After shunning it for decades, it seems Hindi filmmakers have woken up to 'coal mafia' in a big way. After 2012's two-part realistic drama Gangs of Wasseypur and latest release Gunday, this Friday brings Koyelaanchal, another expose on the same.
Koyelaanchal unveils itself through Saryu Bhan Singh, an ex-owner turned mafioso of the region, who through his sheer brutality and defiance of the laws of the land, forces the people and the authorities to acknowledge him as their ‘maalik’.
Produced and directed by Asshu Trikha, the film will show how coal mafia operates, how inhabitants of coal mine areas live, their survival stories as well as people's lust to gain control over coal mine areas.
Trikha has described the film starring Vinod Khanna and Suniel Shetty as complicated with many layers and stories.
According to a report, India sits on the world's fifth-largest coal reserves. However, the decades of lawless coal trading have affected the economy.
The Hindi film industry seems to be in love with Mumbai gang lords and has churned out many blockbusters on them, including hits like Satya, Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai, Shootout At Lokhandwala and Shootout At Wadala. But for it 'coal mafia' has remained a forbidden topic, for unknown reasons.
As a matter of fact, when one thinks about the topic, not too many films ring the bell.
One of the far and few films that came close the subject was 1979 film Kaala Patthar. Veteran Yash Chopra wielded the megaphone to present the darker side of a coal mine area and its workers in his star-studded thriller, which saw the likes of Amitabh Bahchcan, Shashi Kapoor and Shatrughan Sinha clashing on the big screen.
Despite the fact that it involved the winning team of Chopra, Amitabh and Shashi, Kala Patthar garnered a lukewarm response at the ticket window.
Trikha has said in one of his interviews that "coal is rich and coal makes people rich too". So for obvious reasons everyone wants a control over it.
In the recent times, Ajay Kashyap directed The Coal Mafia turned out to be a much more relevant film on the issue. Released in 2012, the film starring Ankit Nigotiya, Pooja Narang, Mukesh Tiwari, Yashpal Sharma, Mukesh Khanna and Aryan Vaid was inspired by a true event.
Kashyap explored exploitation, greed, organised crime and blood bath rampant in coal mine area through his gritty and gory drama, but sadly, it failed to excite the box office.
Surprisingly, later in the same year, when Anurag Kashyap's two-part Gangs of Wasseypur hit the screens, it created a furore at the box office. Penned by Syed Zeishan Quadri, a native of Wasseypur, the socio-political thriller, set in Jharkhand's Dhanbad district, unfurled the real life multi-generational revenge stories in the region known for coal and scrap trade.
The mafia saga was a roaring hit.
But two years later Ali Abbas Zafar's Gunday couldn't reap gold for the makers. Set in Kolkata circa 1973, the film about the adventurous life of two friends who first steal coal from trains and later become the biggest coal mafia in Kolkata, bombed at the box office.
Meanwhile, Koyelaanchal trailer seems promising.
One can also look forward to Spring Thunder, another film in the pipeline. Set to release next year, it will reportedly put the spotlight on coal mafias in Jharkhand. Produced and directed by Sriram Dalton, who grew up in Daltonganj district, has set his story in a small village that spreads over 30 years.
Instead of erecting sets to shoot the film, Dalton did guerrilla shooting.