has its own intensity and energy, and the complex story is well-acted and lightning-paced.