Wasseypur’s Bharatiya Janata Party leader Javed Khan tried his best to prevent the release of Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur in Dhanbad, but he failed. “I’m preparing to the meet I&B secretary in Delhi soon. The film has presented a wrong picture of Wasseypur,” says Khan. But into the third week of its release, the Bollywood smash hit has given the now not-so-nondescript Wasseypur, some 190 km north of Jharkhand capital’s Ranchi, international recognition. The movie is running to packed houses in the area’s two theatres, Puja and Fame Cinema.
“The film speaks the truth about Wasseypur,” says a local businessman, Md Firoz Alam, 28. “Not long ago, youngsters inspired by local gangsters, often picked up quarrels with people of other localities and proudly claimed their Wasseypur connection.”
In the lanes of Wasseypur, a Muslim dominated locality in Dhanbad with a population of 70,000, friends and neighbours of the film’s co-writer Syed Zeishan Qadri, a local lad, are celebrating the movie’s success as they make preparations for Ramzaan. At Qadri's home, Baitul Manzil, in a narrow bylane, family members remain locked up most of the time after there were protests before the film's release. They wouldn’t speak to the press. Most agitators seem to have mellowed down, and are instead preparing to welcome Qadri, their new hero after Abu Imran, who cracked the UPSC in 2009.
In the same lane are the houses of Wasseypur’s two gangsters, Fahim Khan and Sabir Alam, whose rivalry refuses to die down. Though out on bail after spending eight years in jail, Sabir rarely stays at home due to the threat to his life. Fahim, despite serving life imprisonment at Hazaribagh jail, still runs his gang, mostly comprising family members, from jail. His gang controls railway tenders and coal transportation contracts in Dhanbad. Manoj Bajpai’s character in the film, Sardar Khan, revolves around him. The gangs have fought pitched battles and killed each other’s family members and aides.
The film has united Wasseypur’s local community against the warlords. “When we raided their homes recently, locals clandestinely supported us," says Dhanbad police superintendent Ravikant Dhan. Out of Wasseypur, especially in Saraidhela and Jharia, live the influential Rajput families, migrants from Uttar Pradesh’s Balia district, who control Dhanbad’s coal mining business. “I’ve not seen the film yet,” says Dhanbad deputy mayor, Neeraj Singh, whose uncle, the late Suryadeo Singh allegedly inspired the negative Ramadhir Singh character. “I’ve heard that everything about the film is fictitious,” he says. But his aunt and Jharia legislator, Kunti Singh feels a film cannot change the truth. “Everyone knows my husband was a philanthropist. I will consult my lawyer after returning from Balia,” she says.
Interview | Zeishan Qadri
‘In W’ypur, emotional bonds are strong’
It was 1995. A 12-year-old schoolboy ambled up to a cinema in Dhanbad. The entrance was blocked by two young men. The boy asked them to move. “Why should we?” said one man. “Can’t you see we’re talking?”
“I’m from Wasseypur,” said the boy, referring to his locality. The two men wordlessly made way.
This is a snapshot of where Zeishan Qadri, the schoolboy, grew up. He is now 29 and enjoying the success of Gangs of Wasseypur, whose screenplay he co-wrote. Qadri based his script on the local coal mafia and his experience.
“Wasseypur’s people are feared for their unity and loyalty to each other,” says Qadri. “Emotional bonds are made quickly, and remain strong for years.”
Qadri’s description fits well with the movie. Violence was, and still is, a way of life. Qadri was 14 when he first saw a corpse. Nine years since he left, Qadri, a chain-smoker and self-proclaimed workaholic, has adjusted to Mumbai’s frenetic pace. Yet he misses the camaraderie amongst friends at home.
He admits that his small town upbringing has given him a kind of stubbornness, but says this has been beneficial. “I’m not scared of anything.”
Qadri is the scriptwriter for Gangs of Wasseypur. For the full interview log on to hindustantimes.com