Gang Leader Review (SPOILERS): Gang of Women

Again, SUCH a delightful movie!!!!! If you have a chance to watch it, you should read my other review and avoid spoilers. If you have seen it, come here to discuss. And if you want to find out the plot before watching for your own reasons, here are spoilers. Most of the delight of the film is in how it is presented, so even if you spoil yourself there is still plenty to enjoy.

Whole plot in two paragraphs:

We open with a robbery. It happens perfectly, a team of 5 men break into a building and then a vault and take out lots and lots of money. Their driver is waiting below and an old man tries to raise an alarm by blowing his whistle, the driver shoots the man. Then the robbers arrive back on the ground and the driver shoots each of them, takes all the money and throws it into the van, and drives off. 6 months later, 4 women get a letter. Saranya, a nice motherly type. An adorable little girl, a beautiful woman working in an office, and a young student living in a hostel. They go to the address on the letter and find Lakshmi, who says she sent the letters. Her grandson died in the robbery, the same robbery where Saranya’s son died, the little girl’s father, the office worker’s fiance, and the student’s older brother. She wants to find the 6th robber, the one who killed them, and get her revenge. The other women agree. Lakshmi suggests they find a consultant, her favorite writer who only writes revenge thrillers. They go to find him, Nani, and discover he is a hack who just rips off the plot of Hollywood revenge movies. Nani turns them down (although he is tempted by the beautiful fiancee), then goes to deliver his book to his publisher and best friend and tells him the story, the publisher tells him that this could be his next book, he should accept their offer and write down everything that happens. Nani tracks down the women and they start their revenge plot by looking at the evidence in the case. Nani figures out that they must have rehearsed the robbery at a building under construction, they find the rehearsal space and then use the camera on the ATM across the street to identify the getaway car as a painted ambulance for a local hospital. At the hospital, they talk to an ambulance driver and learn that one of the drivers is now a famous race car driver after coming in to a lot of money. They find him and identify him as the getaway driver and killer. INTERVAL

In the second half, they start following the driver around and discover he is still visiting the building under construction where the robbers rehearsed. They find his money hidden there and steal it and make sure he sees them watch him discover the theft so he knows they took it. He chases after them and almost catches them, the little girl has a panic attack in fear. Now they are afraid of what might happen if they keep going, especially when the evil driver almost tracks them down thanks to the atm footage he knows they have. He also calls the police on them, hoping the police will find the money in Nani’s apartment and arrest him as the 6th driver. Nani rushes home to find all the money gone, and also Lakshmi. He tracks her down at an old people’s home and learns she was lying to them. It wasn’t her grandson who died, it was her elderly husband. But the police had no sympathy for an old woman asking about the death of her even older husband, so she lied that it was her grandson instead. She took the money and disappeared because she wanted to end the revenge before it hurt anyone else, she set aside part of the money to go back to them and donated the rest to orphanages and old people’s homes. Nani convinces her to come home with him back to their “family”. And then he tracks down the villain all by himself and tells him he has to kill him, not for revenge, but because he might hurt Nani’s “sister”, “daughter”, “grandmother”, “mother” and “woman he loves”. Nani successfully kills him and makes it look like an accident. He goes home and pretends that nothing happened, but the fiancee finally admits her love for him and hugs him and notices his injuries, and quietly goes along with his secret. In the ending tag, we see that his book is a big bestseller and also, ironically, his long lost dog was also killed when he was run over by the driver on the way to the heist. Nani was getting revenge for himself after all, even if he didn’t know it.

Image result for gang leader 2019 poster

Yes yes, the dog dies. But don’t worry, we don’t see any details and there isn’t enough time to bond with the dog. And the dog clearly had a long spoiled life since we learn that all 28 of Nani’s novels were dedicated to her.

Good news is, nothing happens to the adorable little girl! You know the kind of kinky-haired little girl where you just want to reach out and hug her head? That’s the kind of little girl this is. Big hair flying behind her, running around, hiding under tables, sooooooo huggable. Luckily, she gets lots and lots of hugs as the film goes on.

That’s what makes this movie so great, all the hugs. Right from the start, revenge is less important than the connections between the characters, how they care about each other. Lakshmi suggests revenge, and Saranya immediately cuts her off and vetoes it. Not for herself, but because the younger women have their whole lives ahead of them and it isn’t right for them. Even when the group is first getting to know each other, the little girl barely spends a moment on the ground, she keeps being casually passed around between the other women. Nani, at first, seems like a cynical outlier but ends up being the center of it all. Starting with Lakshmi, he tracks her down to offer to help with the revenge after all and finds her being harassed by her landlord who wants her to move out. He reflexively warns the man away and carries Lakshmi up the stairs since the lift is broken. It isn’t part of him wanting to convince her he is sincere about being willing to help, that’s in his fast talking, this is just about him doing the decent thing and taking care of an old lady. It keeps building a delightful way in the background for the rest of the film. He rolls his eyes about Saranya insisting on feeding him but he also eats her food and lets her cook. He picks up the little girl as much as anyone and, by the end, more than anyone else. Even the sister, he learns she still texts her brother everything and then secretly gets a second phone and starts texting back to her. And of course, he is trying to romance the fiancee the whole time.

If that weren’t enough, later in the film we learn that the reason all the robbers (these seemingly nice decent men) were doing the robbery was out of love. They all had terminal cancer diagnosis and met at the hospital. They wanted this one big heist so they could leave behind enough money to care for their families.

