Shanghai: Ist Impression

12 Jun


This last month I realized how the enjoyment (or not) of a movie is fraught with dangers. Before you even buy a ticket you’re bombarded with opinions all and sundry, and to go against the tide on a social networking site is akin to poking a beehive.

Take Hugo. I expected to like it so much that I avoided reviews and reports like the plague (though now that I think about it, psychotherapists would tell me I had been quite certain I would dislike it). I was laughably disappointed because for me, the movie never began.

Ironically, the polar opposite happened with Shanghai. I was so confident of loving it that I sought out every bit of available information from talk shows, reviews and making-of segments (psychotherapists world over nod knowingly). Here’s what I got – fast-paced political thriller, brilliant performances across board (some barred Kalki from this praise), average rating 4/5.

I caught the movie much earlier than I usually do – on its first Sunday – but it so happens that I also gave it the worst reception any creative maker can get: bored.

                                      Yes I was bored. Shanghai is an exceptionally well-made film but unfortunately, the story is so straightforward I was shifting about in my seat waiting for it to go somewhere. There’s no mystery. I knew the good doctor was murdered by politicians not because of any brilliant deduction on my part but because the promos had made it crystal clear. It’s no fast-paced thriller either. The interval was the most startling event in the first 40-odd minutes since only ho-hum motivations and dead bodies had been stacked up so far. If you ask me, the interval should be bumped off as succinctly as these characters.

Political activist Dr. Ahmedi (Prosenjit) is an inconvenience to the dominative political party in a small town, and is duly killed. His lover and student Shalini (Kalki) is compelled, more by personal loss than ideals, to prove the accident was no accident. A pornographer who moonlights as a journalist Jogi (Emraan), excited by a sudden proximity to pale skin, offers her taped evidence. IAS officer Krishnan (Abhay) is pressurized to put a quick and clean end to the investigation. Jogi’s partner is bumped off, giving him a stronger motivation than love for white leather to locate lost evidence. He locates it. Krishnan uses it fittingly. The end.

LSD has more tension than this one.

If there’s any reason for me to love Shanghai, even now in my disappointment, it is its maker.

While I was serving time in film journalism, Dibakar Banerjee had told me that he wanted to gradually say more while showing less. He has done that exquisitely with Shanghai. With him, God is in the details, and it is these details that delight me. He is a relentless, even ruthless, watcher of life. Where Dibakar the director is concerned, Shanghai is leaps beyond his previous work. If I hadn’t walked into it expecting to be on the edge of my seat, I might have warmed to it.

And yes, performances are pitch-perfect, though not across board. This has probably become a cliché by now but Emraan Hashmi made me go all warm and fuzzy inside (less sexual, more maternal) (yes I have to clarify). Abhay Deol is fantastic and I would have bowed if he had worked on his accent better. Proshenjit has made Ahmedi memorable with just 15-odd minutes of screen-time. The weakest link is Kalki. According to Dibakar (in a TV interview), Shalini is the character who drives all the plot points but she is the character I remember the least. I suspect the half-baked impact is not Shalini’s doing but Kalki’s; she’s good, but somewhere out there is an actor overlooked who would have done full and total justice to the character.

                                         What I regret most is that Dibakar’s sense of humour has fallen prey to the law of diminishing returns. His anger – the one common factor in all his films as different as they are from each other – has steadily sloughed off the skippy humor of Khosla ka Ghosla until it’s now reduced to the cynic’s chafing. This is undoubtedly Dibakar’s darkest film.

 But …his punchline is on me. I found myself royally cheesed off as I exited the theatre and the reason was none of the above. It’s because I was cheated of Emraan’s lover-boy act. The two songs in the movie were clumsy appendages, and the two others were entirely missing. 

Truth is, every time Khudaaya and Duaa played on TV and I saw a helpless Emraan mooning over the unattainable white girl, a part of me willfully melted. Ironic that I should choose to admit this first on a public forum.

So congratulations, Dibakar. With Shanghai, you led me up the garden path in ways I hadn’t imagined. I will remember this.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Japleen Pasricha

Founder of Feminism In India. Feminist. Activist. Educator. Traveller

Author, ranter, dad

All Quiet On The Wench Front

Herstory at its fucking finest.

Ashish Shakya

Writer. Stand-up comic. General idiot for hire.

%d bloggers like this: