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Gulaal : Movie Review

March 15, 2009

Barely a month after creating waves with Dev D, Anurag Kashyap is in the limelight again with his highly charged, at times provocative rendition on love, revolution and power in “Gulaal”. It’s a film set in a fictional town, Rajpur in Rajasthan where caste and patriotism to the land reigns supreme over law and democracy. So intense is the tussle between the ideologies of patriotism and democracy, that Anurag paints it with angry and thought provoking surrealistic nuance of a political movement.

The story meanders the life of Dilip Kumar Singh who unwittingly becomes a part of Dukey Bana’s (a local kingpin from a Royal Family) scheme of things. Ransa, the original poster boy of Dukey Bana’s Rajputana party falls prey to the rival, Karan’s desperate attempts to usurp power and that prompts Dilip to enter Ransa’s shoes. And soon Dilip realises that there’s a whole new breed of revolutionaries who would stop at nothing to achieve their goals. Caught between love and struggle for power, the insanity takes a toll on Dilip forcing him to shed his cowardice which changes the course of destiny of everyone involved.

Inspired by the lyrics of Sahir Ludhianvi “Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye to kya hai” from the movie Pyaasa , Anurag along with Raja Chaudary explore the possibilities of power, lust and tragedy with their compelling narrative and colourful, multifaceted characters in Gulaal. The injustice meted out to the land since Independence and the dismal failure of democracy forcing the scion of a royal family to bring back glory to the land isn’t something which has been fiddled with in Indian cinema so often. The story also points fingers at some of the contemporary issues plaguing the country like who does the land truly belong to, relevance of law, radicalism etc,. On one hand you cannot stop the feeling of sympathy for these royal families under whom their provinces thrived with prosperity probably much better than what they have come to terms with post independence, yet the antithesis of the doctrine which they try to imbibe in their people denounces everything on which democracy and secularism is built upon.

The fiery speech by the protagonist trying to inspire his people is extremely reminiscent of a similarly themed speech by Hitler post WW I. And that sets the tone for this fantastic story which questions the morality of our beliefs. Kay Kay is stunning in his portrayal of Dukey Bana. So fiery is he that it almost overshadows every other character he has portrayed till date. Raja Chaudhary as Dilip Kumar Singh fits appropriately in the character’s shoes. Extremely vulnerable and fickle, this character is one of the best written roles in the movie and irrespective of certain fallacies, Raja Chaudhary pulls it off confidently. Abhimanyu Singh, Deepak Dobriyal, Aditya Shrivastav and others deliver wonderful performances in their respective roles. But the biggest surprise of the film is Ayesha Mohan who plays the role of Kiran in the film. An extremely confident performance, Ayesha steals the show with her screen presence, dialogues. The rest of the female cast, Mahie Gill and Jesse Randhawa are good but their roles aren’t properly etched out.

‘Gulaal’ is certainly not as abstract as Anurag’s previous works like Dev D, No Smoking but it does have its share of abstractness and fallacies. The motiffs used in certain scenes like Ardha Nareeswara and the highly irritative yet thought provoking singer in Dukey Bana’s house challenge your understanding. The editing could have been more crisp which could have saved the film a good 15 minutes of running time. Also the film never really delves into the uprising or the political movement, instead it relishes itself with the lives of Dukey Bana, Kiran, Karan and Dilip most of the times.

Anurag’s “Gulaal” is yet another example why he’s one of the best directors of contemporary cinema today in the country. One of the very few directors who have resisted the temptation of being sucked into formulaic cinema, Anurag continues to be a master storyteller, stories which require certain amount of intelligence. You just can’t sit and watch his movies eating popcorn and mocking your own stupidity which we continue to do week after week. This one may not be the best films you will ever see, but certainly one which you cannot easily forget. Go watch “Gulaal”. It boasts of a great cast, acting, lyrics and a wonderful story. And a theme which hasn’t been this maturely handled in a long time.

P.S: The camera work  and lyrics by Pankaj Mishra are amazing! And you will see why….:)

P.P.S: If your idea of watching a  is just for some laughs and lame jokes then this is NOT the movie for you.

P.P.P.S: Ahhh….that was my 50th movie review…Yuppie!..:)

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Varun permalink
    March 16, 2009 10:55 pm

    nice one hemanth…
    it was indeed an awesome movie. More than anything else, one can watch it for the power packed performances.i guess Kay kay and abhimanyu singh deserve a bow.
    PS: comparing it with what we see at pilani i laugh out loud at the silliness that prevails there!!! 🙂

    • Hemanth permalink*
      March 16, 2009 11:04 pm

      I believe it’s a very authentic portrayal of college politics and the representation of Caste is hauntingly real. I met this guy from Southern Rajasthan in a train once, who gave me such a graphic description of the students community in his town that…Watch Gulaal brought all those memories alive!..:)

      Yes…you said it dude…Watch it the performances!..:)

  2. March 17, 2009 5:57 pm

    Agree anurag kashyap is one of the best directors in bollywood.However would not agree with Gulaal being a good film.It begins well but meanders away slowly and descends into nonsense by the end.The songs of piyush mishra though lyrically good,resemble a cacophony musically.Dileep’s degeneration to lunacy is not explained properly and his involvement with Jesse also is abrupt.Chotta banna’s character too oscillates between the farcical and stunning.Overall an average fare.
    DevD was much better in both storytelling and sheer visual brilliance.

    • Hemanth permalink*
      March 17, 2009 6:08 pm

      @Praveen : I agree with your observation on narration of the movie…it does get slow in the middle…but ending was brilliant. As you say, Dileep’s degeneration to lunacy isn’t well explained, but then what he ends up doing is very effectively shown in the movie! It’s a pretty straight forward narration which tries to tell too many tales at the same time. Of Piyush Mishra’s lyrics…I liked only 2…Duniya and Arambh…

      Agreed! Dev D was brilliant!..:)

  3. March 18, 2009 9:22 am

    wow, 50th movie review that’s something. You are right Raj’s character is well-etched out, I wish if Randhawa’s track were as well-developed that cud have added zing to story in second half.

    • Hemanth permalink*
      March 18, 2009 9:25 am

      @Poonam: Thanks a lot!:) Yeah….Randhawa’s character ends so abruptly…I wish they hadn’t killed Ransa’s character either…he was so brilliant!

  4. Geeta permalink
    March 18, 2009 9:45 pm

    Didn’t know about the reference to Hitler’s speech, thanks for that. But I thought Ayesha Mohan’s role was not well developed, she seems to have mystical powers. She doesn’t quite suit the role either.

    • Hemanth permalink*
      March 18, 2009 9:58 pm

      @Geeta: Yeah…I saw this documentary about Hitler..that’s why I realised the emotion behind that speech…and about Ayesha’s role..well, it’s good that we have a dominant role for a women…she was fiery actually…we don’t see such women so often in movies these days…of course, I do agree that she wasn’t independent either! So, we are back to square one!..:)

  5. Anirudh permalink
    July 24, 2009 6:34 pm

    Three things that make gulaal an amazing movie :
    -Fine performances.
    -Great music.
    -Powerful lyrics.

    But still there were a few loopholes due to which the movie couldn’t leave an impact on the viewers. Half way through, the director lost the plot. That is where, for me, the movie fell short of being a GREAT movie.

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