This paper’s four stars for Rowdy Rathore weren’t taken too kindly by serious cinema viewers, some have even alleged corruption. You should know therefore how this four-week old reviewer is going out on a moral limb to give another film four stars in the very next week. Shanghai is a dark earthy film; it’s a drama played over and over again in front of us in the 9 pm news, these are characters we are acquainted with. Dibakar only presents the logistics behind the lies and the motive behind the machination.
This political drama intertwines the lives of Shalini Sahay (Kalki), dropout from an American university, videographer Joginder Parmar (Emraan) and IAS officer Krishnan, through a single event of the public murder of Dr Ahmedi, an activist opposing a government project to build a ‘progressive’ business park by displacing an entire slum population. Kalki, crazily in love with her ex-professor Ahmedi, takes it upon herself to fight for justice. Events unfold in a way that reveals in sharp-focus our hypocrisy as a society, our moral dilemmas with corruption and our flawed vision of progress.
Dibakar excels at this of course. He revels in our tawdry lower middle class excesses, the gudh and the gobar, but above all our obsession with worship – Kalki’s hero-worship of her professor, Bhaggu’s blind devotion to his political leaders, and Krishnan’s following of his aspirations. He also deftly brings out on a platform issues like displacement and disparity that are rarely seen in our films. At times though, the film does appear disjointed and scenes seem lined up all in a hurry.
The performances: Other than Kalki, whose girl-on-the-verge-of-nervous-breakdown kind of acting has become a little monotonous - also are pretty noteworthy. For starters, Prosenjit looks jaw-droppingly beautiful as a social activist. It is a pity that he isn’t around too much in the film. The actress playing his wife is also really talented, even in a bit role. Abhay is his usual restrained self, but you can tell the super-fine Madrasi accent he’s worked on so diligently. Emraan, of course, is the jack-in-the-box. He jumps at you with his character’s smalltown swagger and uncouth charm. It would have been easy for him to lay it on thick, but he doesn’t. Instead he underplays and a little into the film, the lustful Lothario turns loveable. It’s a surprise to see Marathi veteran actor Anant Jog effortlessly do two films back to back, as the Don’t mind ha politician in Rowdy and now at the opposite side of the spectrum as a victim.