I awaited with bated breath till Shanghai began. And I thought I would be calm once it started. But I was wrong. My breathing didn’t slow down, my pulse rate didn’t normalize and my eyes didn’t blink. That, in a nut-shell was how I received Dibakar Banerjee’s political thriller.
I’ll wrap up the acting first because that’s the least interesting part. Abhay Deol is easily the best of the lot…very competent and in control. His body language is positively a brilliant portrayal of an Indian bureaucrat. Emraan Hashmi surprised me completely…this is not what I ever, ever saw him coming up with….he’s terrific as a part-time media videographer, part-time pornography filmmaker. Kalki Koechlin is good…but her expressions are very similar to the ones in Shaitan, That Girl in Yellow Boots and Dev D…nothing ‘really’ new to offer…needs to work on emoting more earnestly. Prosenjit Chatterjee is extremely competent as the political activist….most importantly his character is extremely crucial to the story and he does make the viewer believe that he’s going to make a difference(there’s a mention of this in the film about him having stopped some Government project in the past).
Moving over, the most brilliant parts of Shanghai are the screenplay, dialogues (Dibakar Banerjee and Urmi Juvekar), direction (Dibakar Banerjee), cinematography (Nikos Andritsakis) and background music (Michael McCarthy). Being a political thriller, it’s imperative that the story has sub-plots, grey characters and powerful dialogues. Dibakar Banerjee and Urmi Juvekar (screenplay writer of ‘Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!’ and the national award winning ‘I Am’) just don’t go wrong in this crucial area. Dibakar Banerjee has already made his mark as a ‘hatke’ filmmaker, with films such as Khosla Ka Ghosla, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! and Love, Sex Aur Dhoka, behind him. In Shanghai he leaves you ample scope for imagination, guessing (almost every viewer loves predicting the next move in a thriller) and yet…you don’t visualize what’s coming next. The end of the movie is a classic point-in-case…I saw it very very differently in my mind…but….but…but…watch it to know! With Shanghai he doesn’t just climb the ladder, he joins a small group of promising filmmakers who dare to make different films (I’d put Anuraag Kashyap, Onir, Shimit Amin, Farhan Akhtar in this list for now). This is very difficult in a country that loves films such as Dabangg, Singham and Rowdy Rathore. Cinematography is top-notch in Shanghai…Nikos has left no-stone-unturned to showcase everything right from rowdy crowds, rallies, government enquiries and even sleazy films…as authentically as possible. Some of the slow-mo shots are brilliantly timed! The background score in Shanghai is a separate character in the film…it’s got its own voice which turns up at the perfect moments in the story…delightfully haunting!
Shanghai is dirty, contemporary and dangerously close to reality. It makes the viewer squirm, uncomfortable, think, think again and at some sequences…scream! Yes, it’s a powerful film…a film that draws inspiration from Vassilis Vassilikos’ 1960s book ‘Z’. I also saw shades of Khakee and Yuva in some portions. But by no means is it a blatant copy. The best I can compare is the relationship between Othello and Omkara….inspired; yet topical, relevant and original.
If you’re looking for a movie that DOESN’T stress you, make you think and rethink, make you face some ugly truths and question your beliefs….DO NOT WATCH SHANGHAI. It’s only for serious film buffs…people who only love popular, actor-driven cinema, picturesque photography will absolutely despise the movie…so don’t waste that seat and your money…let a serious film-goer occupy it.
With Shanghai under his belt I think Dibakar has made one point amply clear…aam filmmakers ki ‘wannabe’ talent ki aan, baan aur shaan-gayi!