9 June 2012 | rangdetumpy
A brilliant subtle political thriller by Banerjee that deserves standing ovation
Some five years ego when I first saw Kosta Gavra's classic political thriller "Z" I thought it has all the ingredients to be made into Indian scenario. Even though the film is five decades old the scenarios fits into contemporary India. It digs into the political machinery and their double standards as they talk about Industrial developments. With land acquisition, truth behind special economic zone (SEZs), red-tapism, bureaucratic machinery all molded in a thriller format had everything going for Indian audience. When Dibakar Banerjee announced Shanghai which is based on the Greek novel "Z' by Vassilis Vasilikos I was thrilled. Banerjee successfully adapted the novel and used it to portray a dark of political India.
Set in fictional BharatNagar "Shanghai" starts with Dr Ahmadi , a socialist worker being bumped off as he protest against the land acquisition and warns aam-janata to look into the real motives of the politicians and industrialists. Circumstances brought in Jogi Parmer, a rustic porn film maker who falls for the gori lady and how got himself caught in the web of deceit. It is through the investigation of Ahmedi's murder the journey of unmasking of those in the system begins as we came to know about the truth behind the game of industrialization. Symbolically it reflects the rotten Indian system in a realistic fashion which will shock audience and let them think. With India being claimed as potential future super power of the world the big shots inside the system is robbing her from within at every level leading towards a greater economic divide.
Dibakar Banerjee showed immense potential in earlier three films (khosla ka ghosla, oye lucky lucky oye, LSD) and each of them he used ample dose of dark humor to bring out some prevailing problem in the society. He does the same and succeeds in "Shanghai".He has compromised less interns of story telling and kept many scenes subtle enough for further interpretation. His detailing of sequences needs to applaud. Indeed he is one of the finest story teller of the country and together with Anurag Kashyap,Vishal Bhardwaj can elevate the Indian cinema whereby getting appreciation from world audience as something meaningful yet entertaining. Teaming up with Urmi Juvekar, the duo has done a splendid job in keeping the dialogs real, subtle yet catchy. Being a thriller the happenings keep you engaged to the screen. Like Kahaani this is another taut thriller which can compete with any world cinema. Nikos Andritsakis cinematography deserves standing ovation. His usages of occasional shakes, close-ups elevate the screenplay. The sepia tone set it perfect for the rustic India. Namratha Rao's editing is top notch and she proved that Kahaani was just not one flash in the pan. Vandana Kataria's production design is effective and creates the atmosphere for a dark, thrilling ride. Atul Mongia's unique ensemble casting needs recognition. Vishal-Shekhar's music works. "Bharat mata ki jaye" is true satirical song which is helped by some brilliant choreography.
Acting wise every single person involved has given a superlative performance. Emraan Hashmi as Jogi Parmer is revelation. He proved his detractors wrong and gave a new life to himself as he joined the league of meaningful cinema. Prior to this his mass films (though huge Hits) didn't get him accolades from all section of society but this film will make people realize his potential. Abhay Deol is a superb actor and as always he is at his subtle paced. He fits into a character like chameleon and together with the choice of films he makes he is there to make some change in Indian cinema. As IAS Krishnan he has given one of his career best roles. Just check the climax when he confronts with Farooq Sheik. The scene is a marvel and deserves standing ovation. Kalki Koechlin succeeds as the disturbed foreign return Indian Shalini. Her relationship with Dr Ahmedi as well as Jogi Parmer has been portrayed sensitively. Bengali superstar Prosenjit Chatterjee excels as socialist worker Dr Ahmedi. The movie surrounds his character and in a comparatively small role he leaves his marks. Pitobash as usual is exceptional. With Shor in the city, I am Kalaam and now Shanghai he will definitely land up in more meaty roles in near future. He is a power house of talent. Veterans Farooq Sheik and Supriya Pathak were always known for their acting potential and here also they lived up to their names. Tilottoma Shome as Mrs Ahemdi fits the bill as well.
Overall Shanghai is another powerful cinema which comes out from Bollywood. In a thriller mode it raises very pertinent questions on the way the Indian political system works. The film is dark, real yet entertaining that will keep the audience (though it might not appeal to many cine-goers who loves unreal commercial cinema) engaged till the end. It is another landmark film which is to be experienced, a masterpiece. Indeed it has all the stamps that are associated with a film which has been co-produced by NFDC.
P.S : I agree with the first reviewer in IMDb with the statement that one should watch this film "And next time you end up comparing why do Bollywood standards do not reach Hollywood, stay quite! You don't deserve a word!".. Indeed I think Kosta Govra would have been proud to see this adaptation