Movies

Shanghai is a boring fare

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MUMBAI: Shanghai is based on Costa Gravas‘ 1969 French political thriller ‘Z‘, which was based on Vassilis Vassilikos 1966 novel of the same name.

Producers: Ajay BIjli, Sanjeev K Bijli.

Director: Dibakar Banerjee.

Cast: Abhay Deol, Emraan Hashmi, Prosenjit Chatterjee, Kalki Koechlin, Farooque Shaikh, Supriya Pathak Kapoor, Anant Jog, Pitobash Tripathy, Tillotama Shom.

A dream that the local government was selling to its masses in Maharashtra, that of making Shanghai out of Mumbai, inspires the title of the film without much relevance to the theme. A ruling coalition government plans to build an international business park by destroying poor people‘s slums but, as it turns out, it is just another money making scandal involving vested interests in the ruling coalition. Alas, rather than be a paean to the classic novel and film, Shanghai is rather a dirge for them. The film and its script know not where they are going! Till the film is half way through, you don‘t even know who is on which side! To make matters worse, all secrets are open to public including who could be the real culprit.

Abhay Deol, an IAS officer, heads an ambitious project for his local government, which is called International Business Park; a project being built at the cost of settlements of poor slum dwellers by grabbing their land and resettling them miles away! The park is a prestige issue for the CM, Supriya Pathak Kapoor, and her coalition partner, Kiran Karmarkar; it is their prized trophy to win the ensuing elections. However, there is an advocate, a crusader, fighting for the cause of slum dwellers in Professor Ahmedi, a professor in the US and an author who has flown down to Mumbai from the US on a twin engine propeller airplane! Mr Ahemdi, played by Prosenjit, may be a poor man‘s idol but, from the looks of it, he is quite a debauch, in that, even as he lands in the city, he happens to have a film starlet for company. He has married one of his students and romancing yet another one, Kalki Koechlin; so much for being an idol of the poor masses.

Koechlin is a crusader standing by her professor in the US, but her father is behind bars for a Rs 400 million fraud. If he is innocent, she does not care to fight for his cause and if he is guilty, she has no status to fight against government corruption!

Prosenjit defies all bans and protests to carry on with his rally and address the slum dwellers when he is run over by a vehicle and that is where the other lead actor, Emraan Hashmi, steps in, in the same garb and character he has donned in his umpteen previous films but made to look ugly here for whatever reason. He is a street-smart tapori, a videographer covering political rallies as well as shooting porn videos. It is while shooting a promotional video for Kiran Karmarkar that he has unknowingly recorded a plan to murder Prosenjit being discussed on phone.

Prosenjit is on death bed and an inquiry commission headed by Abahy Deol is set up. His chief mentor in the bureaucracy, chief secretary, Farooque Shaikh, wants him to wrap up the investigation as a judgment error by the police. The police help is not forthcoming either since the police chief is as much a part of the murder plan as well as because some enmity he has with Deol for whatever reasons.

While the witnesses, including Pitobash Tripathy, who carried out the plan along with Anant Jog, are killed at random in road accidents, Hashmi realizes he has the proof of the plan on his computer hard disk. Deol is shocked to know who is behind these crimes, viewer is not; the suspense is hardly well guarded.

The script of Shanghai is patchy with characters poorly etched and a lot of things taken for granted or left unexplained; it is also slow paced. Direction is lacklustre; crowd scenes seem tight and look like shot in one go and used at various places in the film. Musically, the one showpiece song, Bharatmata ki jai…, is a mass number which can‘t be expected to patronise this film.

Performance wise Deol is restrained in keeping with his character. Shaikh puts up one more of his natural acts. Hashmi is good, Tripathy is excellent. Kiran Karmarkar could do with more expressions. Kalki Koechlin does not quite gel in the set up. Prosenjit‘s character is badly sketched and he is consigned into oblivion after a few scenes. Anant Jog, Tillotama Shom and Supriya Pathak are okay.

Shanghai is a badly made film which is a boring fare. Having opened to poor response, it is expected to only slide further as reports spread.

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