Bollywood

Book | Gangs of Wasseypur: The Making of a Modern Classic

Look at any movie list, and you are bound to find a fair share of cult, classic, and modern-classic films. But, the chances of coming across a “modern cult classic” are pretty slim.

Gangs of Wasseypur has in its own way redefined Indian cinema. It ran for over five hours and got released in two parts over a short period. While the film’s director, Anurag Kashyap, has a cult-like following of his own, the movie has very little star power and relies heavily on a story that spans over three generations, with an extraordinarily raw and rustic feel to it.

So, it comes as no surprise that there is already a book that has been written on it. I’m glad about that. What I am really ecstatic about is that the director and the others members involved in the making of the film opened up to the writers in a way that I haven’t often seen, especially in the cut-throat business of cinema.

Jigna Kothari and Supriya Madangari give us a book that is well structured, simple yet intelligently written, and most importantly intensely researched. What they give the reader is an inside look at the madness that goes behind making a film. In talking to people involved in Gangs of Wasseypur I and II, they explore the origins of the idea and follow it through its birth as a script. The teething troubles of changing producers during infancy, the problematic time during film development, slow “organic” progress, and the scenario taking shape to finally the time it announces its arrival with élan, each aspect of the film is discussed and narrated in detail.

Gangs of Wasseypur: The Making of a Modern Classic assumes you have seen the film. If not, you are most likely to get confused early on. The book isn’t as complicated as the story of the film, but nevertheless, a good understanding of the film will add to the enjoyment and the nuances that the book tries to explore and explain through its pages.

The different interviews with cast members and the people behind the scenes are an eye opener on the workings of the film world. The dedication and hardships faced by the makers are impressive and might even work as a valuable lesson for those that are under the impression that making films is a rather glamorous job. There is a lot that happens before fame and fortune can finally touch your feet, and this book is proof of that.

The one person that is given the most significant credit for the success of Gangs of Wasseypur is its director Anurag Kashyup, and rightly so. As a result, there is a continuous and sometimes overbearing presence of his throughout the book. From his foreword to the last chapter being a solo interview with him, he is everywhere. His input is no doubt significant, especially when it comes to the progress of the script. The writers acknowledge that were it not for him, the book would be something completely different, if at all there. Still, I would have loved maybe an in-depth “postscript” (the final chapter of the book) that included the marketing and release of the film, the effect the film had on people, and even a study into how Gangs of Wasseypur instantly became the modern cult classic that it is.

One cannot have everything, and in no way is the book incomplete. It more than attains what it starts out to achieve. Furthermore, the book has been released along with the complete screenplay. Typically, this would not have interested me, but in this case, when I have had a chance to see how the film developed through what is called “organic filmmaking” – a process in which the film changes continuously and something that is coined as Anurag Kashyup’s signature style – the screenplay makes for an exciting read.

Gangs of Wasseypur: The Making of a Modern Classic is a must read for any cinephile and especially for those that have an interest in filmmaking or plan to join the field. If you remember the film quite well, it’s okay to start off directly with the book, but if not, then I would recommend watching it before you commence reading for full gratification.

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I know you are wondering how a book on Indian Cinema ended up here, in the middle of a travel blog. Last year, around this time, I went off on a tangent and decided to focus on films, via reviews, which captured different aspects of life from across the world.

Similarly, I feel that Indian Cinema is an integral part of who we are here in this country. Most of us breathe movies, love them, and hate them, with equal passion.

Going to the cinema is second nature to Indians. It is a chance for the family to enjoy a “masala blockbuster” together. A way for lovers to hide in the darkness of the theatre for some intimate time. And of course, an opportunity to forget about real life and lose ourselves in the stories on the silver screen for a few hours.

So, this time I decided to feature books based on Indian Cinema (and on a couple of occations World Cinema) that should hopefully give you an insight into what films mean to the people in India and also highlight some individuals who made “Bollywood” what it is – the largest film industry of the world.

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Note: This article contains Amazon affiliate links. If you use these to buy the book, you get it for no extra cost, while I get a small commission from Amazon in return. Thank you

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