Saturday, January 14, 2017

Mafia, moms, melodrama, molls, morality... and other motifs of the gangster movie

The cover story in this week's Mint Lounge is my 3,000-word essay on the Gangster Film. It wasn't done in ideal circumstances: I had a five-day deadline, which can feel like a goli to the bheja, especially if you’re a masochist who needs to first put together notes adding up to twice that length before chiseling something out of them. And even more so if you’re a James Cagney devotee who quickly gets sucked into the rabbit-hole of re-watching old films “for research”.

On the whole, though, whatever its shortcomings and omissions, I'm glad I did the piece. Here's the link again. Will try to put a more elaborate version (there's always a more elaborate version!) here soon.

P.S. the headline is misleading; this isn't just about Hindi films - though the “angle” for the piece was the upcoming release of Ashim Ahluwalia’s Daddy and Rahul Dholakia’s Raees.


  1. Have you checked out Vaastav? I believe that to be a seminally important Hindi gangster film. I think it's a 1999 release.

    My top 10 gangster films -

    Roaring Twenties
    Godfather I
    Godfather II
    Love me or Leave me
    Force of Evil
    High Sierra
    White Heat

    I've tried to keep noir favorites out, many of which also qualify as gangster films.

  2. One of the problems which I find with gangster films of Bollywood is often they are maa-beta films or baap-beta films without even attempting to show us the world of crime. In short, they show the family part of life sometimes well, but they hardly ever show us the mechanics of crime as an industry. Hollywood crime films do that, possibly because they are based on reasonably well researched books.

  3. "but they hardly ever show us the mechanics of crime as an industry"

    Who's interested in that? I like films with a micro-canvas focusing on human relationships. On moral dilemmas. On the corruption of the soul. I am not interested in how hawala racket works.'

    Even the Hollywood films that I have mentioned above are focused on the human element. Not lectures on the economics of crime

    1. Yeah, I agree with you. But, if as an industry, you are making n number of films on crime, and for not even one filmmaker to seriously have shown what really goes in the crime world, then one gets a feeling that all these guys want is to latch on to the tag of a gangster movie and just package it by throwing maa beta axis and somehow make a movie. Eg. Catch me if you can is a lot more detailed movie on how that guy did what he did. Compared to that, what exactly is Bunty or Babli - rubbish story, good looking mainstream actors, an item song and that's pretty much there to it. This is packaging of a very bad type.