wogma rating: Watch but no rush (?)

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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Director: Dibakar Banerjee
Running time: 110 minutes
Genres: Crime, Politics
More Movie Info

Shanghai - Preview

Even though I haven't completely enjoyed all of Dibakar Banerjee's films, I look forward to his next one. That's the intrigue he brings to the films he makes. And each one is a different genre.

This time we have a political thriller which looks exactly that through and through, right to the lyrics of the item number. I just hope the number actually has a role in the film other than the standard commercial purposes. If it's the latter, it would be truly disappointing.

But what is very unlikely to cover up for that is the magnificent cast. Finally, there is hope to see Emraan Hashmi in a role that might just prove what I always suspected, that he is a good actor. Meanwhile, there is the reliable Abhay Deol and I'm certainly warming up to Kalki Koechlin with each film.

Here's looking forward to a great two hours at the movies.

Music Reviews:
Milliblog - "Shanghai is a solid effort from Vishal and Shekhar!"
Music Aloud - "8/10"
Bollyspice - "4/5"
Bollywood Hungama - "2.5/5"
dunkdaft - "Shanghai,works, but yes, in parts."

- meeta, a part of the audience

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

38 reviewers(?) - 29 yays 7 so-so 2 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Anna M.M.Vetticad , annavetticadgoes2themovies : ...Shanghai is both funny and frightening. In spite of the unrelentingly grim goings-on, the satirical asides made me laugh intermittently... full review

Thumbs up, by Prateeksha Khot, Bolly Spice : ...Dibakar and Urmi Juvekar weave a very taunt tale which is gripping and engaging but minus the frills one usually notices in our cinema... full review

Thumbs up, by Taran Adarsh, Bollywood Hungama : ...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! ... full review

Thumbs up, Buzz in Town : ...The strength of "Shanghai" is its tight screenplay by Urmi Juvekar and Dibakar Banerjee and the meticulous details leave no scope for arguments. What adds to the flavour is excellent cinematography by Nikos Andritsakis and the marvellous use of sound, both ambient and otherwise, to build up the tension in the political drama.... full review

Thumbs up, by Kshitij, Desi Martini : ...A valiant & hard hitting effort this one, its a well made film backed by exemplary performances but just falls short somewhere.... full review

Thumbs up, by Rony Dcosta, Desi Martini : ...This is by far Dipakar Banerjees best film and is a perfectly crafted and well designed thriller. I would credit the editor Namrata Rao for the therav and rhythm that the film has.... full review

Thumbs up, by Ameetbhuvan, Desi Martini : ...Brilliant and hard hitting... full review

Thumbs up, by Smita, Desi Martini : ...Shanghai is a well-made movie. It boasts a tight story, a highly-strung screenplay, a suspense ridden ending that is so extremely understated that you dont realize how much of your finger you have chewed up and some first rate acting from the cast.... full review

Thumbs up, by Aniruddha Guha, DNA : ...Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai walks the thin line between mainstream and meaningful cinema, and does so beautifully... full review

Thumbs up, by Deepa Deosthalee, Film Impressions : ...Through this political drama we see the minutiae of a complex network of deceit and depravation from which nobody can come out unscathed.... full review

Thumbs up, by Martin D'Souza, : ...SHANGHAI is his latest proof of how to enamor the viewer with a realistic plot shot within the framework of the buzz, grime and crime of everyday life.... full review

Thumbs up, by Divya Solgama, : ...People who love Entertaining cinema might find a huge disappointment in this film, but for all those who love meaningful and good cinema, this movie will be more deadly than Dengue or Malaria and a great cinematic experience.... full review

Thumbs up, by Anupama Chopra, Hindustan Times : ...Shanghai warms up slowly, so you need to have patience — especially in the first half. But the pleasure of the film is in the details... full review

Thumbs up, by Fatema H. Kajalwala, India Entertainment : ...Sketched with infinitesimal detailing, the film seems like a textbook in visual storytelling. If he milks sound and visuals to the maximum, he also invests it with a subtle symbolism that makes for an enriching viewing we seldom experience.... full review

