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 music and background score seem secondary to the cinematography, which, figuratively speaking, hogs the limelight.
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.
For most of its run time, the film appears like a portfolio/showreel of good looking actors
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 article is by guest author 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/.
Thumbs up, by Sweta Kaushal, Hindustan Times : ...Shab is a dark, haunting film about human emotions, relationships, love and betrayal that thrive in a rather opportunistic and materialistic world of Delhi’s elite society. ... full review
Thumbs up, by Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV : ...Shab certainly isn't without its share of flaws, but the deliciously cryptic style that it employs in the elucidation of intricate human relationships makes it an irresistibly intriguing tale. Watch it because Shab is a rare Hindi film that respects its audience and lets them to work their way through the maze. ... full review
Thumbs up, Sify Movies : ... Onir gives us a film that's powerful and delectable. A smouldering simmering sensuous tale of betrayal and redemption, Onir stages a fragile, brutal and beguiling exploration of relationships in the overheated metropolitanism of Delhi. ... full review
So-So, by Tushar P. Joshi, DNA : ...Shab will appease those wanting some meaningful cinema that dives deep into the psyche of the human mind and explores the contrasting complexities of relationships. ... full review
So-So, by Rachit Gupta, Filmfare : ...It’s the relationships being portrayed in Shab that help rescue the film from its patchy screenplay. The actors do a reasonably good job. Mithoon’s music is spunky. The cinematography is top notch, but the editing isn’t always consistent. Thankfully, the dialogue of the film is strong and the way characters respond to their life’s challenges makes the final bit of the story engaging. The maturity and the subtlety with which Onir tackles the themes of Shab make it worth a watch. ... full review
Thumbs down, by Anna MM Vertticad, annavetticadgoes2themovies : ...If the answer to either question is “I don’t know”, here is another question: is the film worth making? Shab, sadly, was not. ... full review
Thumbs down, by Baradwaj Rangan, Blogical Conclusion, The New Sunday Express : ...The revelations are underwhelming, and, worse, unaffecting. We keep rooting for Mohan to rediscover a reason to smile, though. Maybe that should have been the real story.... full review
Thumbs down, by UDITA JHUNJHUNWALA, FirstPost : ...After My Brother Nikhil and I Am, among others, Shab should have augmented Onir’s oeuvre. Perhaps being based on a script written over a decade ago contributed to the feeling of datedness. ... full review
Thumbs down, by Johnson Thomas, Free Press Journal : ...The cinematography and music have haunting flair but the stilted dialogues, the lack of momentum in the pacing, the hesitant performances (save for Raveena who looks ravishing and does a fairly good job) and the un-purposeful narration makes it tough going. Share this Post: ... full review
Thumbs down, by Vishal Verma, Glamsham.com : ...Surprisingly, Onir's Delhi in SHAB appeared as a poor cousin of Mumbai (cafes, pubs at every place) which had a dark hangover of Madhur Bhandarkar's PAGE 3. If Onir had restricted himself to the Mohan Sonal episode keeping the gay fashion designer Rohan (Raj Suri) for an interesting twist, SHAB could have been a watchable and a better film. ... full review
Thumbs down, by Ahana Bhattacharya, koimoi : ...This is not a family entertainer or a film which everyone would like to watch. But if you are enthusiastic about stories dealing with the complexities of relationships in the urban life and can sit through boring films then you might like this. ... full review
Thumbs down, by Kunal Guha, Mumbai Mirror : ...Onir recently argued that he doesn't fancy himself as an indie filmmaker, even while his 'treatment' lends his films to be deemed otherwise. But here, he stereotypes homosexuals, sex workers and everyone in between. That a character in this film goes from being a teacher in France to a waiter in a South Delhi bistro — without leaning on circumstances — makes one wonder if anyone's proofed this script. ... full review
Thumbs down, by Nandini Ramnath, Scroll.in : ...The movie seems better suited to Mumbai, but one reason it seems to have been set in Delhi is the variety of seasons on offer. The plot stumbles from summer all the way to winter, although the seasons are not easily discernible from each other since much of the action is set indoors. ... full review
Thumbs down, by Reza Noorani, Times of India : ...Onir, with cinematographer Ashish Bisht, has shot Delhi beautifully. It’s interesting how the filmmaker seasons in the city to show what the characters are going through. We need filmmakers like him to have conversations about subjects like same-sex relationships, single mothers, but he needs to have his objective clear. ... full review
A__Narayan: Do watch Shab in theatres @ShabTheFilm Powerful acting , respect @TandonRaveena beautiful music @sanjaysuri @IamOnir
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