Shanghai Movie Review by Taran Adarsh


He is acknowledged for creating high-quality cinema. Right from KHOSLA KA GHOSLA to OYE LUCKY! LUCKY OYE! to LOVE SEX AUR DHOKHA, Dibakar Banerjee’s movies have been lapped up by spectators. He typically picks up avant-garde subject matters and his latest flick SHANGHAI is no exception. KHOSLA KA GHOSLA, OYE LUCKY! LUCKY OYE! and LOVE SEX AUR DHOKHA presented diverse stories. Now Dibakar presents the much-anticipated thriller SHANGHAI, which orbits in the region of gluttony and deceitfulness of politicians.

Political thrillers are a much abused genre, but it’s not frequently that movies confer us with what SHANGHAI offers: A political thriller wherein the politics seizes precedence over the thriller element. It’s more of a reality check about where India stands in the present day. In the context of the film, we have this dream of a Shanghai like city, where there is commerce, eminence, capital and the material comfort. But the reality is something else!

Enthused by a book of the 1960s, ‘Z’, by Greek writer and diplomat Vassilis Vassilikos, a Costa Gavras film, Z, was also motivated by this book in 1969. Banerjee detected remarkable similarities between the Greece in the book and the India of today, procured its rights and acclimatized the account to a metropolis in India.

A political activist [Prosenjit Chatterjee] meets with an accident in an Indian city gearing up for elections. A lone girl [Kalki Koechlin] believes it to be a murder. A porn film maker [Emraan Hashmi] claims to have proof that will bring the government down. A high-ranking bureaucrat [Abhay Deol] is brought in by the government to control damage. The three of them blow the lid off the Indian dream called Shanghai.

SHANGHAI deals with the two sides of the coin: Abhay symbolizes the scholarly, frontward looking and progressive India, while Emraan is the ordinary guy who is left behind. In SHANGHAI, Abhay and Emraan depict the two halves of India which, in many ways, are conflicting against each other for a larger divide in the cake.

The finest aspect of Dibakar Banerjee’s films is that you can’t articulate what he’s going to come up with next and how unerringly he’s going to engage you in his creation. All his movies so far have picked up issues that concern us, but the temperament was so diverse that, if you weren’t aware, you might not have estimated that they were all helmed by the same director.

SHANGHAI is a political thriller woven around much-battered terms ‘expansion’ and ‘development’. This sort of a deception has ensued before in various nations/states and it is these types of political misdemeanors that Dibakar dabbles with in SHANGHAI. SHANGHAI is an affluent work of art by a master storyteller. Most significantly, it’s a film of our times. It evokes myriad emotions in you. It leaves you horrified, distressed… it may even make you livid. I’d go to the extent of pronouncing that SHANGHAI is one of the bravest and most commanding movies of this decade. A contemporary film about our times, our lives.

Vishal-Shekhar’s music is alright. ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ is, of course, the track to watch out for, while ‘Imported Kamariya’ is passable. The background score does complete justice to the material on screen, while the cinematography captures the mood brilliantly.

The casting is offbeat, but beguiling. One could’ve never anticipated Abhay and Emraan acting in the same film. Emraan is your regular guy, so there is an instantaneous connect with him. Besides, it’s a new Emraan that you witness here [paunch, blackened/stained teeth], which is in sharp contrast to his on-screen romantic representation. Influenced by Dibakar’s thought process, Emraan takes the plunge and wholly submits to the director’s visualization. This is a defining moment in his career and I am sure, even Emraan must’ve rediscovered himself in this variety of film-making.

Abhay’s character is authoritative, unprejudiced, calm and uncomplicated. He gets all the nuances of his characters right. In many ways Abhay’s character is the vertebrae of the movie. He clutches it together. The endearing actor sinks his teeth into the character and comes up with a triumphant act.

Though Kalki has depicted distressed characters in films like SHAITAN, THAT GIRL IN YELLOW BOOTS and also in DEV D, she skillfully performs the part of an absolute outsider and brings on a certain susceptibility, which is the prerequisite demand of her characterization. Kalki is truly awe-inspiring and enacts her part with flourish.

Prosenjit Chatterjee is effective in a brief role. Farooque Sheikh adds a lot of weight to the proceedings. Pitobash is exceptional. Supriya Pathak gets limited scope, but she’s competent. Anant Jog is remarkable. Tillotama Shome is super.

On the whole, SHANGHAI is undeniably one of the most politically astute films ever made. It keeps you involved and concerned right from its inception to the harrowing culmination. This is not your usual Bollywood masala film, but a serious motion picture that has a voice, that makes you think, that makes a stunning impact. A must watch!



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