In the battle between truth and power, it’s very likely that power always triumphs. As a matter of fact, power has a history of triumphant instances vis-à-vis truth or justice, both in reel and real life. Based on this simple premise and Vasilis Vasilikos’s novel Z, Dibakar Banerjee gives one of the best political thrillers of the era, packed by stellar performances.
Professor and activist Dr. Ahmedi chooses the route of benign protest against the construction of Indian Business Park (IBP) in a small city called Bharat Nagar. Consequently, he gets mowed down by a speeding van in front of several men and his student Shalini (Kalki). The cops write off the case citing the whole incident to be an accident however Shalini strongly believes it definitely was a plot. With the aid of a local videographer cum pornographer Jogi (Emraan), Shalini decides to bring to justice people involved in the plot. Meanwhile, due to mass public outrage, CM of the state appoints Krishnan (Abhay) as the head of the commission to investigate the case. But, in the process Krishnan with the help of Shalini and Jogi stumbles upon new evidence that will shake the government of the state. What is the new evidence and will it help in imparting justice forms the rest of the story?
Although the names associated with the film may have heightened everybody’s expectation, it’s the plot that makes ‘Shanghai’ a compelling watch. Replace the characters in the film with real life characters; real politicians, their assistants and sidekicks along with corrupted police, you’d have your own version of ‘Shanghai’ in every city of this country. This is the kind of film that’d demonstrate that it’s not star actors or directors anymore but a convincing plot driven by astounding performances that determines the fate of a film.
Best part of the film is its pace; neither fast nor slow but appropriately paced throughout. Dibakar takes extra effort to keep things plausible but not exaggerate even for a minute. The political conspiracy is brilliantly executed, giving one the feeling as though they were watching a real life incident unfold by bits and pieces. ‘Shanghai’ also becomes first of its kind of film that allows its audiences to decide for themselves whether the film is a political satire or docudrama. The experiment works for Dibakar because audiences like a film that’s interactive.
‘Shanghai’ is spearheaded by some outstanding performances. The most entertaining and best of all was the role essayed by Emraan aka Jogi. He takes a break from his smooching spree and leaves everybody in awe with his career best role. Kalki brings in oodles of emotional quotient in to the film in a role which can’t be adjudged her best but undoubtedly one of her best. Abhay deserves a special mention in a role that wasn’t easy to pull off but he made it look so easy.
Music by Vishal-Shekhar perfectly synched in to the mood of the film, allowing audiences to savor it with the flow of the film. Editing and cinematography by Namrata Rao and Nikos was brilliant, and I don’t mind giving Namrata an extra brownie point for keeping the editing as slick as possible.
In one line; Shanghai is a caustic political thriller that keeps the tension alive throughout the film.
Reviewed by Haricharan Pudipeddi.
Haricharan is a Chennai based blogger and a film-critic who believes that cinema ain’t just about Hollywood and Bollywood. It’s much more than just that and we totally agree with him! You can catch up on his blog at movieroundup.in