Gulaal is a 2009 Hindi film directed by Anurag Kashyap. Set in present day Rajasthan, this film explores the dark sides of power, royalty, student politics, quest for legitimacy and social hypocrisy through a fictitious secessionist movement which aims to create a separate Rajputana.

Cast

Gulaal

Film Poster

  • Raj Singh Chaudhary ——- Dilip Singh
  • Kay Kay Menon ————- Dukey Bana
  • Abhimanyu Singh ———- Rananjay Singh (Ransa)
  • Aditya Srivastava ———- Karan
  • Mukesh Bhatt ————— Bhanwar Singh
  • Jesse Randhawa ———— Anuja
  • Deepak Dobriyal ———— Bhati
  • Pankaj Jha ——————- Jadwal
  • Ayesha Mohan ————– Kiran
  • Mahi Gill ——————— Madhuri
  • Piyush Mishra ————– Prithvi Bana
  • Jyoti Dogra —————– Dukey Bana’s wife
  • Teddy Maurya ————– Ardhnareshwar

Crew

  • Direction ——————— Anurag Kashyap
  • Story ————————– Raj Singh Chaudhary, Anurag Kashyap
  • Music ————————-  Piyush Mishra
  • Cinematography ———–  Rajeev Ravi
  • Editing ———————— Aarti Bajaj

Story

Gulaal is set in a fictitious town Rajpur, where Dilip Singh comes from Bikaner to study law. He gets accommodation in a run down British era bar, sharing the space with Rananjay Singh (Ransa), the estranged and disillusioned heir of an erst while king. Dilip is ragged brutally in the college by Jadwal and his gang, stripped naked and thrown in a dark hostel room; where Anuja, a young female lecturer, is interned in the same state. After Dilip is released, Ransa tells him to avenge the humiliation and give Jadwal a test of his own medicine. However they are outnumbered, beaten up and thrown out of the hostel. At this point, Ransa suggests Dilip that they take the help of Dukey Bana.

Dukey Bana is the uncrowned prince of his lands, a feudal lord who is setting up a private army with secede from India and establish a separate homeland for Rajputs – Rajputana, with him as the king. The other members of Dukey Bana’s family are his wife, a soft in mind elder brother Prithvi Bana, and ever loyal Bhati.

A reluctant Ransa and a gullible Dilip become the pawns in his game and Ransa agrees to stand in the university student union elections. Running against Ransa his the manipulative Lady Macbeth-ish Kiran, step-sister born out-of-wedlock, who is supported by her sibling Karan Singh. Ransa is kidnapped, killed and his dead-body hung from an arch in the city chowk. What follows is an orgy of power-lust and violence resulting in an apocalyptic climax.

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Commentary

Gulaal was made at a time when Anurag Kashyap was a much angrier man than he is today; and this leitmotif of anger, in a heady mix of power and politics, is present through the film. The film is too colourful for a noir and yet as dark as it can be. There is nothing good that it depicts and the heavy doom that hangs over like a choking smog is not by accident but by design. It is a brilliantly crafted noose which tightens around the neck as the story moves forward.

Politics does not form the mere undercurrent of Gulaal, this film wears politics on its sleeves. Be it the Democracy Lager beer – “By the powerful people, of the powerful people, for the powerful people” , the songs “Jaise bina baat Iraq mein jake, jam gaye Uncle Sam” or the rants by Prithvi Bana, “Aaj ka launda yeh kehta hum to bismil thak gaye, apni aazaadi to bhaiya laundiya ke til me hai“; politics is evident everywhere, not presented to the viewer in sugar-coated words, but thrown in the face like red ink (or thick blood).

“Is mulk ne har shaksh ko jo kaam tha saupa, har shakhs ne us kaam ki Maa…chis jala ke chhod di “

Gulaal has been called India’s ‘vivid chronicler of nightmares’; while on one hand it is an ode to all those poets of yore who had a dream from India, on the other hand, it evolves in the very manifestation of the shattering of those dreams, sometimes enacted in its dialogues and often in its songs. “Aarambh hai prachand” is a battle song in essence and can set your pulse racing with a rush of adrenaline and makes the Bollywood love songs seem so meaningless. The haunting “O Ri Duniya” is a tribute to Sahir Ludhianvi’s “Jinhe naaz hai Hind par wo kahan hain” with a reference to poets like Faiz, Momin, Pant and Jaishankar Prasad. The most striking of the songs is “Jab shahar hamara sota hai”, which breaks into silence as a slap on the face. How many films of today have songs with lines like this:

