The timing of Gulaal’s release is just fantastic. Right after Holi and just before elections. Gulaal tells the story of a nobody, Dileep Singh. This nobody is a colourless, passionless character who is a student who looks like a professor. He’s straightforward and never challenges things that happen to him. He takes to the shadows of Rananjay Singh, a hot blood youth who doesn’t fear challenges- a ‘true’ Rajput. As Rananjay steps in to contest for the post of GS, the college turns into a battle field. In the fight for the post, two candidates put everything at stake. It is this fight for power that starts adding colour to our straightforward protagonist.
Gulaal’s story is multi layered and it unfolds itself. But the beauty is in the characters. Every character is complex and alive and it is through them that the story unfolds. The characters create the story and vice-versa, a give and take one rarely sees in Indian cinema. Kashyap’s Gulaal uses characters as a form of telling the story but his characters are also metaphors and symbols. Be it the John Lennon that hangs in Prithvibana’s neck or the dancer/beautician’s obsession with herself, or the Kiran who silently plucks the strings on her guitar as her brother decides the course of her life. Kashyap uses music, lyrics and musical metaphors brilliantly. Of course the neon signs and the psychedelic paintings at Dileep’s residence remind us of Dev D.
When Mr. Kashyap says this is his angriest film till date, you believe it. He uses every possible metaphor to bring out the anger, frustration and disappointment that he feels against the establishment or the system in which people become an establishment. The rendition of ‘Yeh Duniya Agar’ from Pyasa just takes this entire symphony to a climax, where you soak in the anger and you watch it helpless swallow and digest all that comes in its way. It takes me back to the original song, where Guru Dutt dies in a stampede at a function held in his honour and nobody recognises him. And here, we have Dileep, who wonders if he recognises himself as he walks down a street, wounded. It’s a similar ethos, but brilliantly executed in the context of Gulaal.
It depressed me to see an empty theatre on day 4 of this fabulous film. It didn’t deserve an empty theatre, I clapped after the film, for films like these need to be made. Films that use reality to tell a fictional story that is ever so cleverly crafted needs to be seen and appreciated. Overheard after the movie: Dude, Bhojpuri films are not as bad as they’re made out to be. This one was serious and all that! Right! I’m glad the theatre wasn’t as empty as this woman’s brain.
Cheers, Mr. Kashyap!