Stylized Corruption in Gangs of Wasseypur

I have never experienced a TV series/movie like Gangs of Wasseypur. What immediately stood out for me, besides the explicit language, was how corruption was portrayed in the movie. In previous movies we have watched for our class, like Namak Halaal and Slumdog Millionaire, corruption is portrayed as evil. Both these movies show a clear distinction between good and evil. In Namak Halaal, we see this play out between Ranjit and Arjun. The audience is supposed to side with the country bumpkin Arjun, and fight the corruption that is playing out in the new cities. In Slumdog Millionaire, Jamal has to combat the corruption with Maman, and then later, Javed. The movie is a little more complex in its view of corruption, due to Salim, but I still think there is a clear line between good and evil.

However, in Gangs of Wasseypur, corruption seems almost glamorized at occasions. For example, the intro credits are in black and white, and a gunshot sound effect is heard in the background. The opening credits of each episode have a film noir feel to them. Then, in the very first scene of the movie, where JP Singh’s henchmen shoot up the house, violence is glamorized, and there is a certain style to it. This stylized approach to violence is shown at many instances in the movie, like when Sardar tries to find and kill the men who kidnap the women on the street. The series at times reminded of a Tarentino flick. As we see Shahid khan become Ramadhir Singh’s crony in the first episode, there is always this thirst for violence. When Shahid Khan is not able to see his wife in labor, he kills the coal miner manager (24:43). The scene occurs in slow motion, and Shahid’s bloody face takes up the screen. The scene is brutal and unsettling, but it is also stylized in a certain way where we, the audience, relate to Shahid’s frustration.

In the next episode, his son, Sardar Khan, almost becomes this Tony Soprano-like figure. He cheats on his wife and does not care about the consequences. Yet, I still wanted Sardar to get his vengeance. Sardar Khan is a complex character. Furthermore, the film does a great job showing the horrible side effects of corruption, not only killing but adultery. Nagma and Durga are helpless to the men that surround them. A scene that grabbed my attention was when Sardar blames his wife for having too many babies. The scene in many ways seems trivial, but it shows how women just cannot catch a break in this toxic patriarchal environment. Women are constantly mistreated in the movie.

Lastly, I like how the movie makes a correlation between the land, the mines, and corruption. After the British leave India, the movie explains, big tycoons like, Ramidir Singh, take control. I thought this was interesting because it showed how the idea of corruption and greed is universal. Possibly, the movie, even with geography was alluding to this. Wasseypur had been redistricted many times, as the movies shows, and I thought this may be an allusion to corruption. Yes, Wasseypur has been redistricted from the Bengal region to Jharkhand, but it is still essentially the same place. It can be redistricted a thousand times, but the land and the people, stay the same. I am unsure if I am explaining this clearly, but I saw a correlation. Also, coal is dirty, grimy, and it pollutes the environment. However, it also fuels society to keep going. I saw coal as an allegory for the corruption that surrounds Wasseypur and Jharkhand. To conclude, this is a great movie that highlights corruption in India.

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