Shanghai is the story of the fictional Bharatnagar, a town victim to a re-development project. Dr Ahmedi (Prosenjit Chatterjee) is a social activist who is killed during a rally campaigning for the resettlement of Bharatnagar’s residents. Shalini (Kalki Koechlin) is Dr Ahmedi’s student-slash-lover who believes this is anything but an accident, and turns to porn filmmaker Jogi (Emraan Hashmi), who claims to have evidence to prove her theory. Meanwhile, top-level bureaucrat TA Krishnan (Abhay Deol) is put in charge of investigating the death.
Is this gritty, relevant film worthy of your time this weekend? Read our Pros and Cons list to find out.
(+) Fabulous performances. Seriously, everybody in this film is great. Emraan Hashmi will surprise you – he leaves his loverboy image behind and hands himself over fully to director Dibakar Bannerjee. The result is a very unglamorous Emraan Hashmi sporting a paunch and stained teeth – who has never acted better. Abhay Deol plays his role to the ‘T’ and excels especially in the climax scene. Kalki Koechlin acts every part the vulnerable girl, and manages to not cross the line into ‘over-dramatic’. Supriya Pathak, Farooq Sheikh, Tillotama Shome, Pitobash Tripathy and Prosenjit Chatterjee are all excellent in their respective roles.
(+) Great storytelling. From the outset of the film, you pretty much know everything – Dibakar Bannerjee has already laid out all for you to see. But even without a whodunnit style of mystery, it’s still an engaging watch – the characters and their struggles keep you hooked. And since it’s a short film (clocks in just under two hours), you don’t get bored due to lack of a suspense element.
(+) Brilliant direction. Bannerjee stays true to his story and portrays a raw, gritty feel in every frame of Shanghai, whether it be through unglamorous close-ups or dingy sets. Cinematography is also first-rate.
(+) It’s relevant. The film doesn’t just depict corruption, it delves deeper into how corruption affects everyone from the bottom up. Shanghai gives you more than a glimpse at corruption-ridden India, which will leave you both scared and rattled.
(-) It’s not your typical entertainer. If you’re looking to be entertained in the strictest sense of the word, Shanghai is probably not the film for you. Nothing about it is glamorous, and the film can leave you feeling quite unsettled instead. It manages to tread the line between artsy and mainstream, but can lean towards the former, so if that’s not your cup of tea, you might want to skip it.
(-) It can get confusing. Character introductions aren’t very clear-cut, so viewers who haven’t read a synopsis or review beforehand may be left struggling to understand who everyone is and what role they play in the story. Furthermore, the political elements and TA Krishnan’s investigation may become complex.
Shanghai is a great film that has a brilliant mix of story, performances and technical elements. It may prove to be a little artsy and confusing for the regular movie-goer, but is still an absorbing film worth a watch.