Washington, Jan 16:
Indian director Anurag Kashyap’s award-winning epic “Gangs of Wasseypur” is India’s answer to “The Godfather” and “Oldboy” and India’s coming out party as an international storytelling powerhouse.
So says Adi Shankar, Kolkata born Indian-American filmmaker who at just 29 has created his own counter-culture ‘brand’ with critically acclaimed R-rated violent feature films and superhero “bootleg” films like “The Grey” and “A Walk Among the Tombstones.”
“Outside of the Indian population in the US, there is a growing audience for ‘arthouse genre’ films,” Shankar, US presenter of the Indian crime saga, told IANS in an email interview.
“It’s unabashedly violent action and crime films for the ‘thinking person,'” he said calling the ‘Gangs’ India’ first entry on the list of films like “Oldboy” and “I Saw the Devil” from Korea and “Drive” and “Nightcrawler” from America.
Part 1 of the film charting 70 years in the lives – and spectacular deaths – of two mafia-like families fighting for control of the coal-mining town of Wasseypur, India, will be released Friday for an exclusive one-week-only run at several AMC theatres across the US.
Part II will release in the same theatres the following week on January 23, also for one week only. In New York City, the full film will play at the prestigious Lincoln Centre opening on January 16 for one week.
Shankar said he considered it his “civic duty” to help get Gangs a mainstream US release because the success of a movie like “Ek Villain”, “a clear unlicensed rip off of Kim Jee Woon’s ‘I Saw the Devil'” is “shameful and not only hurts the creditability of the Indian film business, but also reflects badly on India as a whole.”
“We are better than that, we are a nation of smart, innovative and creative people who have interesting stories to tell,” he said. “We must defy the status quo of the vapid consumerist mosh pit India has become.”
“This is why Gangs of Wasseypur is great. It’s our answer to ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Oldboy’, but it’s not a rip-off, and if I can help it find an audience internationally, I have a civic duty to do so,” Shankar said.
Describing Gangs as “India’s coming out party as an international storytelling powerhouse”, Shankar hoped to draw the NRI film audience to the theatres with a simple strategy he calls “guilt tripping”.
India had a “robust domestic film economy,” he said. But “unfortunately, when it comes to making a global cultural impact India’s films have either been lacklustre due to being reactionary to global cinematic trends instead of setting them or in the case of ‘The Lunchbox’, buried due to asinine politics.”
“With ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ we have something to be proud of,” Shankar said.
He does not think that at 319 minutes, Gangs is too long noting that “True Detective”, “Breaking Bad”, and “Game of Thrones” “were much longer than 319 minutes and held audience’s attention just fine when binge watched.”
“We simply don’t like to be dictated the terms of when and where we have to consume the content we love,” he said suggesting “Gangs will find its greatest success on VOD (Video on demand). It’s the ideal film for the VOD generation.”
Turning to his own work, Shankar said he was inspired to make the kind of films he makes by films like “Road Warrior”, “Robocop”, “The Warriors”, “Escape from New York”, “Judge Dredd” and “X-Men: The Animated Series.”
But his films don’t have a USP as such. “I just make stuff that I want to see. This ‘brand’ I’ve built for myself wasn’t by design.”
Shankar said he would “love to” make films for the Indian audiences. “I have a project in mind, it’s effectively ‘Die Hard’ on the Mumbai bridge. It’s a hard hitting action thriller that much like ‘The Grey’ becomes philosophical. (IANS)