By Shillpi A Singh
Wasseypur, the nondescript Muslim locality in the heart of Jharkhand’s coal capital Dhanbad, is all set to scorch the silver screen again. For the uninitiated, the small town is famous for the Indian School of Mines, coal mines, and mafia, perhaps not in the same order. The sleepy township in Dhanbad catapulted its way into the limelight with Anurag Kashyap’s two-part epic gangster flick Gangs of Wasseypur released in 2012. Set against the backdrop of gangland killings in the town, the film gave all those naysayers, who believed that only Mumbai could serve as the setting of gang wars, a run for their money. The man who scripted this crime thriller is a son of the soil, Zeishan Quadri.
Quadri, 33, was born and brought up in Wasseypur, which explains the passion with which he could narrate the tale of revenge between two rival families —Khans and Singhs — in the locality. The film, which was the toast of international festival circuits, won accolades for its gritty presentation of rivalries, revenge, and retributions in Wasseypur, through gripping story-telling, crazy characters, cutting-edge editing, and hundreds of actors, all of which have turned it into a cult classic.
Quadri, who had scripted the first two parts, is now busy giving final touches to the third one, which he says will be titled Gangs of Wasseypur 1.5. And mind you, he is all set to direct it as well. So get ready to watch another intense tale of vengeance, greed and ambition of the long-running feud between two families of the coal capital. But unlike the first two parts of the series that spanned over a period of 70 years, the third installment will cover 15 years at the most; it would be the period in between when the story began (1948) and ended (2009). “The other elements and setting of the film will remain the same though new characters will be introduced to add spice to the crime saga,” he said.
A writer by choice and actor by default is what describes Quadri in a nutshell. The man who can weave magic with his pen has won a plethora of awards for his debut film Gangs of Wasseypur 1 and 2 as a writer. “I love to write. Believe it or not, till date I have written three versions of Gangs of Wasseypur’s third part,” he said. So much and so, the other films that he has penned include his directorial venture Meeruthiya Gangsters, Anu Menon’s Oh Womaniya and Firauti for Fardeen Khan Productions.
Act Another Day
Definite, the character that Quadri essayed in his debut film, Gangs of Wasseypur 2, kick-started his acting career. He had tasted blood by playing an awe-inspiring character in the crime thriller, who mouthed witty one-liners like “ek ladka aur ladki kabhi dost nahin ho sakte”, and went on a killing spree to be the gangster that he always wanted to be. This dalliance hooked him to explore options as an actor and Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Revolver Rani starring Kangana Ranuat-Vir Das followed next where he essayed the role of Pilot. “Over the years, I have realised that acting is my passion but not my cup of tea. I would be happy to be behind the scene. I am keen to spend my creative energy on writing scripts. That’s my real calling.” But don’t write him off as an actor. As they say, picture abhi baaki hai dost, Quadri will soon be seen in upcoming film Akki, Vikki Te Nikki, and Banana. He quoted an anecdote from his Cannes visit when an impressed American actor told him that he will be a star after Gangs of Wasseypur 2 releases in India. “I quickly corrected him that I may at the best be an actor but never a star to which he retorted that in the US all good actors worth their salts are stars,” Quadri said, adding, “Unfortunately, that is not the case in India.”
Quadri’s directorial venture Meeruthiya Gangsters was a story of six aimless young criminals from the badlands of Meerut, a small town in Uttar Pradesh, who take up to crime to make a quick buck. Though the film didn’t fare well at the box-office, it certainly left an indelible mark as a delightful comedy that kept the audience engaged and entertained throughout with its pace, witty dialogues, and excellent characterization, and most of all its setting in Meerut. “Though it is not the first film to be based on Meerut, it was the first film ever to be shot in Meerut,” he said. And why Meerut if you ask? No points for guessing. Quadri spent his undergrad years in this town and taking a slice out of his life and spice it with real-turned-reel characters seems the most obvious choice for this writer-director-producer-actor.
If Meerut’s scissors are known for their sharpness, Meeruthiya Gangsters set in the small town will be remembered for its crisp editing by none other than filmmaker Anurag Kashyap. “Anurag Sir had not seen the film, but he got to know about it from a common friend Vasan Bala. He asked me to show the film. He loved the idea of a gang of young men who set out to make money in the most unusual way. The humour and banter of the six protagonists in local dialect added to film’s flavour. But he found the editing a little sloppy which made him take charge of the job at the eleventh hour. I am glad that this venture of mine had the director’s cut,” said a proud protégé of the filmmaker. Impressed with his brilliant command over the subject and razor-sharp treatment of characters, Kashyap decided to hand over the reins of the Gangs of Wasseypur’s sequel to him. “It is a great honour for a newbie like me,” said an ecstatic Quadri. About his equation with the maverick filmmaker, he said, “I share a special bond with Anurag Sir. He is the best film school around. I am happy to be a student of his kind of cinema. We have a lot of similarities, even in our differences. The best thing about him is that he is passionate about the craft and open and forthcoming, which makes learning the nuances of film-making fun.”
Passionate About Production
“I am a creative businessman,” he quipped when prodded over his production house and its cinematic pursuits. Quadri forayed into production with Prague for his friend. But he continued to serenade the box-office beauty with his Friday to Friday Entertainers that has produced his directorial venture Meeruthiya Gangsters and is also co-producing Sarabjit, a biopic on late Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit. “Writer Rajesh Beri and former COO of Mukta Arts Rajesh Nair, who are now part of my team, were involved in this project right from the beginning. The story was languishing with Mukta Arts for almost four years. The story of Sarabjit Singh’s death stirred nation’s emotions and his sister’s Dalbir’s struggle to free him is a heart-wrenching. So I bought the rights to the story from Subhash Ghai last year. Soon others joined me and the rest is history.”
The film which will hit the screens on May 20, 2016, will be directed by Omung Kumar of Mary Kom fame, and it boasts an enviable star cast. While Randeep Hooda will be seen as Sarabjit, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan will essay the role of his sister Dalbir, and Richa Chaddha will play Sarabjit’s wife. The trailer and its song Salamat have already caught the nation’s imagination and as Quadri said, “Hopefully the poignant story of a sister’s struggle strikes a chord with the classes, masses, and critics alike.”
If it does, then the film will set the cash registers ringing and leave Quadri smiling his way to the banks. For a small town boy, who has traversed a long cinematic journey in just a couple of years, the feeling of making it big in Mumbai hasn’t sunk in yet. That’s modesty personified. But his hometown thinks he hung the moon and the stars! And rightfully so.
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