Spanning seven decades and four generations, clocking in at five hours and 17 minutes and being shown in two parts, "Gangs of Wasseypur" is epic in every sense of the word. It finally sees its release two years after placements at Cannes and Sundance, with Part 2 opening Jan. 23.
Reportedly based (loosely) on true events, the film chronicles the seemingly endless cycle of revenge and retribution among three criminal clans in the predominantly Muslim town of Wasseypur, India, headed by crime boss-turned-crooked politician Ramadhir Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia), vindictive orphan Sandar Khan (Manoj Bajpayee) and Sultan Qureshi (Pankaj Tripathi).
Aside from its length, the film's realist style and graphic violence more closely resemble Hollywood than Bollywood. There's no elaborate song-and-dance number representative of the Indian movie industry — in fact, Ramadhir even dismisses that genre at one point. But the film's style is certainly consistent with the oeuvre of its director, Anurag Kashyap, who had run-ins with censors early in his career.
Impressively, "Gangs of Wasseypur" manages its sprawling story lines deftly and maintains a brisk pace throughout its daunting length. The performances are uniformly excellent, even if no character in Part 1 is at all likable.
"Gangs of Wasseypur: Part I"
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 2 hours, 39 minutes.
Playing: AMC Burbank Town Center 8.