There’s a message here, which the film never explains explicitly. These 5 men thought the solution was a heist. These 5 women thought the solution was revenge. But the real solution was each other. If the 5 men, instead of pulling off a robbery, had simply created a support group and brought their families together, that would have given them what they needed. If these 5 women had chosen to form their own family without the goal of vengeance, that would have been what they needed. And of course Nani, he thought the solution was these silly books he was writing and a big pay out, but the real solution to all his problems was in finding the family he always wanted. Heck, he thought the fiancee was what he wanted, but by the end it is the “grandmother” and “mother” and “sister” and “daughter” who matter just as much. The hugs, that’s what matters.

Which brings me to the ending. Obviously, we have to have one fight scene, even in this very “unheroic” kind of film. Nani has a great self-aware line right at the start, that the fight has to start now and he has to stop talking or he will turn from a revenge thriller to a crazy killer. Which is true, Nani came to kill the villain which is right on the line of acceptable heroic behavior. But the film pulls it off through his speech explaining why he is there. It’s not about revenge, or the money. It is because he is scared every day that his women leave the house, they won’t be coming home. Protection, that’s why he is doing it. Just like the dead robbers pulled off the heist out of love. And the 5 women turned their back on revenge because they decided it wasn’t worth the danger to the others. Nani gets his one moment of traditional heroism, but not for the traditional hero motives. While other heroes rush in out of anger, Nani comes slowly and carefully out of love. Of course, he still wins the fight. And the little moment when he and the fiancee acknowledge what happened and that they won’t be discussing it was delightful.

Mostly though, it is all about the hugs. The lovely warm loving supportive family that comes up between them all, the way Nani comes alive through being given these women to love and who love him. That’s why Lakshmi and Nani are the same, she was an old women who never had children and didn’t know family besides her husband. Nani was an orphan. In the end, the film is the shared journey of both of them towards understanding the wonder of having people to care for who care for you.

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20 thoughts on “Gang Leader Review (SPOILERS): Gang of Women

    • Last minute Gang Leader was playing at the theater 5 minutes from my office and opening on Thursday, so that changed everything. Now I am debating Dream Girl today or not. This weekend is really really busy for me.

      On Fri, Sep 13, 2019 at 8:18 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Thanks! I wonder why they picked 14 months? Obviously it had to be long enough for life to resettle for everyone, but 14 months is such a random length.

      On Fri, Sep 13, 2019 at 7:48 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Lot of things, it might take some time for the bad guy to be come racer and get fame, also other 4 people are not interested in revenge initially since too many months passed, if it were only 6 months they all would have been interested. Also lakshmi said he just performed his son’s anniversary ritual, so there is a reason to remember incident for them.

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    • Absolutely. I have seen her in several things now, I didn’t know her name but as soon as her face showed up I paid more attention because I knew she would be good. The two of them really did the heavy lifting among the women.

      On Fri, Sep 13, 2019 at 7:51 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  1. I just saw the movie and I really enjoyed it! I was sort of expecting the mystery and the revenge part to be more complicated but I’m glad that aspect was simple and we could focus on the characters and how they became a family. This is just one of those movies that makes you feel really good when you watch it.

    I wish the romance with the girl with the fiancé was a little better. I sorta felt like her being in love with Nani in the end was kind of sudden.

    I really liked the scenes where they would show how things can go wrong and then it turns out that it’s just Nani writing out how things could go wrong.

    I feel like Nani’s just one of those actors that works great with kids. The dynamic with the kids in Krishnagaadi Veera Prema Gaadha was also really fun and cute. Also Nani was great in jersey with the kid that was his son.

    Turns out that shot with the blowtorch before the final fight was a tribute to Chiranjeevi’s Gang Leader.

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    • Yes! Exactly, it just makes you feel good.

      I hadn’t thought about Nani being good with kids, which is silly, because what I was thinking was “wow, this character is really good with kids, probably because he grew up in an orphanage and is kind of immature himself”. Obviously, it’s not the character that is making the little girl feel better, it’s Nani-the-actor who is working well with the child actors.

      On Fri, Sep 13, 2019 at 11:17 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Yeah, I think it’s mainly Nani being great with child actors!

        One thing I realized is shouldn’t Nani have probably figured out that Lakshmi wasn’t related to the five men when he found out that they were all cancer patients?

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        • Yeah, let alone that he had the file of their family background and Lakshmi told him not to look at it, and he never did?

          On Sat, Sep 14, 2019 at 12:30 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Right! I was a little suspicious when she was like “you don’t need information about us” and took the file. I assumed that she never gave the file back to him but he had it with him all along.

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          • Plus she was the only one not to find something left at the rehearsal site.

            On Sat, Sep 14, 2019 at 9:21 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Oh right! So there were clues all along but we wouldn’t really notice or pay attention to them because it’s just Lakshmi who’s an old lady.

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          • Exactly! She’s funny, she’s strange, she’s cute.

            For a while I had a theory that she was the supervillain and it was all a plot to draw them in and kill them, but that didn’t really hold up as she became more and more realistically old lady-y. I also had a theory that she was a police mastermind who decided to trick the victims’ family members into helping to solve the case. I still think that would have been cool, if we ended by learning she was a martial arts master and a sharpshooter and so on.

            On Mon, Sep 16, 2019 at 1:16 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Lol, it would have been really fun if she was actually a supervillain! I do like the whole family theme that they went with though.

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