Sunday, 10 June 2012

[Movie Review] Shanghai: A Ruthless Political Pit

Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Abhay Deol, Kalki Koechlin, Prasenjit Chatterjee    
Director: Dibakar Banerjee
Genre: Thriller
Music: Vishal & Shekher

It takes a maverick director to craft a cinema so bleak and brutal in its portrayal of truth that it has the power to provoke debates and lead to heavy handed argumentation. Dibakar Banerjee steers a political thriller so acidic in its content and so bitter in its handling that it hits you hard in your guts and leaves you wanting for more.

When an activist leader, Dr. Ahmedi (Prosenjit Chatterjee) is mowed down by a fast moving truck in what appears to be an accident, the hypothetical city of Bharatnagar boils down into a war field of riots and horrors. A student of Dr. Ahmedi, Shalini (Kalki Koechlin) becomes convinced that it was not an accident and was a preplanned murder. She along with a local photographer Jogi (Emraan Hashmi), who claims to have decisive evidence, fights for justice in a city brimming with deceit, bureaucracy and corruption. A high ranking official Krishnan (Abhay Deol) is given the responsibility of investigating the case.

At its core, Shanghai carries the notion of development at the stake of humanity. As the slogan of a prominent party IBP in the movie goes, “Kasam khoon ki khayi hai, Sheher nahin Shanghai hai”, Shanghai is treated as a metaphor for all the progress and evolution that the party promises in bharatnagar. Yet, regardless of the ballgame and skin crawling riots and unforgiving violence, the citizens of bharatnagar, proudly sings, “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”.

‘Shanghai’ is a painfully slow movie. So, the viewer who has to sit back in the first hour only has his comfort in the beautiful little nuisances spilled across the screen. Dibakar Bannerjee has an eye for the details and he hits all his notes correct in detailing the landscape of silver screen. It is in the second hour that the movie grips the audience and sucks us into the world so true yet so oblivious to our naked eye.

Dibakar Bannerjee who previously directed Khosla Ka Ghosla (2006), Oye Lucky Lucky Oye (2008) and Love Sex Aur Dhoka (2010) shows superlative skills of direction and writing. The script is savage and brutally raw.

Shanghai is an atmosphere driven movie and the screenplay scores brownie points by depicting the circumstances as authentic as they could have been manifested on the silver screen.

The film tends to get distant from the viewer and is deliberately a tad sluggish. Kudos to the star cast with Emraan Hashmi leading from the front with a visceral portrayal of a middle class citizen. With Shanghai, Abhay Deol gets another coat in his armor and he is undoubtedly, ‘the dark horse’ of Bollywood cinema. Kalki Koechlin shines again as a lone girl seeking for justice in a ruthless system.

‘Shanghai’ is merciless and forces the audience to ponder over the state of our nation. It is by no means a yet another 100 crore blockbuster. It is an intelligent political thriller with a noble intention and a callous crime drama at its heart.

(first published in

Rating:  3.5 / 5

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