Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur, based on the coal mafia in Jharkhand, opened the London Indian Film Festival

“This picture is a mirror to what really exists in Jharkhand. You see so many gangster films coming out of Mumbai, but do you really think there are so many gangsters in Mumbai?”

Director Anurag Kashyap’s latest offering Gangs of Wasseypur opened the London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) recently. The film, which is being released in two parts due to its five hour running time, is based on real events of a gang war that has carried on for the past 60 years due to the emergence of a coal mafia in the post-Independence era.

The world premiere at LIFF saw actors Upen Patel, Anushka Sharma and Tannishtha Chatterjee, director Kaushik ‘Q’ Mukherjee, musician Raghu Dixit, Bollywood academic Rachel Dwyerand Kashyap walk the red carpet at a theatre in central London.

Now in its third year, Cary Sawhney, the director of the London Indian Film Festival said: “The idea was always to show new independent films. It just happens that you end up with a theme, even though we didn’t pick one. This year it’s about gangsters and gang violence.”

Gangs of Wasseypur

Kashyap spoke of the film as “a labour of love”, dedicating it to Sohail Shah, the chief assistant director who was killed in an accident during the shoot in December 2010.

Controversy did not stop plaguing the film even then. Scriptwriter Zeishan Quadri recently received threats, advising him not to enter Wasseypur. Quadri had pitched the story to Kashyap, drawing inspiration from mafia stories such as City Of God.

“We had no money two days before shooting started. The idea was to have the lowest budget possible,” the director said in a discussion after the screening of the film. “I would like anybody who has the patience to see the two parts together,” Kashyap added.

Despite that, Gangs of Wasseypur is seeing signs of commercial success and critical acclaim. The film has reached distribution deals in France, the Middle East and even Latin America. The first part packs in a long history of violence, exploitation, politics and rivalry between three groups — the Qureshis, Shahid Khan’s family (Manoj Bajpai plays the father and the son), and coal mine contractor-turned-minister Ramadhir Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia). Through the periods of ceasefire and violence, the second part will see the war being reignited.

Wasseypur was Kashyap’s childhood home; he says they “shot in places we grew up”. One of the locations was the house where his brother Abhinav Kashyap was born. The town has not changed much since those days, he says.“Wasseypur is very excited about the film, except for one politician. I made the film because that world was very funny. For the past 60 years, no one knows anything that exists outside Wasseypur, except for who gets to be the boss of the place.”

Speaking about his equation with the Censor Board, the director proudly announced the film Gangs of Wasseypur had passed through censors without a single cut.

The film’s music is rooted in Bihar and U.P, drawing from old Hindi and North Indian folk songs. Speaking about his stance on using music, Kashyap said: “I love music, but I have a problem with an actor suddenly breaking into song. But I cannot let go of it, so for years I’ve been struggling with how to integrate music in my films. Black FridayDev DGulaal I think I just arrived at some point where I can use music I love so much.”

Several British viewers compared his work to Tarantino, but Kashyap wishes to stay away from compartmentalisation, or any particular aim through films. “For 20 years, all I have ever wanted is the ability to make the kind of films I want. That’s the only fight that has been there.”

The London Indian Film Festival runs from June 20 to July 3 at several cinemas across London. The full list of films being aired can be found on http://www.londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk/programme.htm