Shab - Review
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Shab is a long-drawn-out study of alienation manifested through its four main characters: Mohan aka Azfar (Ashish Bisht), Neil (Areesz Gandhi), Benoit (Simon Freney) and Afia (Arpita Pal). Neil is an outsider by virtue of his sexuality, while the others are literally from out of town, and have complex realities. They face further alienation as a consequence of their romantic and sexual exploits, and victories and defeats thereof.
The line between romantic and sexual pursuits is thin. All the characters have overstepped it at least once, and have been pushed back to the other side. It is on this side that they cross paths and resonate as if they were mirror images of each other: Benoit and Neil are grieving silently, while Afia and Mohan are leading double lives. Amongst all four, Afia is pivotal--the connector, the spine. And to maintain that, Onir guards her mystery so painstakingly and for so long, that it fails to matter when it is revealed. The protractedness is tiring.
That's not all. For most of its run time, the film appears like a portfolio/showreel of good looking actors, framed and lit beautifully in long, mid and close up shots. All it offers in the name of a narrative are events that are loosely put together using long takes of the brooding actors set against the backdrop of a bustling city. I get it. It is through these shots that Onir portrays alienation. But, there are too many, and it gets repetitive.
Every once in a while Onir tries to break the monotony with situational humor, probably based on instances from real life, but they seem forced and thus the jokes are mostly lost.
In terms of editing, there is no obvious pattern to how much of a character will appear on the screen and in which order. It helps keep the interest alive - the film is like a box of chocolates. The traditional cause-and-effect correlation between subsequent shots is avoided. A cause may not have an immediate effect or the effect may be revealed much later. It is an interesting challenge to undertake. However, at times it creates jumps that are big and jar the continuity.
Also, for the longest time, Mohan's story overshadows others', including Afia's, challenging her centrality. However, it also allows two actors to showcase their prowess: newcomer Ashish Bisht steals the scenes with his looks and uninhibited presence before the camera. The senior actor cast opposite him, Raveena Tandon, looks gorgeous and gives a refreshingly restrained and steady performance.
The music and background score seem secondary to the cinematography, which, figuratively speaking, hogs the limelight. After years one hears KK render a song, and even though memories of Rockford and Jhankar Beats come rushing back, his voice seems out of place. It is loud and unsuited for the tone of this movie, as compared to the soft and rustic voice of Arijit Singh, which we have got so used to these days.
What enhanced the sense of alienation for me is that I watched the film in a starkly empty theater. Luckily, I had a friend for company or the feeling of alienation would have doubled. :-p But, chuckles apart, it is sad because I remember My brother...Nikhil, Onir's directorial debut, was met with a hugely encouraging response. I Am was crowd funded and won two national awards in 2012. Enter 2017, and there's no one in the theater to watch Shab. Not even out of curiosity. Odd!
Well, truth be told, the film is erratic in engaging and evoking empathy. Some parts are endearing, and a lot of it might seem extra. It has an interesting premise and innovative structure, and the music prevails through its jump cuts, creating a sense of unison, but the film drags at a slow pace. At 150 minutes it seems way too long. It could have told the same story more emphatically if some parts (mostly in the second half) were edited out. That said, the film could be watched for its director, Onir, and its theme. Only sensitive filmmakers will pick up themes like alienation.
This review is by guest reviewer Jeet. Jeet is a workaholic turned film addict, and vice-versa. Basically, when he is not working, he is watching films. And when he isn't watching films, he is working. The funny thing is films are also a part of his work. Go figure! Jeet also blogs at https://www.facebook.com/groups/736281183136110/.
- Violence: Suggested not shown
- Language: Clean, beeped out
- Nudity & Sexual content: Men posing in underwear; women in lingerie; foreplay
- Concept: Alienation due to romantic/sexual choices
- General Look and Feel: Very good: Well lit, well framed shots
Shab - Movie Details
- Official Sites: Facebook Twitter YouTube Wikipedia IMDB
- Banner: Anticlock Films, WSG Picutres
- Producer: Sanjay Suri, Onir
- Director: Onir
- Lead Cast: Ashish Bisht, Arpita Pal, Raveena Tandon
- Supporting Cast: Areesz Gandhi, Sanjay Suri, Simon Freney
- Story: Onir
- Cinematography: Arvind Kannabiran
- Music Director: Vivek Philip, Mithoon
- Lyrics: Amitabh Varma
- Facebook Page: Link
- Running time: 150 minutes
- Reviewer: Jeet
- Language: Hindi
- Country: India
- Genres: Relationships
Shab - Trailer
If you cannot see a video above, click here to see it on YouTube