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Critics verdict: Shanghai is a must-watch!

Director Dibakar Banerjee spins a drama that is both, entertaining and thought-provoking. The pace is breakneck and the screenplay is tight. While Abhay Deol impresses with his restrained performance, Emraan Hashmi is stripped of his lady-killer demeanour, say critics.

bollywood Updated: Jun 08, 2012 14:42 IST
Dibakar Banerjee,Hindustan Times,Shanghai

Director Dibakar Banerjee spins a drama that is both, entertaining and thought-provoking. The pace is breakneck and the screenplay is tight. While Abhay Deol impresses with his restrained performance, Emraan Hashmi is stripped of his lady-killer demeanour, say critics.

"The finest aspect of Dibakar Banerjee's films is that you can't articulate what he's going to come up with next and how unerringly he's going to engage you in his creation. All his movies so far have picked up issues that concern us, but the temperament was so diverse that, if you weren't aware, you might not have estimated that they were all helmed by the same director," writes Taran Adarsh.

"Shanghai is a political thriller woven around much-battered terms 'expansion' and 'development'. This sort of a deception has ensued before in various nations/states and it is these types of political misdemeanors that Dibakar dabbles with in Shanghai. Shanghai is an affluent work of art by a master storyteller. Most significantly, it's a film of our times. It evokes myriad emotions in you. It leaves you horrified, distressed… it may even make you livid. I'd go to the extent of pronouncing that Shanghai is one of the bravest and most commanding movies of this decade. A contemporary film about our times, our lives," he adds.

"Shanghai works not just because it excels in its genre. But for the people that you see in the film – their problems, actions and the situations thrown at them which the audience can easily relate to. The gritty milieu and an equally edgy soundtrack play an important role in keeping you engaged. Also, the use of satire is evident: tragedy and comedy, death and life, exist side by side," writes Vivek Bhatia, Filmfare.

Abhay Deol in Shanghai

"Banerjee's film borrows from Costa Gavras' 1969 adaptation of Z frequently, with a photographer carrying his camera consistently near his torso, scrutinisingly tight close-ups and a nearly-identical scene with a bathroom mirror, but, most critically, he follows the narrative pace almost exactly, and keeps up perfectly, even if the new version is more dramatic. It is the departures from the blueprint that don't always work, like the creation of Kalki's character and turning her into a lone crusader, or the climactic piece of evidence that's impossible to swallow and wraps up the proceedings all too conveniently. And yet Banerjee must be lauded for not dumbing things down and creating a mature, serious film that engages, thrills and amuses," writes Raja Sen, Rediff.

"Banerjee's genius has always been most visible in his meticulous detailing, and this latest film is expectedly crammed with beautiful nuance. A minister strikes poses alone ahead of a green screen, his droves of supporters to be chromakeyed in later. An opportunistic hoodlum takes English language classes, eager to score a job where he can wear a necktie. An IAS officer, in turn, warily slips his tie on only for meetings, and conducts his evening prayers with the help of a laptop," writes Sen.

"Dibakar Banerjee’s metier lies in crafting films that make more than just attention-grabbing noise. In each of his three previous films (Khosla Ka Ghosla, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye and Love Sex aur Dhokha), he addressed an issue of contemporary relevance without any self-righteous hectoring or unseemly chest-thumping," writes Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV.

"Dibakar Banerjee’s direction is excellent. He spins a drama that is both, entertaining and thought-provoking. His portrayal of the milieu of Bharat Nagar and his understated narrative style deserve kudos. Michael McCarthy’s background score is appropriate," writes Mrigank Dhaniwala,

"Shanghai, Banerjee’s fourth film, is his best. It’s also a very important film, in addition to being consistently engaging and extremely satiating. Why just make a good film, when you have the wherewithal to make a powerful one? A film that can change perception; one that can make a statement, and push the envelope," says Aniruddha Guha.

"Banerjee's direction in Shanghai is sure to impress you with sensuous socialism and capitalism ideologies with a strong story line. In short, Dibakar succeeds in keeping us engrossed throughout the film," says OneIndia.

"Shanghai draws much of its strength from a taut screenplay (Urmi Juvekar and Dibakar Banerjee) that never overplays its hand and leaves a lot to the imagination of the audience. It is an immeasurable pleasure to watch a Mumbai film that hinges as much on the unstated or barely suggested as it does on what is uttered and spelt out," says Chatterjee.

"The pace is breakneck. Banerjee and co-writer Urmi Juvekar pen a tight screenplay, one that gives you little room to breathe, the story moving swiftly. Shanghai is not the kind of film where one-liners come thick and fast, yet dialogues have gravity, many of them soaked in irony," says Guha.

