Gangs of Wasseypur and Supermen of Malegaon – the two films I watched in a single day last week could not be more different from each other.

Let me start with GOW. The name was exciting and an instant reminder of Gangs of New York, a film I love and can see a few more times. Co-written, produced and directed by Anurag Kashyap, this is a masterpiece that wasn’t. Too long, too loud and worst of all too convoluted is what I can say about the film. Having got that off my chest, let us look at the positives. Authentic locales, very good cast and a fabulous soundtrack are things that clearly stand out. Tigmanshu Dhulia as Ramadhir Singh – the Coal Baron, Manoj Bajpai as Sardar Khan, Richa Chaddha as Nagma, Jameel Khan as Asgar, Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Faisal Khan….are all competent and convincing. A special mention for Harish Khanna as Yadavji who but saying and doing the least manages to linger in my mind…..

…..a mind that was fatigued less than halfway through the film. A load of history mixed with too much of communal issues peppered with too many family feuds garnished with gang war. After a while it was tiresome to keep track of everything that was going on and Sardar Khan’s ultra libidinous escapades did not help in making it any better. I miss the Anurag Kashyap of yore – the man who gave us Black Friday and Dev D. I so wish he can get off his mighty over indulgent throne and make his trademark pacy and watchable films again. He is not quite up to doing a Martin Scorcese or Coppola magic with Gangs of New York or Godfather yet.

Me with the fatigued mind went to watch Supermen of Malegaon the same evening, ready to eat some popcorn and keep myself entertained if the film turned out to be GOW Part Deux! Thankfully my fears were misplaced. SOM turned out to be a little gem that gets lost amidst the Golmaals and Cocktails of Bollywood. A documentary film usually gets restricted to film festivals and drawing room discussions, but I am thrilled that PVR Pictures actually released this one on big screen alongside the mainstream movies. What was even more heartwarming was the almost 60% turnout to watch the film. 

Malegaon is a small city in Maharashtra with a predominantly working class population and its meagre economy is heavily dependent on the Powerloom Industry. Most men, young and old work in these powerloom mills and earn just about minimal wage. Added to this is communal tension that makes the Hindus and Muslims stay away from each other. The one thing the men in Malegaon are passionate about is…..Hindi and Hollywood movies! And out of this passion was born a local movie-maker Shaikh Nasir. 

Nasir is not only a movie maker but a movie lover. He collects films and posters and creates delight on celluloid with his imagination. Nasir is a self made movie director and producer who has taught himself the art and science of film making. His films are socially aware and funny spoofs on popular movies. His creation Malegaon ke Sholay ran for 2 years in Malegaon! A delightful reworking of the Bollywood classic Sholay, this film featured dacoits on cycles! After watching Superman he gets inspired to create a local version of it and thus is born Superman of Malegaon. 

Nasir decides on Shafique as the lead. Dark, scrawny and underfed, Shafique is a Amitabh Bachchan fan and a superstar hopeful 🙂 The Superman of Malegaon is an unlikely screen hero clad in baggy red shorts with the drawstring hanging out; has a history of chronic ailments and is often berated by his father. How he romances his lady love and conquers all is what Nasir’s film is all about. Thought provoking, at times tragic but also funny, the documentary is aptly titled SuperMEN of Malegaon – a tribute to the simple but passionate bunch of people who make movies that keep Malegaon smiling. 

Unlike the pretentious films we keep watching, SOM is straight from the heart. You will laugh and cry with Malegaon as we did; despair at their poverty and rejoice in their spirit, as we did. Director Faiza Ahmad Khan does a neat job with her first documentary offering. The sheer imagination of the film makers in Malegaon as they improvise to create the Superman magic on screen is captured beautifully. You cannot help marvel at the sheer creativity of the minds of Nasir and his team and share some of the big dreams that Little India too has. This is not a new film but I would advise you to try and find the dvd and watch it if you have not done so already. 

In my mind, it is clearly Game, Set and Match – Malegaon. 


Copyright © Tara Verma July 2012

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