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Mutton recipes before murder
Syed Zeishan Quadri, 28, says writing the story for 'Gangs Of Wasseypur' was almost like writing a novel. A Wasseypur boy himself, Quadri says the film depicts the realities of life in Dhanbad. In an interview with TOI-Crest, Quadri, who wrote the story and co-wrote the script of the film, talks about growing up in Wasseypur, the transition from working in a Delhi call centre to Bollywood and his acting ambitions.
What are your memories of growing up in Wasseypur?
I had a normal childhood, going to school in Dhanbad and playing with friends. But when I left home in 2001 for college in Meerut, I realised that my friends were shocked to hear stories about Dhanbad. From the 1940s to now, which is the period the movie covers, there have been thousands of murders. It is not a safe place. Of course, many other parts of the country aren't safe either, but Dhanbad is different. For instance, Suresh Singh, a Congress leader and a coal trader, was shot down in front of everybody at a marriage party last year. The cops also get regularly beaten up. Criminals are so casual that they discuss mutton recipes before going to shoot someone.
You wanted to be an actor. How did you get into scriptwriting?
I came to Mumbai in March 2009 after leaving my job at a call centre in Delhi, with dreams of becoming an actor. I even gave a few auditions, and though people told me that I was quite good, they never got back. I thought writing a story for a film would be a good way to break into the industry and get into acting. I pitched the story to Anurag when I met him in 2009.
You also have a role in the movie ...
I told Anurag that I wanted to play the role of 'Definite', who is a small-time goon in the movie with dreams of making it big. It is a major role. He is one of the most entertaining characters in the film.
'Gangs of Wasseypur' is a five-hour-long film with some 300 characters. Was such a large canvas necessary?
The film covers three generations and six decades so naturally it was going to be a large film. Nobody is a hero or a villain in the movie - everyone has positive and negative shades. It began as just one story but as I sat down to write, it began to grow. I wrote it like a novel. I took 140 pages as compared to 25-30 pages, which is the average length of a story for a Bollywood film.
How long did it take you to write the story?
Thirty-five days. I worked up to 22 hours everyday. My family thought I had gone crazy.
There have been other movies about coal mining like 'Kaala Patthar'. How is this different?
The premise of Kaala Patthar was different - it was about a disgraced ship captain who works as a coal miner in order to forget his past. It showed the exploitation of the miners at the hands of the mine owner. This kind of exploitation was one of the reasons why coal mining was nationalised in the 1970s. But while the film did depict Dhanbad, it did so only partially. The story was filmy and removed from reality. Wasseypur, on the other hand, not only explores individuals but also Dhanbad's society.
Who is your favourite character in the film?
It's not possible to pick one character - all of them are my favourites. All the actors have played their roles brilliantly - Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Huma (Qureshi), Manoj (Bajpai), Reema (Sen), Jaideep Ahlawat... You feel a sense of fulfilment as a scriptwriter when you see them deliver their dialogues.
Have you received any acting offers?
No, but nobody has seen me act as yet. I will have to wait till the second part of the movie releases, where I play the role of 'Definite', before people can see my acting potential.
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