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Movie Review: Shanghai

June 18, 2012


Directed by Dibakar Banerjee, Shanghai stars Abhay Deol, Emraan Hashmi, and Kalki Koechlin. — Courtesy Photo

Vassilis Vassilikos’ novel ‘Z’ (and its film adaptation by Costa Gavras) is principally de-humoured and Indianised (not Bollywoodised), in "Shanghai", the new political thriller featuring a subdued AbhayDeol and EmranHashmi in a potbelly.

A prominent anti-corporate social activist (Prosenjit Chatterjee) is run over, by — hold your breath for the reveal — a reigning political party’s plan. The head of the IAS (a gritty, in-control Farroq Sheikh) wants the investigating officer — played with intelligently drafted conviction, and a subdued South Indian accent by AbhayDeol — to tie up the case pronto. The case is a dud, with torn police reports and no plausible evidence. The activist’s comrade, played by Kalki Koechlin, wants justice. Mistakenly videotaped evidence is lost somewhere in the one room studio of part time-pornographer (Emran Hashmi bearing stained teeth, a half-wit sadak-chaap attitude and a potbelly).

Connecting the dots takes an hour and 54 minutes by wiz director Dibakar Banerjee, whose heavy-handed thriller is inexplicably titled "Shanghai". Now, I know the film introduces an unrefined explanation during, and at the end of the film, but still, “Shanghai” makes little sense.

Like Kahaani, "Shanghai", is an edgy thriller stretched tight by its inflexible, painfully rationalized screenplay by Urmi Juvekar and Banerjee, and its close-quartered, hand-held cinematography by Nikos Andritsakis.

Far from being a byproduct of a group’s canny collaboration (like last week’s release “Ferrari Ki Sawaari” “Shanghai” differs itself by being an auteurs work. And in being one, the movie is shanghaied by Banerjee’s aesthetic calls — apt, shrewd and austere as they are.

The film runs engagingly enough (though 15 minutes less would have been better), and its payoff, though clichéd and predictable from the get-go, is sharply set-up to inflict a hard-hit just before the end credits. But the hit never connects because of the film’s one-track pace. In creating a tense-thriller, Banerjee forgets to add points of emotional release into the pacing of the picture, which creates a passionless distance with the audience.

Still, there’s a ton to appreciate in “Shanghai”. The performances by Prosenjit Chatterjee, Abhay Deol and by Emran Hashmi are unimpeachable.

The gradations in their persona’s anchors the film in a pseudo-stark-reality that is easily capable of dumbfounding a thinking man into thinking there’s a deeper depth in the movie than what we perceive.

So, of course we’re bamboozled a little, but if new-Bollywood  filmmakers are this crafty on hoodwinking, I don’t mind being duped at all.