"While the viewer is engrossed in the story, he identifies with the moral dilemmas that various characters face. What the script doesn’t allow them to do is to take sides, and in that it holds a mirror to the contemporary situation of the Indian state. More than this, the screenplay works at the plot level. Incidents that take place in the second half not only shock the audience but also makes them await the epilogue. The climax doesn’t disappoint. The dialogues are first-rate," writes Dhaniwala.

"The narrative is propelled by Namrata Rao’s deft editing (with Ishqiya, Band Baaja Baaraat,Kahaani, and now Shanghai, she’s emerging as one of our best), and Mikey McCleary’s background score. The sound of dhols to denote celebration even as life seems brittle elsewhere is a neat trick," feels Guha.

"Finally, Emraan Hashmi has let go. Also of hot scenes, hot babes and Himesh-isms. Dibakar can take a bow for that. With crude body language, a pot belly, stained teeth and mawali moves, he perfectly looks the part and pulls off an act he should be proud of," says Madhureeta Mukherjee, TOI.

Emraan Hashmi in Shanghai

"Abhay Deol thoroughly impresses with his cold, restrained and authoritative performance. Add to that a subtle Tamil accent. He doesn't lose grip of his character for even a fleeting moment," she adds.

"Kalki has few dialogues that probably prompt her panicked expressions throughout. With a character sketch that hints at an ambiguous past; she doesn't reveal much - in performance or otherwise. Prosenjit, in a brief role leaves an impact. Farooq Sheikh adds gravitas to this gritty drama. Pitobash Tripathi as a herd-following morchawaala, Bhagu, stands out," Mukherjee says.

"Abhay's character is authoritative, unprejudiced, calm and uncomplicated. He gets all the nuances of his characters right. In many ways Abhay's character is the vertebrae of the movie. He clutches it together. The endearing actor sinks his teeth into the character and comes up with a triumphant act," feels Adarsh.

"Though Kalki has depicted distressed characters in films like SHAITAN, THAT GIRL IN YELLOW BOOTS and also in DEV D, she skillfully performs the part of an absolute outsider and brings on a certain susceptibility, which is the prerequisite demand of her characterization. Kalki is truly awe-inspiring and enacts her part with flourish," he says.

"Prosenjit Chatterjee is effective in a brief role. Farooque Sheikh adds a lot of weight to the proceedings. Pitobash is exceptional. Supriya Pathak gets limited scope, but she's competent. Anant Jog is remarkable. Tillotama Shome is super," the movie critic opines.

"The performances, especially those by Abhay Deol (despite his dodgy Tamilian accent) as a man who can clearly see what is wrong but is prevented by bureaucratic red tape from spilling the beans and Kalki Koechlin as the woman who seethes in anger but, like all the others in her camp, is utterly helpless, add to the consistently edgy quality of Shanghai," feels Chatterjee.

"Emraan Hashmi, stained teeth and slouchy gait, is stripped of his lady-killer demeanour. He’s none the worse for it," he adds.

"Abhay Deol is simply superlative as the straightforward IAS officer. His South Indian accent is so well-done that it is impossible to imagine him as not being the character of Krishnan. Emraan Hashmi is boisterous as Jogi Parmar, the sleazy but well-meaning videographer. His look is also commendably authentic. He does a wonderful job. Kalki Koechlin emotes beautifully. Farooq Sheikh, as Kaul, is a delight. Prosenjit Chatterjee is very natural and believable as Dr. Ahemadi. Pitobash Tripathy (as Bhaggu) does a fine job. Supriya Pathak (as the chief minister) is very good in a short appearance. Anant Jog as Jaggu is natural. Kiran Karmarkar (as the CM’s coalition partner) looks like the quintessential politician. Tillotama Shome (as Mrs. Ahemadi) and others offer adequate support," feels Dhaniwala.

Kalki in Shanghai


"On the whole, Shanghai is undeniably one of the most politically astute films ever made. It keeps you involved and concerned right from its inception to the harrowing culmination. This is not your usual Bollywood masala film, but a serious motion picture that has a voice, that makes you think, that makes a stunning impact. A must watch!" Adarsh concludes.

"On the whole, Shanghai is a serious motion picture that has a voice, unlike the typical and usual masala movies. Shanghai promises you a lot of social drama, ruthless and brutal politics and the realism of society that may change your insight towards many social aspects," says OneIndia.

"To sum, Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai walks the thin line between mainstream and meaningful cinema, and does so beautifully. The rare, well-deserving Rs100cr film? Who cares! There’s more to cinema than box office records and opening weekend numbers; Shanghai is the perfect example. Watch," says Guha.

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First Published: Jun 08, 2012 14:32 IST