The ‘dirty’ Wasseypur picture

By Shakeb Ayaz

The critically acclaimed Gangs of Wasseypur, a gritty celluloid saga of the coal mafia and blood thirsty vengeance, may have set the cash registers ringing, but residents of this town say the success comes at the cost of their integrity, respect and honour. Anurag Kashyap’s directorial venture gives a distorted message about the Muslim-dominated area’s social, cultural and economic life and only perpetuates stereotypes, say the outraged people of Wasseypur, just two kilometres from Dhanbad station.

From the title to the content, the film, boasting an ensemble cast including Manoj Bajpai, has led to hurt and indignation here. ‘The film presents a wrong picture of Wasseypur. They mixed facts with fiction and came out with something that is dangerous. People don’t know what is the truth and what is fiction,’ Sahil Siddiqui, who guides students for the civil services exams, said.

The town, about 165 km from state capital of Ranchi, has a population of about 2,00,000 and does focus on education unlike what the film attempts to portray. ‘The history doesn’t start with the conflict between Pathans and Qureshis [as the film makes it out]. It was just a conflict between two gangs over scrap business. The foundation was laid by the late Wassey Sahab and Jabbar Sahab in 1955-56. They were known contractors of Dhanbad,’ said dentist Taqi Anwar.

Story writer Zeishan Quadri, who belongs to Wasseypur, said that ‘the film is 80 per cent real and 20 per cent fiction’. The residents, however, disagree, saying that the film is an ‘insensitive’ and ‘brutal’ portrayal of a way of life that doesn’t exist in reality. According to Anwar, the film attempts to ‘generalise criminal conflict between two people as the story and history of Wasseypur’.

‘When the film starts it says, yahan ek se ek haramzade rehte hain. It’s totally unacceptable,’ added a visibly upset Anwar.

The anger is widespread. Imran Khan, an educationist, said that the film is a ‘dirty and wrong picturisation of the place’.

‘It is like any other locality, where both good and bad people live. The film attempts to make a hero out of some criminal elements. People do not use filthy language as shown in the film. Doctors, engineers and IAS officers live here,’ said Imran.

Abu Tarique, a marketing executive, described Gangs of Wasseypur as ‘third grade’ as it does not challenge but sustains ‘the stereotypes associated with Wasseypur in general and Muslims in particular’. Asadur Rahman, a journalist with Urdu daily
Faruqi Tanzeem
, said the film ‘stalls the integration of Wasseypur’ with the mainstream society. ‘There was already an official bias and discrimination with the Muslim-dominated locality and now with this film, it’ll be further aggravated. The film may lead to further segregation of Wasseypur from the mainstream society.’

‘Why did Anurag Kashyap choose a Muslim area?’ he asked.

In the view of Bilquis Khanum, general secretary of district Congress party’s women’s cell, the film has already done the damage. ‘My kids have been subjected to lewd comments by his classmates in schools. Children of the locality are being nicknamed as Sardar Khan [the gang lord played by Manoj]. What message does this film gives to the youth?’ she asked. BJP minority cell president of Dhanbad Jawed Khan says he had sent a legal notice to Kashyap, which the filmmaker did not receive.

‘The film is an attempt to defame Wasseypur. On 13 June, we filed a case in the Jharkhand High Court demanding that the name of the film be changed and some dialogues be changed. We do not object to the film being made, but the film is on the story of coal mafias, then why drag Wasseypur’s name in,’ he asked. ‘I had led a peaceful protest outside the cinema halls on the first day of the film. We painted the posters black and marked the day as Black Day for citizens of Wasseypur,’ Jawed said.
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