Sunsaan galli ke nukaad pe jo koi kutta,
Cheekh cheekh kar rota hai,
Jab lamp post ki gandli pilli, ghup roshni,
Mein kuch kuch sa hota hai,
Jab koi saaya khud ko thoda bacha bacha kar,
Gum saayo mein khota hai,
Jab pool ke khambho ko gaadi ka garm ujaala,
Dheeme dheeme dhota hai,
Tab sheher hamara sota hai …

The music of Gulaal, written and sung for the most part by the prodigious Piyush Mishra deserves a place in Indian Cinema’s Hall of Fame. The stars of IPTA would have given a wry smile listening to these songs.

Anurag Kashyap has used interesting metaphors which gets mind-boggling sometimes. There is a painted half-man-half-woman Ardhnarishwar which keeps coming in the frames at Dukey Bana’s palace, apparently without any reason and probably symbolizes the inner demon with the director and a symbol of good and evil staying together. The soft in head Prithvi Bana is the only close associate of Ardhnarishwar, and represents any man-in-the-street’s powerless anger at the system, personified. Karan looks like an odd reference to Karna from Mahabharat, an illegitimate son who does not want to play second fiddle this time and is hell-bent of capturing power for himself. Clues are scattered in the film so randomly that one can forever keep looking for symbolism and never finish.

Prithvi Bana and Ardhnarishwar

Prithvi Bana and Ardhnarishwar

The characterization has been done in a way that performances are not held hostage to the screen time allotted to the actors. Even the Police Inspector, in his puny role, leaves a mark with his last dialogue. Jessica Randhawa speaks with her eyes and Deepak Dobriyal and Pankaj Jha excel in their roles. However it is the trio of Kay Kay Menon, Abhimanyu Singh and Piyush Mishra who tower above everyone else by their stellar performances. Each one of them can proudly consider Gulaal as the crowning glory of their acting.

The film is not without faults. The plot is the weakest link; it runs linear and though it envisions a huge canvas, gets  rather limited in execution. Will a sub-nationalist movement put all its stakes on the funds for Student’s festival of a college ? The war in “Aarambh hai Prachand” could have been more than a mere students’ election. Even the climax seems a little anti-climatic. However, these can be considered petty fault findings when dealing with a film of such startling magnitude. Gulaal, as a film, is so underrated that it should put any self-respecting lover of Indian Cinema to shame. It deserves much more…

Trivia

  • The film is said to be a tribute to Sahir Ludhiyanvi, a poet who had a distinct vision for India; and depicts how that dream has been shattered. The “O Ri Duniya” song is a tribute to Pyasa’s “Ye Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaaye to Kya hai “.
  • A part of the film crew acted in the film as well, while the writer Raj Singh Chaudhary played the role of Dilip, Piyush Mishra who played Prithvi Bana is the lyricist as well as singer for the film, and Kashyap’s assistant Ayesha Mohan was roped in for the role of Kiran
  • The locket which Prithvi Bana wears has a photograph of John Lennon on it
  • “Ye dekh gagan mujh mein lay hai” rendered by Prithvi Bana is taken from Chapter 3 of Rashmirathi by Ramdhari Singh Dinkar.
  • “Sarfaroshi lo Tamanna” rendered by Prithvi Bana is a satire on Bismil’s favourite poem by the same name, and even refers to him with the words, “O Re Bismil aaj aate gar tum Hindustan, Dekhte saara mulk kya tashan kya thrill mein hai”
  • When Anurag Kashyap got to know that Ayesha Mohan played the guitar and sang, he made her character Kiran sing and play the guitar in the film, the same song she used to hum – “Goodbye Blue Sky” from Pink Floyd’s album “The Wall”.
  • Anurag Kashyap does a cameo in the party scene that takes place after Dilip Singh’s win where he is seen shaking hands with Dilip Singh and Dukey Bana.
  • The film took 7 years to complete. It was shot on such shoestring budget that much of the film was shot during the festive season to save on the lighting costs.

Awards

  • Stardust Awards
    • Best Breakthrough Performance – Abhimanyu Singh
    • Music – Piyush Mishra

Reference

Online Viewing

Gulaal is available for online viewing on You Tube.