Anurag Kashyap is Bollywood?s poet of discontent. He is the anti-Yash Chopra. Anurag has never filmed a love that does not sour or a laugh that does not curdle. His cinema?passionate, fiery and nearly always indulgent?lays bare the ugliness in our souls.
In Gulaal Anurag takes Sahir Ludhianvi?s haunting lyrics Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaye toh kya from Guru Dutt?s Pyasaa and weaves a narrative around it.
Gulaal is set in Rajpur, a fictional city in Rajasthan. The plot is set into motion by Duki Bana, played by Kay Kay Menon, a member of the royal family who spearheads a secessionist movement, hoping to create a new Rajputana. With some Machiavellian moves, key murders and election-rigging, Duki Bana manages to plant his man in the local law college elections but the mild-mannered spectacled Dilip Singh, played by Raja Chaudhary, turns out to be less pliant than Duki Bana imagined.
In Gulaal, Anurag, who also co-wrote the film, weaves an intricate tale of deceit, desire, corruption, the loss of innocence and the perversion of idealism. For the first hour, the film crackles with energy, most of it emanating from actor Abhimanyu Singh, who plays Dilip?s fiery roommate Ransa. Ransa, all balls and attitude, is an elemental life force. When he dies, Gulaal goes limp.
Anurag?s films are always a sensory overload. Like in Dev D, the colors, sounds and images dazzle but the trouble is that the prodigiously talented director just doesn?t know when to stop.
So for interminable stretches, the narrative wanders along aimlessly through more murders, an abortion, angst and tears. A fatal flaw is Dilip Singh?s character, which never comes as fully alive as Ransa or Dukki Bana or even Duki Bana?s lieutenant Bhatti, played nicely by Deepak Dobriyal. Singh?s tragedy doesn?t sear us as deeply as it should.
Eventually then, Gulaal is inconsistent and exhausting but I recommend that you see it for its terrific performances and Anurag?s vast but unrealized ambitions.
Anurag?s films never elicit a one-word response, which is a compliment to the director. Go and have patience.