June 08, 2012 Y. Sunita Chowdary
Shanghai opens without any hype and frills. Dr. Ahmedi (Prosenjit Chatterjee) wants to hold a rally in Bharat Nagar against a business park project that will force countless families out of their place. The government denies him the permission. A couple of hired killers run him down as the people around who are bothered about his security barely realise and react to what's happening.
While the government says it was an accident, Dr Ahmedi's wife and his student are sure it is a premeditated attack. The chief minister (Supriya Pathak) appoints a one man inquiry commission TA Krishnan (Abhay Deol) to investigate what prompted his death and while he gets to the detail with the help of a local videographer and a maid whose husband confesses to the crime, the political base i.e., the government supported by a coalition shakes.
What brings the heartless, hopeless and dark town of Bharat Nagar alive is the fabulous cinematography, it captures the politics and small place people in their chawls, in different time and mood. There are no great over the top dialogues but they are okay enough to convey the ploys of survival of both the haves and havenots and those struggling to survive.
The director doesn't spoon-feed you either and makes you wait to see the detailing as to what could unfold. Joginder Parmar, a videographer's (Emraan Hashmi) companion who uploads the stuff on the computer is found dead in one dark side of highway and Joginder brings the man's wife to recognise and claim the body. While danger, fear lurks on the Rajput's visage as they reach the location, the scooter lies atop the dead and mauled body as you hear a voice asking for some light to recognise it. A cold-hearted cop screams, "Wahan marna tha naa..jaha light ho!".
Though the drama begins with the unrelenting student resolving to find out the killers, the focus is clearly on Joginder and a 'Madrasi' Krishnan, the first character grows and evolves and brings out the Rajput in him despite his initial reluctance and the latter with his surface ego, helplessness and deliberation is expected to follow the government's orders to declare the death as an accident but spills the secret behind Shanghai..the false promises of the politicians and the moneyed to make a shabby town into India Shining.
Despite the gritty and serious drama, one does get to enjoy the inadvertent humour for instance Farooq Sheikh's expression - he has a paneer tikka in his hand and is just not able to eat it after Krishnan stuns him with the revelations. In the midst of tension in the maid's home when Joginder tries to locate a file, a pornographic video shoots up embarrassing him.
Shanghai doesn't offer hope but throws light into the politics, murder, bureaucracy, red tape and extra marital affairs of even the righteous fighting for the poor. You do wonder if the the scene involving Kalki, the student and his mentor was necessary and so also the discussion between Ahmedi's wife and student and the wife referring to her husband of not settling any one family.
Here, in the film, every person seems to be knowing the truth professional or personal, it's all about how to get it out, get the acceptance, punishment or reward. There is no explanation also as to why Ahmedi was supporting Kalki and telling her to fight it out..it's about her father's scam and involvement in some 40 crores. Maybe the director wanted to show even an idealist as a human. Shanghai doesn't answer questions towards the end, infact there is more wait and frustration but that is what life is all about and the film reflects this fantasy called life.
Supriya Pathak is stout as a chief minister and her orders to Krishnan that she will support him no matter what shows how smart a politician she is. Abhay Deol is impressive as the South Indian IAS officer who does puja to a Ganesh image on the computer with agarbattis beside it reflecting his sincerity and devotion. Kalki is always great in projecting a serious and a stubborn expression and she does it deftly.
The cast - Emraan Hashmi, Abhay Deol, Kalki, Prosenjit, etc., become an asset, the combination never seen before. Watch Shanghai, it is a gritty cinema that is aptly timed! Dibakar Banerjee adds another feather to his cap by adapting a novel into a film and compelling attention.