Shanghai

2012
Directed by Dibakar Banerjee

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I wish I were somehow smart enough to organize my thoughts about Shanghai. It’s a stunning film with a lot of depth and nuance. There is something artsy-fartsy about it, which is great, but I’m a “give me a good item number and I’m happy” kind of a girl and while I appreciate sophisticated cinema, I don’t really understand it.

Let’s focus on the basics, then:

Politics motivate the  action of the film from the first frame to the last. While I’m no expert on Indian Politics (and really don’t want to be) the idea is vague enough to evoke enough emotional, ethical and political feeling to get the viewer involved; and, more importantly, to pick a side.

Emraan Hashmi is apparently capable of acting. He happens to be a weakness of mine (please, that beard? Those eyes? The paunch? Hold me.) but I was never one to profess that he was a force on the screen. Set in the role of a pendu-y, videographer he really shines. Good directors bring out the best in actors and it was evident in this film. I was very impressed.

Abhay Deol does a fantastic job as the prim government paper-pusher. Unfortunately I felt his character’s development was a touch short sighted and the audience wasn’t given enough information to know him or his motivations. Actually, I think this opinion holds for all of the characters. I understand that in an ensemble cast such as this you can’t devote a lot of time to the who/what/when but I felt that there could have been a little more revelaed about the people on screen as the movie progressed. Kalki Koechlin, ironically, had the most developed character and surprised me the most. Perhaps I’ve never seen her in a role that I liked but I found myself very impressed by her in this film. Personal opinion: start giving her roles with substance because she can really handle them.

It’s no surprise to me that Shanghai is doing well, since it’s a very clean, well made film. It’s an edge-of-your-seat kind of experience that keeps you interested from beginning to end without any flimsy tricks and it requires that the audience bring their brain along while watching. I respect films that respect the audience and I hope that it’s a trend that continues.

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