<Review by: Juthika Nagpal>
Directed by Anurag Kashyap. Starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Huma Qureshi, Richa Chadda, Pankaj Tripathi, Zeishan Quadri, Reemma Sen, Piyush Mishra, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Satya Anand, Vipin Sharma, Vineet Kumar, Anurita Jha, Aditya Kumar, Jameel Khan.
I waited for this release with so much enthusiasm, that after watching Part I twice (Gangs of Wasseypur Part I review here), I actually went in for a refresher and watched it again for a third time, just before heading in to watch Gangs of Wasseypur II. If there’s one thing that’s clear about Part II, it’s that it cannot, and should not, be viewed as a separate movie. The gory continuum of the saga stays true to its sole purpose: the vengeful ruin of Ramadhir Singh.
A heads up to those who thought that Part I was senseless, over-complex and too damn long – Do not attempt Part II). Those of you who loved Part I, read on!
Originally shot as a single film, this bifurcated 2nd half begins with no cryptic riddles, taking off directly where Part I ended - with Sardar Khan’s (Manoj Bajpai’s) murder and the rise of the next generation – Danish (Vineet Kumar), Faizal (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), Tangent, Perpendicular (Aditya Kumar) and Definite (Zeishan Quadri). I don’t know what’s with the names – but they are just so lovable it must be forgiven.
Faizal Khan, on hearing his widowed mother lament that an irresponsible pothead is simply incapable of avenging the murderous deaths of his predecessors, takes on the unforeseen role of leading and protecting the family through the next 20 years. It’s an extremely difficult role to play, with the complex and continuously evolving relationships, and numerous emotionally loaded dynamics to cater to. It goes without saying that it is no easy task for Nawazuddin to replace Manoj Bajpai as the protagonist in a film of this caliber. Just as it is no easy task for Faizal Khan to replace the Sardar Khan of Wasseypur and Dhanbad, and Nawazuddin must be given full credit to be able to pull this off!
There is, however, a sore absence felt throughout the film – the absence of Manoj Bajpai by the audience, and the absence of Sardar Khan by the characters in the story. As much as I feel the unfairness of rating one film in two pieces, the loss of that one star is reflected in my star rating of the film – a gaping hole where the 4th star should have been.
While the Qureshis see no significant new branches in the family tree in Part II, a number of characters are added into the movie – new players in the industrialised and now politically reactive twin towns. Everyone wants to be somebody rich and powerful, enabling them to be used as pawns in the battlefield of the Khans, Quershis and the Singh father-son duo. The movie stretches out a bit here, requiring undivided focus to follow the details. Some specifics are difficult to pick up – Is Tangent the ‘un-named Khan brother’ from Part I or is he Perpendicular’s childhood friend? Who is the guy who got his leg blown off? If he was just another of Ramadhir Singh’s employees, did it warrant Ramadhir’s special visit to him in the hospital? While I’m quite sure that Anurag Kashyap has all of this covered, it means I’ll just have to brush up my Bihari and watch the film again to find out. (A fantastic PR activity could have been initiated by handing out little booklets containing character descriptions and family trees.)
The young, hot-blooded personalities from the beginning of Part I age beautifully into the latter half of Part II. Nagma Khatoon (Richa Chadda, read her interview here), Farhan (Piyush Mishra), Ramadhir Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia) and Ehsan Qureshi (Vipin Sharma) take long journeys of between 4 to 6 decades, forming the backbone of their respective personal stories.
A very striking and almost unbelievable pattern in the movie is the lineage of headstrong, influential female roles in the storyline. In my review of Part I, I made a special note of Sardar Khan’s first wife Nagma Khatoon, who raises her children almost single handedly, teaching them the important lessons of survival in the context of an inherited gang war with an almost absent patriarch.
Part II follows this through with her daughter-in-law Mohsina (Huma Qureshi), who stands by Faizal Khan every step of the way, flaunting her position by appearing with him publicly and as an active counterpart in his endeavors, in otherwise all-male gatherings. She emulates the aura of the Nagma of yesteryear, as First Lady to the alpha-Khan.
The other Khan daughter-in-law, Sama Parveen (Anurita Jha, read her interview here), plays a crucial part in the family’s ceasefire with the Qureshis. She refuses to buckle under multiple threats from her cousin Sultan (Pankaj Tripathi), and silently stands her ground after a mourning Nagma taunts her for being a daughter of the Qureshi clan which is responsible for her own father-in-law’s death. Despite this, she continues to share a special bond with Nagma, and retains her respect as the oldest daughter-in-law of the household.
The fourth female dominant role we see is that of Sardar Khan’s second wife Durga (Reemma Sen). The least visible but possibly the most determined of them all, Durga is an accomplice in the murder of her husband Sardar Khan in Part I – a truly crafty negotiation with Ramadhir Singh for the protection of her only son, Definite, in his formative years. She then raises the child to specifically pave his way into the brotherhood of Khans and ensure that he legitimizes his bloodline and honour.
Now, I have had some first-hand experience with the dynamics of women in rural North Indian households, so while the feminist in me is thrilled by these utterly gorgeous, unyielding, resilient women, a part of me sadly wonders if it’s just too good to be true.
The music in both, Part I and Part II is outstanding! Sneha Khanwalkar and Piyush Mishra have based the soundtrack almost entirely on folk music of the region, with abrupt and glaring insertions of the 80-90s Bollywood influence. Adding this humour and quirkiness makes one actually feel the shift in eras, while remaining well grounded into the time and context of the Bihar/Jharkhand ethnicity.
All in all, the movie ends with the satisfaction that the story actually ends! For a plot with this level of complexity and so many active characters, tying up the loose ends with precision and closure is a tough one. When the movie is over you think, “Wait. Is everything done with?” and the answer is “Yes”. Then you lean back and wonder how you can smile at the end of a story where three generations are sacrificed to avenge the killing of one man – one Shahid Khan of Wasseypur.