Thumbs up, by Vinayak Chakravorty, india today : ...Shanghai is an angry outburst packaged well with wry humour. It is the heartland political thriller that several among the Bollywood lot have tried to make lately but didn't quite have the guts to... full review

Thumbs up, by Shubhra Gupta, indian express : ...Shanghai is a good film. Most of it is scarily plausible, sharply observed and sharply executed, except that distance which has Banerji telegraph some of his punches, making Shanghai stop just this short of being great... full review

Thumbs up, by Mrigank Dhaniwala , koimoi : ...Dibakar Banerjee’s direction is excellent. He spins a drama that is both, entertaining and thought-provoking.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sanjukta Sharma, Live Mint : ...It is enjoyable as well as perturbing—it does not let you leave the theatre cathartic or brain-dead. What a treat.... full review

Thumbs up, by Karan Anshuman, Mumbai Mirror : ...Shanghai is a thoroughly riveting and, ergo, entertaining experience in its form of a political thriller. At no point does the message supersede drama... full review

Thumbs up, by Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV : ...Shanghai is a no-frills but searing political thriller that is under-wired with intelligence and nerve, both cinematic and ideological... full review

Thumbs up, by Raja Sen, Rediff : ...A mature, serious film that engages, thrills and amuses... full review

Thumbs up, by Shilpa Jamkhandikar, Reuters : ...The first half of the film might seem slow, but Banerjee sets it up beautifully and the second half flows smoothly, thanks to the fact that he’s established characters and situations so well. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Sonia Chopra , Sify Movies : ...a film that’s as much a biting political thriller as it is a comment on corruption and the concept of development. This is one of those rare films that is as pertinent as it is compelling.... full review

Thumbs up, by K N Gupta, : ...The background score is lovely and so also the cinematography. The movie's street songs and dance are catchy and entertaining.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sudhish Kamath, The Hindu : ...With not a single dull moment and every department in fine form, this is tour de force filmmaking.... full review

Thumbs up, by on on on on on on on on Madhureeta Mukherjee, Times of India : ...Whether Shanghai is off-beat or mainstream is debatable, but if you thrive on rustic realistic cinema, however heavy-duty - this is your pick... full review

Thumbs up, by Rahul Desai, Upper Stall : ...The sound design (by Pritam Das) is colossal, as it should be, in a film that rightfully ignores a background score altogether.... full review

Thumbs up, by Rummana Ahmed, yahoo! India : ...Banerjee gets solid performances from his lead cast Abhay, Emraan and Kalki. Prosenjit manages to impress even in his small role. With 'Shanghai' Dibakar Banerjee proves once again that he knows his craft... full review

Thumbs up, by Ananya Bhattacharya, Zee News : ...‘Shanghai’ brings together a splendidly scripted plot, consummate acting and incisive irony... full review

So-So, by amodini, Amodini's Movie Reviews : ...while it is a good film, it has little overtly commercial appeal; it is slow-moving in the first half and the narrative is carried forward mostly by subtle dialogue.... full review

So-So, by Naresh Kumar Deoshi, Apun Ka Choice : ...Shanghai is a film that makes a social statement without being cynical. It’s a well-crafted, well-written movie that sets you thinking. But it doesn’t hit you where it hurts the most. ... full review

So-So, by Bobby Sing, Bobby Talks : ...SHANGHAI remains a fine political thriller but not a great one and certainly not a film made for the masses. It lacks the entertainment factor needed to win over the viewers and it also doesn’t have the pace of an energetic powerful thriller... full review

So-So, by Nupur Barua, : ...This is not Dibakar Banerjee's best work, but is worth a watch. Shanghai will make you flinch and squirm, and remind you that this country is going to the dogs (read politicians), literally, unless you can do something about it. ... full review

So-So, Movie Talkies : ...'Shanghai' is not a typical masala entertainer and a movie-goer might be justified in complaining that the pace of the film is a tad slow and that there is not much in terms of entertainment value. However, having said that, Banerjee's latest offering makes for a powerful impact.... full review

So-So, by Mansha Rastogi, Now : ...Shanghai, at just being an expose may not be a complete massy affair but it does make for a compelling one time watch, especially for the outstanding performances.... full review

