Has there been a more influential Hindi film in the last decade than director Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur? No matter where you look—streaming, advertisements, memes—you’ll notice the crime drama’s lasting impact. At a time when most films, including some of the biggest hits, are forgotten after their opening weekends, Gangs of Wasseypur is the definition of cult success.
Kashyap has always had a knack for spotting talent, both in front of and behind the camera. But thanks to its sprawling length and a stadium’s worth of speaking roles, Gangs of Wasseypur had room for everybody. Actors who are now regarded as among the finest of their generation appeared in the film–either in blink-and-miss parts, or in starring roles.
For Nawazuddin Siddiqui, it was the film that catapulted him to international recognition, and made him a viable leading man in an industry that had so far relegated actors who look like him to the fringes. Siddiqui, who played the vengeful layabout Faizal in the film, would go on to achieve greater success with the Netflix series Sacred Games, director Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox and Photograph, and Sudhir Mishra’s Serious Men.
Jaideep Ahlawat, whose Shahid Khan set the plot of the film into motion, became a bonafide streaming star with a lead role in Prime Video’s Patal Lok. Vineet Kumar Singh, who played Danish in the film, would later be cast as the lead in Kashyap’s boxing drama Mukkabaaz, and after that, land a starring role in a show produced by Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment. Pankaj Tripathi, who played the hitman Sultan Qureshi in the film, is now among the most in-demand actors in the Hindi film industry, thanks to the success that he has achieved on streaming shows such as Mirzapur and Criminal Justice, and with box office hits such as Stree—which would reunite him with another GoW co-star, Rajkummar Rao—and Bareilly Ki Barfi. “We actors didn’t even know how the film was shot. The only thing we were aware of was the story. Only Anurag, the captain of the ship, knew what he was crafting. All of us would just do what he asked us to,” Tripathi said about the film to Hindustan Times in 2017.
We forget, but even Manoj Bajpayee, who played the lead in the first part of the film, wasn’t the Manoj Bajpayee that we now know. His career was in limbo, and without GoW’s success, there would be no re-emergence. There would be no role of a lifetime in The Family Man.
Behind the camera, Sneha Khanwalkar’s eclectic soundtrack, whose bangers are still popular today, pushed the boundaries of what could be achieved in a Bollywood album.
Kashyap has often said that the film’s enduring popularity was both a blessing and a curse. For the longest time, he was expected only to produce other GoW clones. In a recent interview with Mint Lounge, he said that the film’s success—even though Viacom officially calls it a ‘flop’, ‘derailed’ his career in a strange way. “Everything I do is compared to that. It confuses me, because I do not want to make another gangster movie,” he said.