The Rise of the Goli-Maar: Bollywood’s Gangster Films

When Saurabh Shukla enters the screen, clad in a lungi and doing what he does best – comedy – it is then that a viewer gets to step out of the seriousness which has been engulfing them for a while. The war ensuing between two gangs and a political rivalry on which the story of the epic film – Satya – is grounded, turns bloody and gory when Bhiku Mhatre takes on Guru Narayan. The slashing of the wrists, spilling of the blood and slaughtering of the heads makes this film and many other such films watchable, but only under adult supervision. Not to forget that these films often gain a cult-following as well.

 

Ram Gopal Varma who is hailed to be the God of gangster films, has immensely contributed to this genre. From Satya to Ab Tak Chhappan and off-late, Satya 2 what we have seen is an array of gangster films with a touch of reality. Many mavericks from the film business believe that the story of these characters who have persistently been at war with the law and have broken the law, make up for an interesting watch. Although, some might presume that the essence of the crime-thrillers, especially those pertaining to gangsters has undergone a sea change. Owing to the disappearance of gundaraj, gang wars and dons no more remain a reality, and so the films that come forth are not as good as they were in the early days. Mostly snitched from Hollywood films, crime-thriller was a genre less explored and gangster films were less thought of altogether. It is during such times, Parinda stepped in as a full-fledged gangster film depicting the life of gangster brothers Amar Naik and Ashwin Naik. Films such as Sadak and Mujrim gave us a taste of this genre but the subject expanded its horizons and became a genre with the entry of Satya in 1998. Every nook and corner of every city in every state had some or the other person impersonating Bhiku Mhatre. “Mumbai ka king kaun… Bhiku Mhatre,” was a penchant for many during the late ’90s uptil the turn of the millennium. Satya, was a gateway for many other filmmakers to try their hand at this genre. Vaastav, which starred Sanjay Dutt was loosely-based on the gangster Chota Rajan’s life. Its sequel, Hathyar, didn’t create much buzz, yet it was another one from the genius of Mahesh Manjrekar.

 

For many who have worked to understand the psyche of the audience who love such films, say that these films caress the underbelly of the crime-world and also represents the foul mood of the subject which is why, inspite of being a glorification of negative, such films gain applause and appreciation. In the recent past, these films have seen a change. What was initially a mere fictionalized account of facts (Sholay), has now become more realistic and unconventional in its approach. The films are now seen more-inclined towards real happenings, be it smuggling of sandalwood (JungleVeerappan), rise of a dacoit woman (Bandit Queen), life of an Army personnel-turned-dacoit (Paan Singh Tomar) or more recently, coal mafia (Gangs of Wasseypur 1 & 2). These are the flicks which are believed to have an intrinsic niche value.

On the surface, it may be story about a first gangster encounter (Shootout at Wadala) or merely the story of the gangster company (D-Company) but an in-depth look reveals the reality that might be disturbing and equally fascinating. The life of gangsters have been catalysts for great films. Walking this path looks like an easy task for newbies, yet bringing out the reality with ease and efficiency is a challenge according to those who have ridden in this alley. There is high possibility of a massive backlash when intruding in the gangster terrain which is why, not all gangster films shoot to being a blockbuster hit. ShabriPlanKaante were gangster films given by versatile moviemakers which tanked at the box office.

 

As Chambal has been replaced by addas and dacoits by goons, what remains is the essence of the genre. With henchmen (bahubalis) still ruling the roost, huge political-criminal nexus woven all around and with the fear of extortion, kidnapping, rapes, smuggling and gangwars still looming over the city of Mumbai, it looks like these films are here to stay. Mysteries of the mafia which soon become a myth, the crass dialogues and frivolous styles of these films which rests on the emotionally-infused drama, gains the films a perpetual fan-following. Such has been the craze of these films that Vishal Bharadwaj took the classic Shakespearan play, Othello, to the streets of U.P. with his film,Omkara. Anurag Kashyap redefined the gangster films with Gangs of Wasseypur which saw seasoned actors like Manoj Bajpai and Nawazuddin Siddqui growing as artists while Tigmanshu Dhulia donned the cloak of a character actor and a sinister villain. Before being lauded for this film, Kashyap’s Gulaal which showcased student politics earned critical acclamation.

With releases like Zilla GhaziabadD-DayOnce Upon A Time In Mumbaai Dobara followed with Tighmanshu Dhulia’s next as a director, Bullett Raja (which releases on November 29), it looks like a year of gangster films for Hindi cinema. While it was good to watch Sanjay Dutt (Vaastav), Seema Biswas (Bandit Queen), Manoj Bajpayee (SatyaGangs of Wasseypur), Irrfan Khan (Paan Singh Tomar), Shabana Azmi (Godmother) and many others pulling the trigger, it will be a delight to see Nawaab Saab enter the war zone and fire bullets albeit not as the ‘in’famous Langda Tyagi but as Bullett Raja this time around.

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