I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with one new addition to the catalog. The 2012 crime epic Gangs of Wasseypur is now available for streaming. When the five-hour-plus film originally released in theaters, it was split into two parts. Netflix has taken that approach further, breaking the movie into eight episodes of approximately 40-minutes each. Netflix even classifies Gangs of Wasseypur as a TV show instead of a film.
I’m intrigued by this approach, as I think it could really help to make the movie more accessible. The plot is organized in a way that doesn’t suit an even split in the middle, so breaking it into smaller chapters should help maintain narrative cohesion. Psychologically, it also seems (at least to me) less daunting to commit to watching eight short episodes of a show than one five-hour film. Without having seen the episodic version, it sounds like a great idea.
Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include the Tamil version of I at the Cantera 17, Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge, and MovieMax, which holds over the Telugu version as well; Gopala Gopala (Telugu) at Seven Bridges and MovieMax; and the Telugu films Beeruva and Pataas at MovieMax.
Tevar‘s business took a huge hit in its second weekend in U.S. theaters. According to Rentrak figures supplied to Bollywood Hungama, Tevar earned $7,274 from 14 theaters ($520 average) during the weekend of January 16-18, 2015 (not taking into account the Monday Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday). That’s less than 6% of what it earned in its opening weekend, bringing Tevar‘s total earnings to $164,351. It is worth pointing out that, according to Box Office Mojo, Tevar had already earned $214,635 during its first full week in theaters. However, without second weekend figures to augment that data, I’m sticking with the lower Rentrak total.
PK continued its exceptional run, adding another $101,350 from 43 theaters ($2,357 average), bringing its North American total to $10,433,363. That puts it in 24th place all time among foreign-language films released in North America.
Perhaps Gangs of Wasseypur waited too long to make its North American theatrical debut. The first part of the 2012 epic debuted on January 16, 2015, in 13 theaters, earning a measly $5,167 ($397 average). Here’s hoping business picks up during the week before the release of Part II on January 23.
Of the $1,206,346 that the multi-language release I earned in its first weekend in theaters, just $14,382 came from the 47 theaters showing the Hindi-dubbed version ($306 average).
Director Anurag Kashyap’s five-hour crime epic Gangs of Wasseypur made a splash on the festival circuit in 2012. It released theatrically in India but didn’t make the journey overseas. Finally, on Friday, January 16, 2015, select AMC theaters across the United States will carry Gangs of Wasseypur Part I. The following Friday, January 23, those same theaters will carry Gangs of Wasseypur Part II. Both parts of the film will run for one week only.
Through a stroke of luck, my local public library ordered Gangs of Wasseypur on DVD back in 2012, so I was able to review it back then. It’s a fascinating movie, unlike any other Hindi film I’ve seen. However, my viewing experience suffered by having to wait several weeks in between watching Part I and Part II.
The one-week break between the theatrical releases of Part I and Part II sounds about right in order to maintain the film’s momentum. Fans of Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Manoj Bajpayee will want to make a point of seeing this on the big screen.
Follow this link to see if Gangs of Wasseypur is playing in a theater near you.
One older Hindi film finally makes its U.S. theatrical debut on Friday. 2012’s 5-hour epic Gangs of Wasseypur is being released in two parts in select theaters across the country, including the South Barrington 30. Part 1 debuts on January 16, and it will be replaced the following Friday, January 23, by Part II.
The Indian movie that is dominating local screenspace in unprecedented fashion is the sci-fi/fantasy adventure romance I, which opens today. Originally shot in Tamil, I is also dubbed into Telugu and Hindi. It’s showing all across the Chicago area, with different theaters carrying different versions (all of them supposedly have English subtitles). Here’s a list based on info available at Fandango:
Telugu: River East 21; Century 12 Evanston; Century 16 Deer Park; MovieMax; Rosemont 18; Cinemark Melrose Park; Century Stratford Square; Marcus Addison Cinema; AMC Showplace Naperville 16 in Naperville; Cinemark at Seven Bridges; Cinemark Louis Joliet Mall
I’m not sure which language version is showing at the Regal Gardens 1-6, but I’m betting Tamil since that’s what’s showing at the Cantera (another Regal theater). Considering that several theaters are showing multiple versions of I, be sure to check the schedule before you head to the theater to make sure you select the correct showtime.
