Millennium Post

India's smart grit

Miles away from the smart parody and dark humour of Khosla ka Ghosla and Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! and a step above the darkness of Love Sex aur Dhokha comes Shanghai. Dibakar Banerjee has almost proved that he is one director who cannot be typecast. Just when you are almost certain that he is the quintessential Delhi boy ready to poke fun at the quirks of the city, he pulls out a dark card to trump it all. Shanghai is a step above his other works for it feels more real than Love Sex aur Dhokha. When the movie ends, one leaves with the feeling that the events just witnessed on screen could have happened in any town anywhere.

The story revolves around a truck accident that mows down a social activist, Dr Ahmedi (Prosenjit), in a city called Bharat Nagar. Shalini (Kalki), a girl closest to Ahmedi is sure that the accident was a premeditated one, she was vaguely warned by her domestic help. With the help of porn filmmaker Jogi (Emraan Hashmi), Shalini is determined to expose the truth behind it all. In comes the bureaucrat T A Krishnan (Abhay Deol) who is sent in to investigate the matters in the city – after all crores are being poured in for the business park in question. This is perhaps where the city becomes Shanghai
, the altering infrastructure amidst the absolute anarchy of the ruling political party.

Banerjee does something brilliant – he makes Abhay and Emraan play roles that seem so out of their regular that it is staggering. Emraan’s paunchy, leering porn filmmaker avatar shuffles between the bravado of hot Rajput blood and the dumbing fear for his life when his partner is murdered for possessing a tape that has all the answers. He comes to the rescue but he’s ‘almost not sure’ of his actions — and it is perfect that way. Abhay, as the high ranking officer, is torn between the two inevitable odds — duty and corrupted duty. On one hand Krishnan wants the truth unearthed, on the other he needs the bureaucracy to keep giving him the green signal to Stockholm and bigger milestones in his white collar-blue tie life. He seethes in anger at the impudence of the police, makes amends at the right moment to the CM yet manages to play that one master shot that changes it all. He is so convincing that one would be pretty sure that he would choose Stockholm after all. Kalki fails to match the histrionics of these two. Pitobash in his small role makes more impact.

Shanghai brings forward very real people. Each and every character is stark, well etched out and  placed in the right places on the Shanghai chess board. In fact, even the sole item number Imported Kamariya is set in the inaugural function for the business park. Nothing out of place in this one. The movie reveals one of India’s most familiar faces, where each person staggers under the weight of the right, the wrong, the desires and the courage to do something right.

Shanghai is a smart, gritty film. Watch it without the normal expectations you would have of the director — enjoy the ride, sheher nahin, Shanghai hai!
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