There are films — and then there are cult classics. Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap’s magnum opus ‘Gangs of Wasseypur. which celebrated its 10th anniversary on Monday, belongs to the second category.
The two-part gangster crime drama, which was initially shot as a single film of 321 minutes, not just turned the fortunes on their head for Kashyap, but also for everyone involved with the film.
The film, spanning three generations beginning from pre-Independence India under colonial rule to modern-day India, tells the story of generational revenge, power struggles, politics and survival.
Kashyap at once became the poster boy of the post-2000s parallel film movement in the country. The film also stands as Kashyap’s biggest hit till date.
It came as a big relief for him, as his earlier films either never saw the light of day (‘Paanch’), or were banned (‘Black Friday’), or were simply sleeper hits (‘Gulaal’). The only exception was ‘Dev D’, which in a way helped the director generate the recall value for the Manoj Bajpayee and Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’.
Other artistes, who benefited from the film and have gone on to rule the roost every since, include a string of now-celebrated talents. Nawazuddin, who earlier got small roles and struggled for nearly a decade, became an overnight star, courtesy of his powerhouse acting which was both realistic and robust to say the least.
The success of ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’, clubbed with ‘Kahaani’ and ‘Talaash: The Answer Lies Within’, catapulted the actor to stardom. He went on to be featured in some of the biggest films of the 2010s, sharing the big screen with the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir and Salman.
Pankaj Tripathi, who essayed the role of the butcher Sultan with a penchant for gore, also acquired a massive fan following. A former NSD alumnus, just like Nawaz, Pankaj was struggling to find work before ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’.
Post his appearance in the film, he went on to star in some of the most loved films and web series, from ‘Newton’, ‘Masaan’, ‘Dilwale’ and ‘Ludo’ to ‘Mirzapur’ and ‘Sacred Games’.
Another actor who turned out to be a bankable name is Jaideep Ahlawat, who played Shahid Khan, Sardar Khan’s father. A product of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Ahlawat had been referred to Kashyap by Manoj Bajpayee during the initial narration. Ahlawat followed his success in ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ with ‘Commando: A One Man Army’, ‘Gabbar Is Back’, ‘Raazi’ and ‘Paatal Lok’.
Richa Chadha has been promised the role of Durga by Anurag Kashyap, but it went went to Reema Sen because nobody was ready to play Sardar’s first wife, Nagma Khatoon, and it was Richa who saved the day for Kashyap as she did complete justice to the part.
Many people will consider ‘Shahid’ to be Rajkummar Rao’s claim to fame, but he had already made his presence felt with his powerful performance in ‘Love Sex Aur Dhokha’, followed by ‘Gangs’. Rao played Shamshad, Faizal’s (Nawazuddin) partner turned foe.
The actor went on to star in acclaimed films such as ‘Shahid’ and ‘Aligarh’, forming an unbreakable bond with filmmaker Hansal Mehta, whose directorial ‘Shahid’ revived his career and gave him a new voice as a filmmaker.
It’s not just the cast of ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ who benefitted from it. The film’s first assistant director, Neeraj Ghaywan, took the leap of faith and brought laurels to the country with his directorial debut, ‘Masaan’, as it bagged two awards at the 68th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, including the Promising Future prize in the Un Certain Regard section.
Post the success of ‘Masaan’, Ghaywan, who met his mentor Anurag Kashyap through the latter’s now-defunct cinema blog, Passion for Cinema, has delivered projects such as ‘Sacred Games 2’ and ‘Ajeeb Daastaans’.
This story won’t be complete without the mention of Vicky Kaushal, who was a third assistant director on the film. He had been referred to Anurag by his father, Sham Kaushal, who had choreographed the action in ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’.
Since then, Vicky has become a Bollywood sensation and heartthrob of Hindi cinema aficionados. The actor, who married Katrina Kaif last year, and has delivered hits such as ‘Uri’ and ‘Sanju’, even starred in ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ as a silhouette in the brothel scene where Nagma Khatoon (Richa Chadha) comes looking for Sardar Khan (Manoj Bajpayee).
‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ is not just a film. For some, it is an emotion; for other, it is an experience. For its team, however, it has been a fertile ground that gave them the space for their talent to blossom and their stars to shine.
–By Akshay Acharya