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Wasseypur offered no cathartic moments, but the film will stay with me- July 3, 2012

Gangs of Wasseypur….finally! The film was long overdue, but nothing prepared me for it. My friends who had watched it refrained from offering an opinion, but now I know nothing they said would have really mattered.

An epic saga that unfolds at its own leisurely pace. At no point in the film did I have a cathartic moment, no tears fell, even the extreme violence had a dreamlike unreal quality to it. I know very little about the process of film making, but I do know that every creative endeavor needs to be visualized, in detail. The detail in every frame,¬†every scene of GoW (hate the acronym actually, sounds too much like PoW) astounded me. I could barely take it all in, the foreground, mid ground and background, the accents, the expressions, the costumes, the authenticity reflected in small things…and the scene would roll into the next one. And so it went on, obliterating from my mind everything but the narrative I was watching, experiencing. So much so that in the last scene, when Manoj Bajpai was dying in extreme slow motion, I noticed he was rolling atop a cart with ‘building material’ written on it in Denagri. My mind connected building materials to real estate, and then onto Shanghai, in a bid to remember the last impactful movie I saw…..but I could recall nothing of Shanghai at all, not even Abhay Deol! I simply could not get out of Wasseypur!

A few things struck me particularly about the movie. That the lives of each one of us reflects the story of India’s growth (good, bad and ugly) and the story of urbanization. Wasseypur is initially a hamlet outside Dhanbad, with huts outside which people lounge about in charpais. Slowly, as it gets eaten into the growing city, its look and feel changes. Scraggly brick and concrete structures of uneven height, open drains, every house have the street facing rooms converted into shops, workshops. Walk-up apartments as well as gates opening into courtyards. The typical feel of village galis (streets) that grew into more urban lanes. The changing modes of transport, horse and tangas to cycles and jeeps and Ambassador cars. Today, we see this sort of organic growth everywhere.

In these pockets of urbanized hamlets live communities that still retain their identities and culture, nurture old grouses, exhibit particular behavior. Like Wasseypur is a law unto itself and even the police dare not investigate here, there are many Wasseypurs across India where only the rule of the land applies and governance (and all it entails) is swatted away by the locals.

And in this all, the frightening relationship between money and illegal activity (some form of extortion, smuggling, forgery or exploitative brokerage) and money and power. Frightening because of the reality that these are the only options for ambitious people who aren’t lucky enough to be born to parents well off enough to educate you and give you reasonable opportunities. Gangs of Wasseypur highlights this reality in a very naked way. Times change and the opportunity changes, but the exploitation continues. An entire generation of young men and women are being raised in a climate of crime and violence, taking these for granted as the normal ways of life. In the movie, Sardar Khan’s (Manoj Bajpai) sons react very differently to their difficult life, but in the end they all fall in line and join hands with the father in his nefarious activities. There is no sense of the wrongness of any of what they do. It’s normal.

It makes me wonder about us, who live our cloistered lives in larger cities, who shudder at the thought of encountering a beat constable or traffic policeman, leave alone confronting a thug? We daren’t pass judgement on the rights and wrongs of life in Wasseypur, a parody for the thousands of small Indian towns that are coping as best as they can with the onslaught of development, growth, urbanization, change.

The women in the film struck me particularly, their characters admirably strong. Nagma (Richa Chaddha, brilliant and gorgeous!) buys into the dreams of her man, however unreal they seem.¬† She tolerates his weaknesses, yet calls his bluff to his face. The ‘other’ woman Durga (Reemma Sen, sensual), the non-wife, wants his love but wants also to live life at her own terms, ultimately betraying him when he scorns her to go back to Nagma. Both manage to shame and profoundly affect Sardar Khan, but he is a slave to his twins passions of lust and revenge.

The dialogues had punch. Having grown up in the outskirts of Lucknow and having done projects in Eastern UP, I could relate to the language and the accents. People really do speak like that. I heard sniggers every time there were expletives used and I felt like turning around to the teetering groups and telling them that those weren’t put in to give you guys cheap thrills, that’s normal lingo for a lot of people!

I liked the film for its honesty, though it has plenty of blank moments when you feel perhaps the script went astray a bit. It all comes together though, and Part 2 is eagerly awaited. Piyush Mishra’s narration, the eccentric musical score, the exquisite cinematography especially sunsets over the water made up for other minor flaws. For those of you who have not yet watched it, go loaded with patience and don’t carry any devices that tell the time!

Lessons from a month of daily blogging- Jan 31, 2012

I’m over the moon at completing a month of daily blogging today. It’s not been easy, but it’s been addictive and here are the highs and lows.

Off the cuff

An overall positive reaction It’s been a high to get appreciated certainly and thanks for all the pats; it makes it worthwhile going on. However, I am particularly grateful for the constructive criticism from my closest friends. Pointing out typos, inconsistencies and debating points via the comments made some entries really worth the effort!

A growing and varied readership In the beginning, it was only my friends list on FB that read my blog. In the latter half of the month, though, some new bloggers from around the world have joined the list and that has been gratifying.

A new ability to shed inhibitions One of my earliest lessons was that it is easy to get caught up in the diplomacy game. I decided I would blog honestly and express opinion without reserve, as far as possible. Am hoping to sustain that!

A huge lesson in self-discipline Being able to exercise the discipline to write everyday and make some sense has been the single largest achievement of the past month. There are days I have literally punched away not knowing where the heck the words were trying to reach! Thanks to all those with faith who cared enough to worry about the days I posted at nearly midnight and shared my relief when the post actually went up!

Self-criticism

Not enough ‘city’ in my posts The subjects I write about are a bit all over the place right now. Yes, you can’t really focus too much without boxing yourself in and boring the reader, but some posts really struggle to fit into an urban context. Hope to correct that over time!

Too affected by the site stats Once I discovered the site stats pages, I was in a tizzy. Much as it is gratifying to see what posts really pushed buttons out there, it is equally discouraging to see phases when traffic simply peters out! Sometimes I see a pattern and quality of content plays a significant part, but sometimes the logic for the highs and lows is not very apparent. I think starting today, I will try and tone down my focus on the stats and focus the next month on just writing!

Brevity, where art thou? The posts are far too long. I pour my heart out, but its not always fun to read more than the equivalent of a single A4 page! And if there is a point to make, I should be able to make it in about 500 words, right?

New strategies

Here’s what I’m focusing on in the coming month- Resisting the urge to ‘plan’ the blog and keeping it spontaneous for now, trying hard to pack in the punch and not ramble too much, exploring new directions and new urban topics, constantly trying to build correlations among diverse areas of interest, not pacing things out but letting some posts be intense and others dull kind of reflecting the state of mind at the time…

Appeal

I still don’t know where I am going with this blogging deal, but I would be grateful to all for comments, honest opinions and suggestions…. and please don’t worry about being too nice!

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