Gulal | Movie Review

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Anurag Kashyap is an exciting prospect for Indian cinema. In him we have found a film-maker whose regime starts where Bollywood draws its limits. Angst, rebellion and sensationalism symbolize his kind of cinema. After watching both his ventures in the recent past – DevD and Gulal, I felt that through his characters he makes an extra effort to stand out from the crowd. What you get at the end of it all is a set of dysfunctional characters (let me be strong worded as Kashyap himself) who are not exactly real people. But this is what I call cinematic liberty. The same cinematic liberty that sees Yash Chopra create an imaginary Raj or a Rahul. In that sense Anurag is still a part of the same system.
Now coming to the film Gulal. Gulal is an angry film by Anurag’s own admission. He conceived it at a time when his films were facing problems from the censor board and he was listening to songs from Gurudutt’s Pyaasa (he in fact got so inspired from the song Duniya that he decided to use it in one of the songs in Gulal). The anger comes out in the colors chosen for the film. Choosing Rajasthan as the base of the film, Anurag tells the story of a failed Rajputana revival movement in the backdrop of college politics.
As a director Anurag Kashyap delivers. In this attempt he is ably supported by his cast, the music, the songs, the dialogues and the script. He does stay true to the basic premise of the concept – depiction of resentment but it certainly does not depict reality. Most of his characters appear eccentric and look to hog limelight. There is an illegitimate son of the Royalty who doesn’t talk to his father because he did not give him his name and on the other hand does not think twice before using his sister to win over his adversaries. Having said that, I do not hold this against Anurag Kashyap because nowhere does he state that he stands for real cinema. You cannot blame him for exercising his artistic liberty. The best thing about Anurag Kashyap is that through his films he is able to create an ambience that make you become a part of the film itself. So, when you walk out of DevD, you feel drunk and when you walk out after watching Gulal, you carry that anguish he portrays through the characters. The bottomline is that Anurag Kashyap is a thinking director and technically brilliant. His work shows that he is a true blue cinema fanatic. It is only when he tries being too intelligent and experimental with something as abstract as No Smoking that problems surface.
Another problem with his films is the length. A dark film taxes your mind and if it is over 2 and half hours long, you can imagine what you will be subjecting yourself to when you go inside the theater. I refrained from watching DevD and Gulal earlier precisely due to this reason. I finally watched them both over this weekend. That brings me to a pertinent point that I would like to make. You can watch Anurag’s movies only if you are really in the ‘mood’ to. I recently read Anurag Kashyap saying that his films had a lot of unconnected dots and he left it to the viewers to join them. His movies are not the usual run of the mill stuff that you can casually walk through. The result is that despite getting good reviews Gulal might not succeed at the box office.
Veering away from Anurag Kashyap, we come to another strong point of the film and that is the music and the songs. Piyush Mishra (the guy who played Prithvi Bana in Gulal) is the music director, lyricist and singer of a few songs of the film. He is equally important in the context of Gulal. He lends a strong pillar of support to the film through his music that breathes life into the film. Each of the songs is a gem.
The actors cast in the film are also a formidable lot. Kay Kay Menon, Deepak Dobriyal (Omkara fame), Piyush Mishra (Maqbool, Dil Se fame), Aditya Srivastava (Black Friday) and Raj Singh Chaudhary (Sarkar Raj) set the tone for the film and live through their characters. Ayesha Mohan, Mahie Gill and Jesse Randhawa form the female lead of the film and they show that there is space for actresses to perform as well. A welcome change from seeing most of the ‘actresses’ nowadays happy playing decked up dolls and doing item numbers. Another surprise package is the actor playing Rananajay Singh. He reminded me of Irfan Khan in Haasil. This guy exhibits the same level of arrogance and intensity as Ranvijay Singh of Haasil, though the character is far less cunning.
All in all, Gulal is a film that caters to the multiplex audience. Too many profanities would prevent families from watching it and the number of unconnected dots will keep a lot of others away too. The dark canvas would keep off people accustomed to the bright and snowy Swiss Alps as well :)
Watch Gulal if you:
- are an Anurag Kashyap fan
- liked DevD
- like to experiment
- want to spend some time away from the madding world.
- like solving ‘Expert’ level Sudokus
- want to write a review!


Sensible Garbage said...

I got this personal comment on the review to explain the Ardhnareshwar character. Hope it solves ur doubts abt the strange character too:

"Ardh Nareeshwar is typical character found in Rajputanas and Rajwadas...these characters will always be found in the history...who have an eye to every details and with their actions, face expressions convey a lot ..these characters have been crucial in the history of Rajasthan and they have somehow helped in building up or destroying clans...Even Piyush Mishra is an extension of such character..they are feeble by nature but extremely intelligent and have a hand on the pulse of happenings

Remember that scene when Dilip enters for the first time in Dukey Bana’s house and their is sound of peacock, check the expression on Ardh Nareeshwar’s conveys that he can hear death....its an ominous sound...eventually Dilip kills Dukey..Dots joined :)

Regarding treatment of women by men in India, the essential Vedic thought is expressed in’’Ardha-Nareeshwar Satya’’ -- Truth is Half-feminine --Shiva and Shakti are two sides of the same coin.

