On the periphery, this is a vendetta tale spanning three generations. But deep within, it sketches the gradual alteration in the ethos of a community, forced to continually lock horns with devastating personal truths as a direct consequence of social and economic upheaval.
To me, the best part of GoW is the incisive narration (in Piyush Mishra’s truthful baritone) that traces the history and geography of coal mining from the British days to the post-independence era. As the nation moved ahead from bondage to freedom, the working class only saw old evils take new forms. Whether the British Raj or Indian privatization, the middlemen racket took the same toll.
GoW’s central theme belongs to Sardar Khan (Manoj Bajpayee, outstanding, Satya-like), desperate to settle scores with the family adversary Ramadin (Director Tigmanshu Dhulia, simply brilliant) who’s slain Sardar’s father in a “Bees saal pehele” brand encounter. Sardar carves his own feeder route of redemption, headed towards the highway of retribution. From being an unsung victim of fate, he transforms into a self-made Godfather, almost Bachchan-like, but the method is singularly different. He celebrates gunshots with festive fervour, finds spiritual solace in bloodshed and enjoys the carnal pleasures of life alongside chosen life missions. He tilts his priorities as per his whims and fancies without a trace of guilt.
While Kashyap’s wherewithal is more than perfect (the perceptive camerawork, soul-stirring music, convincing art direction and hugely talented support cast together spin rare magic) he seems more than generous when it comes to filming Sardar’s promiscuity. So, while Sardar keeps on parroting his “ek hi maksad” in life, you actually see him quite comfortably focused on the more ‘fleshy’ endeavors. So also, the blooming love lives of his sons get undue footage. In the mad rush to pack many stories into one, the director also seems to have lost his sense of time if not purpose. While some characters age commensurate with the span in question, we find others virtually the same in appearance. The magnanimous sprinkling of abuses and epithets, at times, appears overdone. Do cuss words mirror societal truths or guarantee viewership led by cat calls? one wonders.
Kashyap, we learn, is hugely upset that the audience has failed to appreciate a good film like GoW. We in turn lament the fact that GoW deserved to be a great film. Kashyap sir, we appreciate that making of offbeat films is a largely thankless preoccupation but why define the “Good” yourself? Why not solely design it?
Nevertheless, GoW is a harrowing yet asserting depiction of coercion that breeds cruelty. Wish it was more precise. Towards the fag end, it vaguely reminds you of Ram Gopal Verma’s Rakta Charitra. Hope the forthcoming sequel wipes out such ghastly recalls.