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By Joginder Tuteja, 6 Aug 2012

Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Abhay Deol, Farooq Sheikh, Kalki Koechlin, Pitobash Tripathy, Prosenjit Chatterjee, Supriya Pathak
Director: Dibakar Banerjee
Producer: Ajay Bijli, Dibakar Banerjee, Priya Sreedharan, Sanjeev K Bijli
Music: Vishal-Shekhar
Lyrics: Dibakar Banerjee, Anvita Dutt Guptan, Kumaar, Neelesh Misra, Vishal Dadlani


Now this one is a disappointment, and a major one at that. Touted to be one of the most intriguing political thrillers on side of the century, Shanghai turns out to be a damp squib with absolutely nothing in it that hasn't been told before. The narrative may be a tad different (and that too only at places) but the basic storyline (which by the way is pencil thin) hardly manages to arrest your attention. Now that's sad indeed because the film promised so much more.

Even though the film was widely promoted as a thriller in the offering, the fact remains that there is hardly any suspense element in there which could have possibly brought audience on the edge of their seat. To begin with, the entire selling point around Prosenjit's murder being shown from 11 different points of view has turned out to be one huge bluff. That's because there are just three views shown and remaining eight are never revealed at all. Perhaps editing resulted in these being chopped but then the fact remains that this angle is not even integral to the film's plot.

Ditto for Emraan's background as a porn filmmaker. It doesn't add either to his character or the film's plot which means at the end of the day what works is Emraan Hashmi and his unique persona more than anything else. What definitely works is Abhay Deol's placement in the film's plot though and while his stance which changes from being reluctant to submissive and finally idealistic may seem to be carrying a touch of heroism to it, you still go with him as an audience as he does provide some fine moments.

As for Kalki, there may be some layers to her background (apparently her father has a scam running on his name) which were there on paper but not quite translated on screen. Yes, it is understood that she wants to bring the killers (of Prosenjit) to task but her involvement in the entire saga despite such risks being involved (including an offer to sleep with Emraan for exchange of information) makes one wonder if there is something more to her than we know as an audience.

It is this very facet of the film where you end up with more questions in mind than the answers in hand that makes you feel that perhaps this time around, the director too his audience for granted way too much. Yes, he did get them into a thinking mode in Love Sex Aur Dhokha as well but in case of Shanghai, one is tempted to believe that there was a conscious attempt at telling a story differently which proved to be its undoing.

One has to give it to him though that at certain points in the film, this 'different' story telling had its fabulous moments as well. Emraan's subtle attraction towards Kalki, his stance to stay away from all the trouble, Abhay's involvement in the power game, the scenes where he goes through the enquiries, his interaction with the Chief Minister (Supriya Pathak) and then the final scene with Farooq Sheikh, each of these episodes/sequences do catch your attention and make you believe that here is a filmmaker who had his heart in the right place.

However it is the very subject matter and its core that proves to be the undoing of Shanghai. Yes, the original source (the book 'Z') may have been cult in its own time and may have proven to be an engaging and hard hitting read. However in current times it hardly surprises you. Three decades back it was explored in Amitabh Bachchan's political drama Inquilab and not very long back, Ram Gopal Varma had based his Sarkar Raj on the same theme (village/small town redevelopment) far more effectively and entertainingly. Unfortunately that doesn't quite happen in case of Shanghai.

Still, what saves the film to a reasonable extent are the performances. Emraan Hashmi is extremely loveable, especially in the first hour when his child like persona is well demonstrated. It's a new actor that you see here and hats off to his and Dibakar's conviction that an altogether different persona is seen. Abhay Deol is fantastic and proves once again why his name is taken with such respect in the industry. If he was sheer fun in Zindagi Naa Milegi Dobara, here he is serious and controlled.

Kalki is decent though one expected more meat in her character. Prosenjit is hardly there and it's a pity because he could have been much more to the film. Farooq Sheikh is plain natural and is actually one of the characters that entertains most. Pithobash Tripathy could have been utilised better while Supriya Pathak is superb in her solo scene.


The film's duration is 113 minutes


- Making of the film

Just like is in the case with so many films, Shanghai too seems like a much better product when one goes through the 'making' segment. Everything from shooting at real locations to stars turning performers to the thought behind making the film to conviction shown by actors in changing their persona to the film to the kind of things being spoken about (which ironically don't really translate on screen) - there are factors that do make you excited enough to check out the film. Ironically though, this driving force turns out to be film's undoing as all the talks and explanations don't necessarily make an overall intriguing outing.


- 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen Presentation
- Subtitles - English
- Dolby Digital 5.1 and Stereo


Rs. 299/=


Shanghai is not a film that can be entirely dismissed. It is just that when compared with the kind of high expectations that one had from it, it falls a little short. Yes, it is realistic and shot in real time format which are definitely the strengths here. However with a tighter grip over the proceedings, lesser questions that remain unanswered and a narrative that meanders between being a little abstract to simply fantastic, Shanghai could have been THE movie to watch out for this season.
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