There is this utterly delightful action sequence where Nana Patekar, playing a belligerent corrupt but effectual cop in a crime-infested small town of Uttar Pradesh run by the political mafia, barges on to a nefarious hide-out. He peeps into the room where the goons are watching a vintage black-and-white song on television. Then they switch to a channel airing a Himesh Reshammiya song.
Patekar slams into the room and shoots them all down.
“This is what happens when you listen to the wrong songs.”
The savage humour of the above sequence stays with you in a film that could have made a much more forceful impact had Shagird come four years earlier. Given today’s jaded political scenario with politicians of both genders perpetrating the most obnoxious deeds of corruption on the national exchequer, the Bunty Bhaiyas and the Shakeel Bhais of this film appear to be relatively harmless creatures of the underworld.
Like the cops in the films of earlier millennium this film arrives a little late after the action is over. The film exudes the scent of jadedness. That could also be because of the characters who are so steeped in corruption and debauchery they seem born for hell. However the feeling of experiencing something decadent seeps deeper into the narrative.
Much of the goings-on fall into the realm of ‘realistic’ cinema located in the cow-belt that has been a staple of a certain breed of directors like Vishal Bhardwaj, Anurag Kashyap and Tigmanshu Dhulia.
The absence of an inspiring budget repeatedly takes its toll on the narrative’s claim to credibility. There are innumerable sequences which jump out of nowhere, and not in a startling but annoying show of unpredictability. The kidnapping of the TV journalist Rimi Sen and her two colleagues by militants looks so staged you wonder how seasoned professionals could fall for it.
What works are some of the dialogues and Nana Patekar’s wry cynical cop’s part. He brings in that familiar yet engaging element of intrepid defiance into the theme of corruption and compromise. Here again, the role suffers from a sense of staleness. Patekar and his shagird from the police department were far more warmly portrayed in Shimit Amin’s Ab Tak Chappan by Patekar and Nakul Vaid.
Shagird is not devoid of merit. The Patekar characters affinity to vintage film songs gives a centre to an otherwise-doddering tale of desperate corruption.
They don’t make songs like they used to. Neither do the contemporary cops thrillers like Dum Maro Dum and Shagird match the brutal persuasive powers of past cops flicks like Zanjeer and Ardh Satya.
Khakee is a fading colour in our movies. The hero in Shagird doesn’t even bother to wear it.