************Not a single spoiler ahead*************
"I don't make comparisons. I never think of myself in relation to anyone else. I just refuse to measure myself as part of anything. I'm an utter egotist."
The above are the words of the legendary Howard Roark from Ayn Rand's Fountainhead. I am sure when she wrote the book way back in 1943, Ayn Rand did a time travel to 2009, saw non-conformist brilliance unleashed on Indian film industry in the form of Anurag Kashyap and then went back and created Roark. We had a glimpse of his brilliance in 'Black friday'. 'No smoking' was his version of Roark's 'Stoddard temple', a work criticised by every critic worth his salt. Then, we saw an unchained horse high on sex, drugs and non-conformity in 'Dev D'. 'Gulaal' sees the horse galloping with renewed anger to the deserts of Rajasthan. Its a tale of politics, betrayal and love with an underlying commentary on present day India.
The film opens with Dukey Bana(Kay Kay Menon)'s earth shattering speech criticising democracy for robbing the power from the Maharajas like the Rajputs of Rajasthan. He exorts the youth(with their faces painted in Gulaal) to fight to free the Rajputana country from democracy and give it back to its rightful rulers, the Rajputs. Flashback. Dilip Singh (Raj Singh Chaudhary) arrives in Rajpur to study law. He stays with Rananjay singh(Abhimanyu Singh), a Rajput prince in a bar which doubles up as a house. The film is all about how these characters are sucked into the murky world of politics. Kiran(Ayesha Mohan) and Anuja(Jesse Randhawa) plays the pivotal female leads. Then we have Madhuri(Mahie Gill, the paro from Dev D) playing the item girl in a special appearance. With this interwoven the subplot of Kiran and her brother Karan(Aditya Shrivastava), who are the secret offsprings of the former Maharaja, Rananjay's father. This sets a stage for anger, lust and deceit, all in the name of politics and power. Everyone is a puppet in some other's hands.
Anurag keeps his record clean by earning another 'A' certificate for his latest movie. It has a fair sprinkling of expletives and double meaning dialogues. The oneliners are sure to have you in splits. My favourite one was from Rananjay. He's all tied up by Karan asking him to withdraw from the elections. Rananjay smiles and delivers the punch, 'If your father had withdrawn at the right time,.....'. Then there are the songs. Right from the election clarion call 'Aaramb hai prachand', its pure poetry flowing all around. Everyone's favourite lyrics is ofcourse from 'Ranaji' with references to 9/11 and USA's misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Jaise Dur Deshke Tower Mein Ghus Gaye Aeroplane, Iraq Mein Aake Bas Gaye Uncle Sam, Bina Baat Ke Afghanistan Ka Baj Gaya Band”. All the songs form part of the story and tells a story of its own. Indian Ocean's 'Yaara maula' comes at the right place when the decisive change in Dilip's character takes place. 'Aisi sazaa' sung by Shilpa Rao is soothing as well as painful. 'Duniya' asks us that questin, 'yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaye to kya hai?.
Kay Kay Menon's Dukey Bana can be defined as reflection of the separatists of Kashmir, Raj Thackerey or even the meek Pramod Muthalik. His character is a lesson on how a person drunk with regionalism or communism and a lust for power can wreak havoc. Piyush Mishra has undoubtedly given an all round contribution to the film. Besides writing the powerful lyrics and composing all the tunes, he has put in a wonderful performance as Dukey's brother Prithvi Bana. He keeps on singing and giving away sane advice amidst all the insanity. But, its he who is picturised by the soceity as insane. His John Lennon stlye round glasses did bring the timeless lyrics of 'imagine' to my mind-'Imagine there's no countries, It isn't hard to do, Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too, Imagne all the people, Living life in peace.' Deepak Dobriyal who was last seen in Delhi 6 plays Bhati, the trusted man of Dukey. He almost steals the show from Kay Kay in many of their scenes together. Raj Singh Chaudhary, also the co-writer of the film does the role of the cry baby Dilip Singh perfectly well and he handles the transformation in his character equally well too. Not to forget the ardhanareeshwara(half man-halfwoman) who accompanies Prithvi Bana's musical adventures.
College ragging is given a whole new picture in this film. Post-Gulaal, 'Brainwash' means holding someone upside down with his head inside an unclean closet which is being flushed. Then there's a reference to an infamous incident which happened in a Karnataka college where a girl and boy were both kept naked in a single room in the name of ragging. Anurag weaves it well into the story just as he did with that MMS scandal in Dev D. Now, to the symbols and references which are there in almost every scene. The most delightful one is the bar house in which Rananjay and Dilip stays. There are big posters of Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley adorning the walls. The drinks which are stocked in the bar have real aristocratic as well as political names like constitution whiskey, democracy beer, colonial whiskey and putin Vodka. The lighting which is used for each characters also conveys a particular mood. Red, ofcourse dominates. Rajeev Ravi, the cinematographer who learned the tricks of the trade in the malayalam film industry, dazzles yet again and gives Anurag what he wants-all his wild imaginations caught on camera.
Gulaal is not a strictly political movie. More than the obvious, it has many underlying shades to it as explained above. Anurag knows the medium of cinema too well and knows what all to show explicitly and what all to hide beneath the surface. Its upto the audience to interpret in the way they want. The most interesting interpretation I've heard now is that the illegitimate son Karan, who is a kind of 'master of puppets' is modelled after the legendary Karna from Mahabharatha. It ofcourse makes sense, the most obvious clue being that Karan is a wordplay on Karna. There are a 100 more explanations to be made on this film.Whatever be the case, Gulaal reaffirms the fact that Anurag Kashyap is one director to whom the word 'different' suits well, for a change.
your crusader Praveen