So-So, by Gaurav Malani, Times of India : ...Shanghai is a story that one has witnessed several times before in cinema. What makes it a decent watch then is Dibakar Banerjee's offbeat take on the subject and impeccable understanding of the milieu.... full review

Thumbs down, by Bikas Mishra, DearCinema : ...Shanghai is a hugely disappointing film that’s superfluous and unduly serious in its tone. It just scratches the surface of an important contemporary issue while telling an un-engaging tale.... full review

Thumbs down, by Baradwaj Rangan, The Hindu : ...look past these dazzling details, and we get a hollow shell of a film that’s about as “timely” as yesterday’s newspaper.... full review

52 tweeters(?) - 33 yays 6 so-so 13 nays

znmdthemovie: And those in the mood for a fantastic film please catch SHANGHAI soon - It blew my mind and I would love your feedback on it - zoya akhtar

vams21: #hindimovies Shanghai is a good movie , but not a great movie.. Its total direction credit . #honestopinion

URM1: Watched Shanghai over the weekend, and from where I was sitting, it seemed to me Abhay Deol's movie than anyone else's. What a performance!

TheKPsays: There r Masala filmmakers. Then there r d Intellectual filmmakers. Then there is 100ft of Epic_Kashyap_ism. & on top is DBanerjee! #Shanghai

tanqeed: #Shanghai is not without its flaws but is still very good and is recommended for those who like hard hitting movies.

shailesh_1625: #Shanghai......fantastic. Kudos to the team!

sanyogita191: Shanghai: Good movie. Very well made.

ravishdoctor: Amazing performance @AbhayDeol in shanghai. His best ever for me, take a bow. Too Kolkata feel to the sound in the movie though.

RaghibKKC: #Shanghai is the amalgam of Reality and Cinema.Its nt only a movie,its a Revoultion.Emraan Hashmi Deserves National Award @shanghaithefilm

PratikAgrwal: I was extremely happy when I saw Farooq Sheikh in #Shanghai. It's been a long time I had seen him acting. Brilliant Performer always.

pipuxixu: What a film! Dibakar Bannerjee, take a bow. #Shanghai

nishabagul: Watched "Shanghai" this weekend. A sarcastic & perceptive political thriller. My rating 3 out of 5 :)

nehapari: Saw #Shanghai today and I have to say that I was most impressed with Emraan Hashmi. Also, deeply disturbed by Kalki's haircut in the flick.

MTunesHD: What about Abhay Deol?@im_milan: @mtuneshd yeh sahar nahi,#shanghai i hai...awesome performances...kalki & emraan..m speechless"

manasprakash: Watched is one of the most well made political thriller.sequence between farroq shaikh & Abhay deol r outstanding.hashmi rocks.

kartiknathan2: Shanghai rocks.... Abhay Deol's performance is just awesome...

kamalkamaraju: A must watch film shanghai...kudos to the team @abhaydeol @eemranhaasmi

Jaqsparow: first time Emraan Hasmi did a good job in #shanghai most engaging movie of this year. loved Dibakar's direction:)

harshrocsu: #Shanghai ...nice movie ..

harshalacharya: Shanghai......A movie which so subtly puts across the "gober" of India. Imran Hashmi you deserve much more credit than what you normally get

FootySamachar: Liked #Shanghai. A lot. But with most movies and my cynical outlook, thought it could have been a bit better. Great movie making

Dr_HOwZ: Y ohh Y..?.RT @Gulaaabi: Ohhh RT @Dr_HOwZ: In other news...watched shanghai.liked it...may be offbeat n predictable story.but liked .

ChaturSri: #Shanghai Good Movie & Good acting of Imran

Charvi20: Thank you for the tickets @_PVRCinemas #Shanghai is an awesome movie! Definitely recommended. #PVRFridays #PVRMovieCritic

Bhavnark: Thumbs up 4 shanghai.. After long a good film with an intense screenplay

bhau_000: Shanghai super duper hit.....@

BeingHindu: Watched Shanghai - The Movie, which is against current ruling UPA Govt @PMOIndia promises on Making Mumbai as Shanghai. Brilliant theme.

baddychat: Shanghai is brilliant. Period.

