Gulaal is thought-provoking and has the power to engage you at various points of the narrative. Honestly, it takes time to get the hang of things. Actually, you don't take to the sundry characters and the relationships instantly, but the complex relationships, their motives, the culmination, each layer is peeled as the story progresses.
Yet, at the same time, a film like Gulaal isn't the type that would cut ice with every strata of moviegoers. The expletives are aplenty [not required, actually; why does Kashyap have them in film after film?], the second hour meanders at times and most importantly, the material restricts it from reaching out to a universal audience.
Dileep [Raj Singh Chaudhary] comes to Jaipur to study. Here, he comes in contact with Rananjay Singh Ransa [Abhimanyu Singh], Jadwal [Pankaj Jha], Anuja [Jesse Randhawa], Dukey Bana [Kay Kay Menon] and Kiran [Ayesha Mohan].
Dukey Bana convinces Ransa to contest the college elections on behalf of the Rajputana party; Ransa and Kiran battle it for General Secretary's post. The rivalry between the two gangs intensifies and Ransa is forced to withdraw, which he resists. Eventually, this leads to his murder by Karan [Aditya Srivastav]. Dileep is compelled to contest elections in Ransa's place and made to win.
After losing the elections, Kiran tries winning Dileep's trust, gets close to him and pretends to fall in love. As he tries to fit into the shoes of the General Secretary, an insecure Dileep gets emotionally dependent on Kiran. Dileep finds himself trapped in political manoeuvres. It dawns to him that he is being used by Dukey.
Dukey Bana is masterminding a Rajputana movement, to have a separate state ruled by Rajputs. In a gamut of red faces [Gulaal is put over the faces to mask their true identity], Dileep sees the truth behind Dukey and his actions.
Kiran takes charge as the General Secretary. As soon as in power, she refuses to meet Dileep and tries to get close to Dukey using her feminine charm. A lovelorn and rejected Dileep gets more and more frustrated, abusive and violent in desperation. Blinded by his love for Kiran, Dileep goes into a frenzy, becoming a sorry and inevitable victim of circumstances.
Gulaal isn't for the faint-hearted. Nor is it for those looking for escapist cinema. Anurag Kashyap movies are dark [this one's gruesome as well] and you either take to them or you don't. There's no in between!
A few individualistic sequences leave a profound impact. Take the sequence when Raj Singh Chaudhary is stripped naked and thrown into a dark chamber. Take the sequence when Aditya Srivastav kills Abhimanyu Singh and the dialogue that precedes that sequence. Take the sequence when Ayesha Mohan does a complete somersault and refuses to meet Raj.
Gulaal has its share of shortcomings. With so many stories running parallel, the second hour takes a really long time to wind up things and reach the culmination. Besides, the confrontation in the end, between Kay Kay and Raj Singh Chaudhary, could've been shortened. Too much dialoguebaazi, even after Kay Kay has been shot.
Also, if the film talks of today's times, how come the police are shown as passive watchers to all the killings, abductions, murders, et al? Even the media, which is hungry for the smallest of story, is absent. The writing could've been tighter.
Rajeev Ravi's cinematography is first-rate. Dialogues are acidic and the expletives are difficult to absorb after a point. Piyush Mishra's lyrics are thought-provoking.
The film is embellished with supreme performances. Kay Kay is in splendid form. Raj Singh Chaudhary has the talent. Aditya Srivastav does well, but deserved more footage. Piyush Mishra is excellent. Abhimanyu Singh leaves a strong impact. Ayesha Mohan is top notch. Mahie Gill is perfect. Deepak Dobriyal is first-rate. Pankaj Jha is effective. Jesse Randhawa gets no scope.
On the whole, Gulaal is interesting in parts. The film may appeal to those looking for a change from the run-of-the-mill fares week after week. Its business will be best at multiplexes of metros.
Accuse him of thinking abstract, but you cannot accuse Anurag Kashyap of following the stereotype. In Gulaal, the storyteller attempts to tell multiple stories in one film. Student politics, a separate state for Rajputs, an intense love story that has a disastrous end… Kashyap's Gulaal is intelligent, intense, disturbing, poignant and expectedly, cerebral.