Starring: Jaideep Ahlawat, Aakash Dahiya, Vansh Bhardwaj, Shadab Kamal, Jatin Sarna, Chandrachoor Rai
Directed by Zeishan Qadri
There is a reason why Uttar Pradesh is called ulta pradesh. Everything here has a way of going topsy turvy. Even crime has a habit of going off-the-mark. Meeruthiya Gangsters, despite the stylistic hat tip to Tarantino and familiar gangster film cliches, works mainly because it is so well rooted in West Ulta Pradesh. The acute sense of locale lifts it above banalities; its real feel goes way beyond just getting the ostentatious Noida homes and ubiquitous Jain Shikanji stalls right. Meerut, the next door neighbour of Delhi-NCR, keeps coming into the capital and going back. It comes for work in chartered buses and trains during the week and in cars to infiltrate the malls on Delhi’s fringes on weekends. And it is also the backbone of NCR’s petty crime industry—Noida (nay, Nyodda) and Greater Noida to be specific. The criminals who operate with hockey sticks as well as guns, insisting on golgappa with extra ‘meethi chutney’. It’s a slice of this demographic that is interesting. It’s about lives caught between rural roots and urban aspirations, about going to Nauchandi Ka Mela and to Noida malls for dates, about studying little but hoping to get good jobs. The characters, their clumsy machismo, the blatant swagger, the poker-faced humour and risque one-liners; the rough, the raw and the ribald are engagingly portrayed here. And in this patriarchal, uber male world it’s the morally compromised, spunky women who stand out. Women who are called ‘setting’ and ‘piece’ but who have no qualms about eloping with their men, women who might be sidestepped but who will still fight for their share of loot. There are some known and some not-so-well known actors who work as a team to bring the west UP kidnapping and extortion world alive with energy and quirkiness. Each character makes a mark, like the blond Sanjay Foreigner, played by Jatin Sarna.
There are some wonderfully real and comic scenes. The bumbling kidnappers fighting over a car accident with the very man they have to kidnap, a criminal saying no to a shootout because it clashes with a cricket match. That deadpan way in which petty criminal Sanjay Mishra explains to cop Mukul Dev on why he was running away from him: “Geyser on tha”. Or a gang leader applying nailpolish on his girl’s feet. Only in Meerut would you find someone presenting an LED TV wrapped up in a newspaper or someone landing in the lockup for stealing a helmet—small details which elicit chuckles.
Yes, these vignettes may seem disjointed at the start but come together well to give a coherent picture of Delhi’s borders. Perhaps it’s to do with the fact that I also live on the fringes, but it’s after a long time that I so enjoyed a gangster film.