AshitaD: Shanghai... Fantastic movie.... close up... Mid shots... and pan.... Makes movie more interesting.. From Incredible India to Horrible India

Arjunpunnam: Fuck.Shangai is fucking awesome.Dibakar,Detailing come as a package #TheGreatestIndian #Shangai

archanakachru: #Shanghai .... a recommended watch.

AninditaC: Shanghai, MIB3, and Madagascar - 3 awesome and very different movies with different people, all in 1 weekend

09mitali: Shangai was seen .. understated and scintillating ..compelling cinema ..go watch

shyamalsinha1: shanghai- one time watch. C it, to feel it.

RavisankarN: Shanghai . Just a one time watch . Expected more from Dibakar Banerjee

Mathur_Sakshi: #Shanghai ... Good could have been better! #EmraanHashmi stands out!

IbuHatela: Saw Shanghai with a chutiya crowd, was lost at many places. Knee jerk reaction: good, not great. But I think it'll grow on me.

harshsarvepalli: #Shanghai is around the same story we all know but the taking of the movie & screenplay makes this film worthy

harshalved: Shanghai. Good story with predictable twists. #thumbsdown. But Abhay Deol. One of the most under-rated actor. Marvelous performance.

TarunMadnani02: Bakwass movie Shanghai !!!

ssdatar: Deshdrohi. RT @kamaalrkhan If a film can't do justice with title only then forget about justice to audience. #Shanghai

smriti_kulkarni: Saw Shanghai yesterday. Was slightly dissapointed.

scndthoughts: the most hyped movie of the decade...#shanghai....waste of time & money.

MrSamratX: Shanghai: Taut, realistic film done in by a weak ending, and one unreal character.

mehtahansal: Saw #Shanghai. Unfortunate that audiences did not see what the critics saw in the film. Positioning it as a 'mainstream' film is its undoing

mchennas: Shanghai is a dry political story. Predictable story line

iSreeni: #Shanghai cud've been a lot better. Too many cliches, vry horrible Kalki, snail pace r not something you'd want in a film #SreeniReactions

iManishAgarwal: Seen #Shanghai movie. Absolutely unreal characters/performance with boring Direction. “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” wasn’t needed @tajinderbagga

Greyllusionist: #Shanghai - Not recommended to spend money on. Watch only if its free for you! ;-) Okay but terribly slow.

divyatman: Watched Shanghai yesterday and was not as good as expected.. but Cocktail traileer was worth it #DianaPenty

digibberish: #shanghai is like a FTII graduate film. Critics love it. But as an audience, it feels like a self-indulgent film by a director that bores u

bharathkiriti: This movie is slow n boring #shanghai ,watch it at ur own risk

5 readers - 3 yays 1 so-so 1 nays

Yay! Thumbs Up, by B.H.Harsh

Yay! Thumbs Up, by Mayur

Yay! Thumbs Up, by @nkit : a ray of hope in times of rowdy it for sure if you love good cinema!!!

So-So, by abi

Nay! Thumbs Down, by prashant

This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Plot Summary

The ruling party wants to announce and start a project called 'India Business Park' before the elections due soon. This requires displacement of poor people who have little or no say in the matter. A professor from New York comes along to empower them only to be murdered in a way, which is made to look like an accident.

What Worked

  • The irony of 'Jai Pragati'
  • The item number is used well.
  • 'India Bana Pardes'
  • A shot in a gym with a three-panel mirror, with a bureaucrat (Abhay Deol), a sundry man-servant, and a politician (Farouque Shaikh) in a panel each.
  • Krishan's (Abhay Deol) disgust with his assignment.
  • The principal secretary's (Farouque Shaikh) comment on 'justice'

What did not

Note: This section simply lists the things that I did not like in this movie. This is not the overall impression about this movie. Please read the full review here

  • I didn't quite get why a prominent anti-establishment person can be murdered but a cog-in-the-wheel bureaucrat can't.
  • Shalini (Kalki Koechlin) goes to the maid's house and the conversation between a neighbor and her maid seems completely artificial.

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):

Lead Actors:
Character Artists:
Music Director:

Comments (4)

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@Harsh oops!

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

@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.

@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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