SHANGHAI – REVIEW
Dibakar Banerjee is among my favourite directors, simply for the way his films stick out among our multi-colour, sappy-sweet three-hour dozefests that pass off as films.
In all the discussions I have had with friends, our understanding of films and their content amuses me. The common saying is, “Film entertaining hai, yaar. Dimaag nahi lagana padta hai.” This is what is entertaining – the Rohit Shettys and Prabhudeva films where Tata Sumos fly and women expose their navels and giggle. On the other end of the spectrum are the films that are supposed to move you to tears, or teach you a moral, or have some deep significance. The kind of films that Bhansali or Bhandarkar churn out regularly.
Dibakar Banerjee, through his films, manages to steer clear of either of the two stereotypes. His films are funny without a fat or dark guy being ridiculed, and they make you think without resorting to melancholic soundtracks and deep, philosophical mumbo-jumbo dialogues.
Those of you haven’t watched Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye and Khosla Ka Ghosla should do it immediately, to get what I mean. The characters have their own quirks and tics. They are funny, the situations are funny, and the detailing permeates to more than just the opulent sets – the detailing lies in the naming, the dialogues, the characters literally breathe their roles.
With Shanghai, Banerjee is going to uncharted territory. The film is dark, gloomy, and hopeless. And even though these should be mere traits of a film, it is considered bad, chiefly because our biggest blockbusters are all colourful and cheerful.
It is also the largest film Banerjee has attempted in terms of scale – his most outrightly political film.
The story is about a small town symbolically called ‘Bharatnagar’, which is all set to transform into a Shanghai – thanks to Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and other investors coming to the town. The whole town is in a state of celebration, when an activist, Dr. Ahmedi visits the town to talk to the people of the evils that await the town. He is no messiah, though. He is manipulative when he wants to be, and doesn’t mind making out with one of his students. But since he has ruffled a few important feathers, he gets bumped off.
What follows is the story of how three people become involved in a murky tale of grime and grease. Abhay Deol is a Tamilian IAS Officer, Emraan Hashmi is a pornographer/photographer, and Kalki Koechlin is one of Dr. Ahmedi’s students who wants justice.
The performances are top notch. While Kalki Koechlin takes some time to sink into her character, Abhay Deol and Hashmi – in my opinion two of the most important actors of the coming generation – are at ease with their roles right from the beginning. You have to watch Hashmi grin with his paan-stained teeth to see how much he has evolved from the guy who would sing a slow and song and seduce anything that moves. Abhay Deol’s accent, like his conscience, keeps slipping and finding its foot, but in no way does it hamper his performance as the IAS officer who wants to avoid being a mere pawn in the hands of ministers.
If the film is still playing in theatres far from you, go ahead and give it a watch. If it’s not, wait for it to come on TV. If you want to piss Kapil Sibal off a little, download it from the internet and watch it.
For it’s a film that deserves a watch. How long do we have to be subjected to no-brainers under the garb of ‘dimaag nahi lagana padta hai’. Since when did not using your brain become equal to having fun? And why don’t these people just sit at home and masturbate then? Us mein mazaa aata hai, aur dimaag bhi nahi lagana padta hai.
The film requires your patience, and some overlooking. It is satisfying, and frustrating. It is slow at time, and frantic in the others. It is silent, yet screams out to be heard.
And honestly, how many films can claim to do that?
*ing John Abraham, Genelia D’ Souza, Vidyut Jammwal, Monish Behl
Honestly, I went to the film only because I have heard good things about the director’s earlier outing, Mumbai Meri Jaan. Also, the other films were Dookudu and Oosaravalli, and I don’t have the balls to go watch either of them.
Half an hour after sitting on the seats, I immediately regretted it. ‘Force’ epitomizes everything that’s going on in Hindi films at the moment. Seemingly sensible directors looking to go mainstream instead of taking the usual ‘small budget-award winner’ films, actors willing to try something new with their roles, a decent story that could have been so much more, and a studboy villain to please the female fans. Bas ek cheez reh gaya – louuu. How can we forget that?
So there is Genelia D’Souza. Truly timeless, Genelia has been playing cute girl for about ten years, and doesn’t get tired of it. So she plays a girl who talks too much, giggles, works in an ‘NGO’, buys flowers from children just to make them happy – the entire trip.
John Abraham is a cop in the Narcotics Control Bureau. In an operation, he kills a drug warlord, and his brother vows revenge, going one step ahead of each of the cop’s moves. He is ruthless and heartless, meaning that the four guys who conducted the operation have their ass on the line. The story is wellpaced, and the action seems realistic. Everything is decent, except for that one niggling factor. Yes, louu, only. How can we have a film without louu? So the two people meet, sing songs, dance (Genelia dances, John walks across the screen) and after rona dhona, agree that they are in love with each other.
You wonder how John Abraham being a no-nonsense cop resists the urge to take out his gun everytime Genelia says “ACP, sir” and shoot her brains off. But he is hero, na. He resists the urge, and marries her.
In the end, good wins over evil.
Mohnish Behl finally gets a role where his pay is equal to the acting he does on screen (considering the underpaying-overacting model he seemed stuck in for years), and John Abraham does an earnest job. He moves beyond the 2 expressions that he has carefully mastered over the years in Bollywood.
The one person in the film who manages to grab your attention is the villan – Vidyut Jamwal. If the film was half an hour shorter, it’d have been an interesting watch.
But kya karein? We are Indians, no. We need to see cute girls doing cute things on screen. Serves us right.
ZINDAGI NA MILEGI DOBARA REVIEW
Ok, so the trailers have been doing the rounds for a whie and all a lot of people have made speculations on what the story would be. The trailers clearly show that it is a bachelor trip and the resemblances to both ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ and ‘The Hangover’ were hard to miss. Keeping these factors in mind, I had set my expectations really low. Thankfully, ZNMD managed to surprise me, and in a good way.
Well, it is a bahelor trip. Abhay Deol is the one who is going to get married and the director establishes this in the first few minutes. But how Zoya Akhtar takes over the story after that is commendable. It is easy to fall into obvious trappings while making a ‘bromance’ movie. Farhan Akhtar’s production house, Excel Entertainment has thrived in this genre, whether it is Dil Chahta Hai or Rock on.
Zoya however, manages to keep the viewer’s interest in the movie, thanks to the characterisation of the leads. Each of the characters has been painstakingly etched out, so much that even their expressions while the other is talking seems natural (if you have watched Double Dhamaal, you’d have noticed Arshad Warsi looking elsewhere when another actor was giving his dialogue).
So the three of them have a pact that each of them would invite the other two for any adventure sport of their choice and the others would have to do it. While the adventures are good, what is more endearing is the series of incidents that take place during the journey – reminiscing about old Doordarshan days, pulling each other’s legs, or outwitting the others to sit next to the chick. Each of the characters evolves as the story progresses, and some of the experiences seem quite spiritual (not in a Baba Ramdev kind of spiritual, but a more personal spiritual), but the mood of the film continues to be light, thanks to sharp dialogues and a formidable background score.
Of the performances, Hrithik does seem to go overboard at times, but seems to get more and more comfortable as the movie progresses. Abhay Deol just needs to be himself, and fits seamlessly into the role of the loving but heckled fiance. But Farhan Akhtar steals the show, slipping in and out of moments like an eel. He has the best lines, which is not surprising, considering he has written the dialogues himself.
Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara is written by two women, Zoya Akhtar and Reema Katgi, and though this might be a sexist comment, it shows in the film. The sensitivity with which some of the scenes are shot betray the clever writing, and attention to detail, especially in the emotional scenes.
Overall, it is a smart film that deserves to be watched.