As a general note: I watched this movie a little while ago and while I remember the themes, I may end up confusing the details from Gangs of Wassyepur with those of Slumdog Millionaire. If anyone reading notices this happening, please feel free to comment and let me know.
Two of the major themes that I picked up on in Gangs of Wassyepur were poverty and corruption. The way the film goes about representing these themes shapes its message to the audience and allows for a broader commentary on what causes them. My belief is that the film was putting an emphasis on the cycle that each generation in the main families go through, reinforcing their socioeconomic statuses and the “need” for corruption.
In the beginning of the film, the audience is introduced to Shahid Khan, a character who steals grain from British trains under the name of a Qureshi man.When Shahid was caught and forced to leave Wasseypur, he went on to work in the mines to support his wife and expected child. During this time, the film emphasized the poor working conditions and inhumane treatments that coal miners recieved while struggling to make a living wage. After the death of his wife, Shahid did what he knew how to do and used his strength in deceit and force to move up the ranks within the company.
The death of Shahid, rooted in a corrupt coal mining operation, sets his son on the path of revenge from a very young age. In Sadar’s quest in finding revenge, he finds himself following the same footsteps as his father, using deceit and leverage as a way to make personal gains. As Sadar gains and maintains his powerful status, he has many children, two of whom become a part of the family business. Having known no other way of life, three generations of this family fell into the cycle of corruption – all of which stemmed from Shahid’s decisions. But the question that is left unanswered is: why Shahid feel it necessary to steal from British trains? From earlier discussions, we know that British colonization had a large impact on India’s economy, leaving some towns and areas in poverty and without food. Was Shahid stealing to make a statement against the ruling government? To explicitly frame the Qureshi? Or did he do it out of need for food, money, security, and power?
In saying that poverty and corruption are a cycle, I am not implying that the characters had no agency – I am merely pointing out that larger-scale corruption within the corporations and government of that time had a profound impact on the lives of the characters in this film.
I apologize if this post is sporadic and unorganized, I underestimated how difficult it would be to discuss these themes in a short amount of time and only in the context of one family from the film.