Furthermore it stated that Ardh-Nareeshwar conveys the fact that Both men and women possess evil sides of character...."

-Sensible Garbage

Rajlaxmi Teli said...

To classify a particular director seems to be a cliche that everyone tends to follow. Every film is about expressions of ideas, like every person has his own ideas to express during day to day conversation. Ganga Jal, Shool, omkara are some of the movies which are based on similar platform as Gulaal. The question here is , even if Gulaal's concept is the same as the others mentioned above, what makes it so different? The movie is obviously intense. No Take, no sequence in the film is relaxing. During the entire breadth of the film viewer lies unnerved. The stories of characters are no different from reality. There is no hero or ' vhilan'. Hence, each character in the film demands for its exhaustive individual footage. Moments of Gulaal can be seen in everyday life, but they are more subdued due to the baggage of society. Only some perceive it, Kashyap being a part of these 'some'. Dev D is also a reality of life, so is Gulaal. The critic should understand that if he is relating Kshyap metaphysically to Yash chopra, then calling gulaal and dev d not a part of reality seems dissumulating. Probably such a comment arises when the movie is beyond something, and the critic is left nothing but to chew on irrelevancy.

Gulaal is like an accident. I watched the movie twice. The stimulation for my mind the second time was weak, unlike DDLJ. Plausibly, this movie is very much life like than fantasy. This is because, life nowhere at any point repeats itself, and even if it does it would not be life. DDLJ is fantasy, hence watching it 100 times makes it equally likeable at all the 100 times. On the other hand Gulaal, is LIFE, hence watching it more than once could make it drilling for a person.

Lastly, majority of the moviegoers would love to relate the characters on screen with themselves. I don't think that the critic has ever felt so, as the critique seems to be predetermined about the concept of Gulaal.

Naveen said...

I do not agree with your view that this film is not based in reality. It seems you have lost touch with reality ! [:D][:D}

Sensible Garbage said...

@Rajlaxmi: Thanks for such a candid assessment and giving your reasons behind your observations.

To respond to a few of your points, Kashyap's work as a director spans around 8 years. In all these years as a director he made Paanch, Black Friday, Gulaal, DevD, No Smoking and Return of Hanuman. Barring Return of Hanuman, all his films have depicted his penchant for angst and rebellion. I think one cannot be unjustified in classifying him into a slot based on his efforts to date! Now, have a look at his films as a writer. He wrote films as diverse as Shool, Satya, Shakala Boom Boom , Nayak and Main Aisa Hi Hoon which show variety. I, thus, cannot classify his stint as a writer in any category based on the work he has done so far.

The second point that I would like to make is that though I agree with you that Gulaal is a slice of life but it has considerable amount of unrealistic stuff. Yes, you cannot watch Gulaal 10 times over but I feel that it is not solely because it depicts LIFE. It is also because of the negativities that it depicts.

An opinion can be right or wrong but never irrelvant. So when I say find the similarity between Yash Chopra and Anurag Kashyap with a reason of my own, I could be wrong but not irrevalant. Yes ur inference that the film was beyond me on a number of occasions is correct. Gulaal had a lot of unconnected dots that I failed to connect in entirety (for example the Ardhnareeshwar bit). But these dots can be connected correctly only by Kashyap and no one else. So everything that we talk or discuss can only be an interpretation and not a fact..Your comment was a review of my review and it seems that we look at Gulaal quite differently. You with the glasses of reality and I with the glasses of indifference and prejudice maybe :)

Nikhil said...

What would you think of the ending of this movie? It appears that the brother-sister political combination emerges to be victorious, without sustaining mcuh material losses (almost everyone else dies, but there are no deaths in their camp).

Would the death of one of the siblings made it a more balanced movie?

Sensible Garbage said...

@Nikhil: I don't know what makes a balanced film. I don't think Anurag Kashyap was out to balance the scales either. The end, as it is, has different symbolisms that one needs to explore. I discussed it with a friend of mine (the same guy who told me abt the Ardhnareeshwar bit) and this is what came out of it:

One, the end suggests that ambition is driven more by negativity than positivity. In the film, the rejection from society aggravates the bro-sis duo's thirst to achieve acceptance and they are completely driven by it rather than the lust for power.

Two, both of them are branded as illegitimate by the society and not even allowed to participate in the last rituals of their father. In the end, they both wipe the label of illegitimacy off their faces( Gulaal) with the acceptance from the community;the brother with water and sister with tears.

This is just an interpretation and I thank Manjit for it. I would love to know what others' take on the climax is.

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