Shanghai - Review

wogma rating: The keen should rent; else TV (?)
quick review:

Visually appealing because of raw, rugged ambience and characters, Shanghai ultimately ends up being yet another political drama that chooses the quick-fix, short-cut. In a film that has shades in characters that are unique to Hindi cinema, the patch-up job in the writing of the climax is a serious let down.

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Wogma Review

We as a people want progress. We as a people are disturbed when a section of the society is wronged to achieve this progress. When it comes to 'our' progress, we as a people don't mind collateral damage. Dibakar Banerjee's Shanghai, portrays our aspirations as a people to want to be a 'progressive' nation. A deep concept, with multi-layered connotations and meaningful characters starts seeming half-baked post half-time and is made utterly regular by the end. The age ol' nexus between business, politics, law and administration is yet again scratched and left at just that. What is 'realistic' to the eye ceases to be realistic to the brain after teasing you with details and references that you aren't otherwise used to in a Hindi film.

A guy from the 'good' side is a professor, a rebel, fighting on behalf of the wronged and has a thing for his female students - that's what you aren't used to in a Hindi film. A strong female protagonist whose father is implicated in a multi-crore Rupee scam finds herself helpless, has fallen for her married teacher, and yet manages to create empathy towards her - that's what you aren't used to in a Hindi film. A typical politician who genuinely believes in and is concerned about the leader of his party, despite being powerful in his own right - that's what we aren't used to in a Hindi film. For goodness sake, an Emraan Hashmi whose acting capabilities are explored - that's what you are not used to in a Hindi film! And yet by the end you come out feeling that the writers tried to pull wool over your eyes with all of these interesting departures and came up with a sham of an over-simplified climax.

Some things are pleasantly surprising. Sub-plots begin and are left without resolution; you are told things about characters and their inter-relationships using subtlest of details just because - for no apparent reason in terms of the story - these things lend to the beauty of the film and its inherent chaos. Many a time, Dibakar Banerjee chooses to pause, take a breather, gives an extra moment to take the ambience in and these moments strike a chord between the audience and the characters.

That the characters are played by some fine actors only adds to its believability. That Abhay Deol could have sleep-walked as the taken-for-granted senior bureaucrat who is struggling with his conscience only means that we have begun to take his acting skills for granted. I do wish though that his generic South Indian accent was given a pass. Emraan Hashmi, you have to watch, I ain't elaborating on how cool it is to see him so comfortable with something so out of his regular zone. Kalki Koechlin gets to do a repeat of her strong-lady-in-distress role.

The smaller roles though are the ones that really stick in Shanghai. From Pitobash Tripathi who has his own kind of screen presence to Prosenjit Chatterjee and Supriya Pathak whose omnipresence is felt throughout despite really short roles to Farouque Shaikh whose presence is strangely comforting to even Anant Jog who plays one of the few representatives of the people who are wronged and are being manipulated by politicians.

The problem then comes back to the cop-out of a climax, one that is build up towards really well. And there are other details that seem out of place. For example, the satire in the lyrics of 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' sound more like it'll be sung by the protestors rather than supporters of the ruling party. Yet, interesting, fairly relatable characters are staged on a familiar stage - that of corruption, red-tape and dishonesty. A system that you and I are frustratingly trapped in we want to see the characters wade out of it so that we see light for ourselves. But from this realistic milieu you are thrown into reality - that this is still fiction and life is obviously not going to be as easy as it is for these characters.

It boils down to this then - what makes a movie good for you? What are you ok with letting go off, if the rest of it got you hooked? If what you are looking for is some serious, no-nonsense drama, most of Shanghai has it for you. But, if you end up disappointed when build-up towards the climax remains unsatiated, you will come out with that upset feeling. You know where I am.

- meeta, a part of the audience

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Lots. A brutal murder too.
  • Language: A few abusive words.
  • Nudity & Sexual content: A liplock. One scene with off-screen pornography. /li>
  • Concept: A cry against the system.
  • General Look and Feel: Gritty and grim.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

  • Direction: 3.5
  • Story: 2
  • Lead Actors: 4
  • Character Artists: 4
  • Dialogues: 3.5
  • Screenplay: 3.5
  • Music Director: 2.5
  • Lyrics: 3.5

Shanghai - Trailer

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Comments (4)

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meetu:

@Harsh oops!

meetu:

@Harsh frightened? interesting... i was just let down from the party scene onwards

meetu:

@Harsh i see. i actually kind-of liked that bit.

@Mayur Farouque Shaikh's character as principal secretary. That last line he tells Abhay Deol at the party.

@@nkit not last 3-4 mins. right from the party. Anyway, like I said in my last paragraph, it all depends what is important to you. For me, i guess the climax is very important.

meetu:

@abi agree.

@prashant it was "different" visually. And I liked how the characters shaped up even though I didn't feel for them. But other than that I was disappointed too.

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