Gangs of Wasseypur debuted on the festival circuit as a five-hour-plus Indian crime epic. When it finally released into theaters (and on DVD), the film was chopped into two halves, released months apart as Gangs of Wasseypur Part I and Part II. It’s a decision that makes sense from a distribution standpoint, but it does the film a disservice.
Gangs of Wasseypur is truly a single film written with a place for a pause in the middle to grab snacks, not for a break of several weeks. Like those who saw the film in the theater, I watched the DVDs weeks apart, and I think the viewing experience suffered for it. If you have the opportunity to watch both parts of Gangs of Wasseypur back-to-back, do it.
With that caveat, how does the film stand up as a cohesive work? Director Anurag Kashyap is something of an outlier in Indian cinema due to his willingness to let scenes breathe and unfold at their own pace. It’s wonderful to watch, but not indefinitely. There’s so much material in Gangs of Wasseypur that I would have enjoyed it more as two distinct films with two sets of midpoints, climaxes, and denouements. As it exists, Gangs of Wasseypur is a bit too much.
The plot chronicles a story of revenge that spans multiple generations of two families in the town of Wasseypur. After the British depart India in 1947, a young industrialist named Ramadhir Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia) assumes control of the local mine. He hires a goon named Shahid Khan (Jaideep Ahlawat) to force the local laborers to work in deplorable conditions.
One night, Ramadhir overhears Shahid talking to his son, Sardar Khan, and his cousin, Nasir (Piyush Mishra, the film’s narrator) about his plans to kill Ramadhir and take over the mine himself. Ramadhir acts first, luring Shahid to his death, though his plot to murder Sardar and Nasir fails. Young Sardar vows to one day murder Ramadhir in retaliation, eventually passing on his hatred of the industrialist to his own sons.
That setup encompasses about the first hour of the film. The remaining four hours deal with the ongoing power struggle between the Singhs and the Khans and the resulting bloodshed. This is a gory film by any standard, but especially so compared to other Hindi films.
The bulk of the story centers on the two most charismatic members of the Khan family: Sardar (Manoj Bajpai) and his second oldest son, Faizal (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). Rather than murdering Ramadhir outright, Sardar plots to become his equal and destroy everything Ramadhir has built. Sardar makes a fortune stealing iron ore and intimidating the populace. This long game gives Sardar time to raise a family (or two) while plotting his revenge.
Sardar is an interesting choice for a lead character because he’s an awful person, regardless of his tragic beginnings. In addition to being a violent crook, he’s a terrible husband to his first wife, Nagma (Richa Chadda), whom he abandons to marry a second woman, Durga (Reema Sen), whom he eventually leaves to return to Nagma. At various times, Sardar neglects his four sons with Nagma and his one son with Durga. To varying degrees, all of his children hate him as much as they fear and respect him.
Such a negative character only works as a lead because Manoj Bajpai is so talented. Sardar shares moments of genuine affection with both of his wives when he’s not being a total narcissist. Bajpai plays Sardar with such swagger and menace that it’s easy to understand how he achieves the success he does.
Faizal is not much like his father. With an older brother, Danish (Vineet Singh), as Sardar’s natural heir, Faizal can waste his time getting stoned. Circumstances eventually force him to take a more active role in the family business, and Faizal proves to be unexpectedly ruthless.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui owns every scene he’s in. He’s talented enough to make scenes in which Faizal sits starring some of the most riveting scenes in the movie. Faizal’s conflicted feelings about his violent lifestyle make him more relatable than his father, and he’s downright charming as he woos the lovely Mohsina (Huma Qureshi).
The problem inherent in revenge films is that the characters often have little room for growth. Either they get their revenge, or they don’t, whether by choice or failure. Revenge is an okay motive for a shorter movie, but my interest waned after the third hour or so.
Also at around the three-hour mark, the story pushes two new characters to the forefront: Sardar’s two youngest sons, Definite (Zaishan Quadri) and Babua (Aditya Kumar). At that point — about 60% of the way through the film — I didn’t have the energy to get invested in two essentially brand new characters. Had Gangs of Wasseypur Part II been a proper sequel, the introduction of the new characters wouldn’t have seemed so late.
What ultimately makes the film worth seeing is Kashyap’s directing style. In addition to letting the scenes breathe, he uses music to incredible effect. He has mastered the montage. In addition to star turns by Bajpai and Siddiqui, Kashyap gets great performances out of the rest of the cast as well.
Gangs of Wasseypur would’ve been better as two distinct films, but I applaud Kashyap’s effort in trying to push the boundaries of Indian cinema.