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15 Years of Gulaal : The Angriest movie by Anurag Kashyap

Randhir Prasad Featured Writer
Randhir Prasad
15 Years to Gulaal

“Ghaalib ke, Momin ke khwaabon ki Duniya, Maajaazon ke un Inqalaabon ki Duniya Faiz Firaak o Saahir o Maqdoom Meer ki Zauq ki daagon ki duniya Yeh Duniya agar mil bhi jaaye toh kya hai….”

IMDB in it’s Trivia section mentions how the famous song from Guru Dutt’s Masterpiece Pyaasa (1970) “Yeh Mehlon, Yeh Takhton, Yeh Taajon ki Duniya” served as an inspiration for Anurag Kashyap to make his political drama Gulaal. The movie is an ode to that song. How an exteriorly grand world at it’s core is essentially hollow, degenerating and not really worth owning. The movie has it’s own version of the track called “O ri Duniya” from which I quoted a stanza at the very beginning.

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Anyone familiar with Anurag Kashyap’s work, knows who he always manages to incorporate a part of his life into his cinema. It’s something he himself has admitted to doing. So the absolute bleak, conniving tone of Gulaal effectively conveys the phase Kashyap was going through while making it. Also the defeatist narrative communicate the innumerable heartbreaks the creator may have had before crafting such a world. Gulaal is the kind of work that comes from it’s artist in their most sorrowful state.

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Regarding the genesis of the movie I remember reading a Passion for Cinema blog by Anurag Kashyap about how writer Raj Singh Chaudhary had come to him about a script centered around college ragging, about the physical and mental trauma faced by young students. The script caught Kashyap’s attention but he strongly felt that the script lacked a “milieu”. To get the milieu they visited Chaudhary ‘s native place in Rajasthan, spoke to people there. A lot of royal families, who post Independence had to give up their ruled states to the Indian Government were unhappy. They felt like they themselves had been given a raw deal, felt persecuted by the Government, they felt democracy would not work, had more faith in their own monarchy. Their disillusionment inspired the subplot of an underground separatist movement to acquire “Rajputana” back for royalties.

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And, it seems like during the making, the disillusionment of the royalties along with Kashyap’s own disillusionment with not being able to get his earlier movies made, the innumerable roadblocks that happened during the making of this movie itself, all showed expression in the overall tone, the mood of the movie. In a lot of movies of Kashyap, his protagonists are non conformists, they have a sense of conviction to them in their rebellious ways; I think Dileep Kumar Singh is probably the only absolutely submissive, passive protagonist from Kashyap. He is the guy who doesn’t respond even when physically attacked, he is paralyzed with fear on the backseat of a bike as his only friend Ransa gets abducted. Not only is Dileep a poltroon, he is also quite imbecile. He cannot see through what Rajinder Singh Bhatti and Dukya Bana are making him do. He cannot see through Kiran who is very obviously using him from their very first meet. He very easily takes Anuja sympathetic gestures towards him just after Ransa’s death as sexual advances. Raj Singh Chaudhary played Dilip very convincingly. It’s nice how a person with tall stature is actually made to play a character with a very contrasting personality.

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 While Dileep himself is not like a typical Anurag Kashyap protagonist, the void in the movie is filled by Ransa, at least for the first one hour. Ransa is a legitimate blue blood heir with very little regard for his ancestry or ancestral wealth. He lives his life by his own rules, and wears his attitude on his sleeve. He is the guy who does not feel threatened even when abducted, while being held on gunpoint. He makes a badass and nasty pass on his half brother just before being shot dead by him. Abhimanyu Singh was great as Rananjay Singh alias Ransa. The most impactful character of the movie is off course Dukey Bana played excellently by Kay Kay Menon. He is a hardcore Sectarian who believes in the Rajput supremacy, feels the Rajput community needs to have their own independent state. As a evil conservative baddie he has his share of hypocrisy. Very openly he has an other woman, along with his wife. His fiery opening speech as the Senapati of the underground Separatist movement meeting ascertains his mental inclinations. John Lennon obsessed Prithvi Bana is the exact foil to his younger brother Dukey Bana. While Dukey is very influential and powerful bigot, Prithvi is a free thinking artist (more specifically singer) who is more or less a bystander to all the proceedings. Prithvi Bana has a very interesting and fascinating sidekick in Ardhanareshwar played by Teddy Maurya.

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Mahie Gill as Madhuri, a Mia Wallace inspired firebrand mistress to Dukey Bana is pretty entertaining to watch. Her dialogue exchange with Ransa at the very beginning of the movie is both edgy and insightful. Jesse Randhawa as Anuja uses her calm and understated persona well. Deepak Dobriyal plays Dukey Bana’s faithful lieutenant Rajindar Singh Bhatti very well. However the femme fatale of the movie is Kiran who topples both a weak Dileep as well as a strong Dukey Bana by playing a seducer to both. She is the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Off course she has strong reasons to do all her deeds. Ayesha Mohan played the role quite effectively. Apart from all of these Chittaranjan Giri, Murari Kumar and Pankaj Jha are good in their small parts. The music and the lyrics play an important part of the movie’s narrative. I loved how a war anthem like “Aarambh” is used against a backdrop of a rigged college election. I also loved the on-your-face satire of “Ranaji”, especially how they have addressed the attacks of 911. Piyush Mishra has indeed delivered a solid and memorable album.

The main reason why Gulaal works so well and still manages to hold up after so many years is its uncompromised approach. It presents this uncomfortable story told in the most uncomfortable way to the audience without worrying about how they are going to feel about it. It also doesn’t overdo the unpleasantness to cash in on sensationalism. The movie presents a naked truth just as it is, pretty much like what Cinema was ideally meant to be.

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