Reception Edit Raja Sen of Rediff gave a 5 star rating to the soundtrack calling it a "A strikingly flavourful and headily authentic collection of quirky music". The marketing of Gangs of Wasseypur was noted for its uniqueness. Gamucha , a thin traditional East Indian towel was taken to Cannes, the Gangs of Wasseypur team danced on the streets wearing red gamchhas, after the Cannes Film Festival and has been making public appearances in them ever since. While most music launches in India happen with a big party in a 5-star banquet hall in Delhi or Mumbai , and formal announcements before the press, the music of this film, was launched in Patna. In another effective way of building the world of Wasseypur for the audience, a fictitious newspaper was made available online which was named Wasseypur Patrika.
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Meanwhile, Amitabh, still the subject of most of our adoration, was moving on to newer things. His political career was just taking off, and real life met reel life in a muddled sort of way in a film called Inquilaab, which ended with a heavy-handed scene we loved it at the time!
Around the time Inquilaab was being completed, another, much less heralded film had a quiet release in a few movie halls in Bombay and in Sheila in Delhi. Too deeply embedded, perhaps, to ever be successfully countered. But hey, we could always make the best of a bad situation by laughing at our collective predicament. It used humour for potent social commentary and to skewer holy cows. It made us chuckle along with it, even as it held up a distorting mirror to society. The story is easy enough to summarize.
Two idealistic photographers, Vinod Naseeruddin Shah and Sudhir Ravi Baswani , try to earn an honest living by setting up a small photo studio, but gradually get drawn into a situation involving corrupt builders, corrupt law enforcers and a corrupt magazine publisher. An editor named Shobha Bhakti Barve hires them to spy on the underhand activities of two rival construction magnates, Tarneja Pankaj Kapoor and Ahuja Om Puri , both of whom are in cahoots with the crooked commissioner of police, DeMello Satish Shah.
When the commissioner is murdered and the photographers find evidence that Tarneja is the killer, the corpse becomes the focus of a manic chase that ends in a theatre house where an episode from the Mahabharata is being staged. The police intervene and the two photographers think all their hard work will finally bear fruit, ending in the arrest of the guilty parties.
You can methodically list the many modes of humour that it employs or the templates that it draws on: slapstick, surrealism, black comedy, the Theatre of the Absurd and the Keystone Kops among them. Hindi movies fell into two broad categories at the time. Conventional wisdom has it that there was a clear division between the two forms, but the lines did blur at times. Posterity has further muddied the waters. In almost any other major cinematic culture, even the Hollywood of the s with its narrative-driven films and popular genres such as the screwball comedy, the musical and the Western , they would have been part of the mainstream.
But even amidst all these films, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro is one of a piece. It defied classification. It was nearly as accessible as most mainstream films, but it was also just as provocative—and arguably more durable than— as many of the earnest but drab propaganda features of the time.
To truly understand the phenomenon, one has to understand what a rare thing political or social satire is in India. This is not a country that has a grand tradition in film, at least of using humour to depict the stark realities of everyday life.
Beneath the laughter is cold fury, even nihilism. It was the era of a single TV channel and mostly black-and-white TV sets. When my family got its first VCP, at least a dozen neighbours from around the building laid siege to our living room for the inauguration, done with a Mithun Chakraborty starrer called Muddat. Star Trek on Sunday mornings. The Sunday-evening Hindi movies. Rajani, Nukkad and the Lalita-ji commercials.
I first saw it around the age of seven, with most of the family sitting in a semicircle around the glowing rectangular box in the drawing room. This scenario would repeat itself every few months or so, for Doordarshan seemed to enjoy telecasting the film almost as much as we enjoyed watching it.
Its title soon became a byword for something funny, something that made you smile when you heard it—much like the TV show Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi. And because it was telecast so often over the years, we saw it at different stages of our lives, and it came to mean something different to us each time. It can be a mistake to try and analyse the responses of your child-self to a film, but I think one reason why the film appealed so much to us when we were little was that it unfolded like the class plays we were familiar with in school— episodic, disjointed, a bit juvenile.
Adult men and women some of them smartly dressed in bandgallas and saris running down the road after a corpse on roller skates? Arbitrary shooting about with guns, with no one getting hurt? The tomfoolery with the mixed-up telephones? Some of us had seen this kind of thing in Chaplin comedies on TV, but not in a contemporary, home-grown film with situations that we could directly relate to.
To our young minds, the shenanigans in Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro were sillier than the dhishum-dhishum scenes and vigilante supermen in mainstream movies; we took those very seriously indeed! For children, this scene combined something we loved chocolate cake with something that was fun to do throw stuff at people , and it was an instant winner.
Long before we could understand the scene in grown-up terms—as an indictment of consumerist culture, a commentary on obscene wastage in a society where the gap between the haves and the have-nots was already insurmountable—it worked for us at a primitive level. The deeper meaning was secondary and, for many of us, it would remain incidental even when we watched the film as adults.
Hard as it is to believe today, there were parts that we found genuinely frightening as little children. Some of the other humour was too subtle or deadpan for us. We were so inured to the sight of poor people living like this that we simply took the statement at face value.
As slightly older children, we would be fascinated by the blow-up scene where the photographers minutely examine and enlarge a film negative that shows a murder being committed—it was our introduction to the idea that this could even be done. Then came the last shot of the film, the scene that made both children and their parents uncomfortable. Up to this moment, there was reflex laughter every minute or so, but when the partners made their appearance in prison clothes a hush fell over the room.
Nor could we process the negative connotation given to a patriotic song that we recited so proudly at school functions. All this made the downbeat ending more difficult to swallow. Corruption and inequality are things that we now take so much for granted that the pessimistic ending of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro seems more pertinent than ever.
Any movie is necessarily a collaborative effort, and even a casual viewer should be able to tell that Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro.
Harper Cinema Omnibus: Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro; Gangs of Wasseypur; Mother Maiden Mistress
Download The Script Of Gangs Of Wasseypur II