A Dibakar Banerjee movie is significant and phenomenal as all his earlier movies were experimental. Abhay Deol back in his favourite unconventional zone and Emraan Hashmi breaking away from his serial kisser image, Shanghai couldn't have been any more intriguing. But does this political drama hit the right note or is just another cliched summary of how politicians play with us? We will see.
Based on Vasilis Vasilikos's novel Z, Shanghai highlights something our country reeks of - corruption. Professor and special activist Dr. Ahmedi (Prosenjeet Chatterjee) has taken up the benevolent agitation route to protest against the construction of a business park in a small city called Bharat Nagar. Consequently, he gets killed in front of several men and his student Shalini (Kalki Koechlin). Police writes off the case calling it an accident, Shalini is adamant to nab the people behind this. She gets support from a man drooling over her since the time he saw her; Jogi (Emraan Hashmi). Post Ahmedi's accident and mass scale outrage, CM of the state (Supriya Pathak Kapur) installs a commission to investigate the murder and makes Krishanan (Abhay Deol) the head. With some unwanted help from Shalini and Jogi, Krishanan unearths something that is both threatening and damaging. How he uses the evidence to impart justice forms the rest of the story.
To be frank, when you see names like Dibakar Banerjee and Abhay Deol, you involuntarily start expecting the world. They are known to not compromise with the quality of the film come what may. But Shanghai is absolutely different. It is a welcome change to not see a hackneyed treatment of a plot done to death but that isn't enough.
The start is disjointed and you will have to make a deliberate attempt to piece them together. This leaves you tad frustrated. Gradually, it starts picking up but never does it convincingly. It is supposed to be a political satire but ends up being a docudrama. The poignancy of the plot doesn't hit at any point of time as you know you aren't seeing anything out of the ordinary here.
The film maintains its pace and is neither slow nor pacy. Dibakar should be credited for keeping the proceedings real and not exaggerated. Political murders and efforts to cover them up have been kept as close to reality as possible. Yet you miss the entertainment part. Banerjee didn't let any fun seep into the script if we ignore Emraan's small jibes. This might not go down well with the section of people who love some amusement too.
Performance-wise, even though the story doesn't involve you much, the cast has done a supreme job. Abhay Deol as the reticent IPS office is a treat to watch. His brilliant Tamil accented Hindi is fabulous. Not any moment would you find him disconnected. Prosenjeet Chatterjee is good in his bit role but his diction needs work. This may not be Kalki's best performance but she did do her part well.
However, the star of the film is definitely Emraan Hashmi. A stark departure from his smooch fest, he outshines everyone else. His unkempt ways and tactless mannerisms amaze you. This is one film that Emraan can proudly show to his kids and grandkids without squirming on his seat.
But it was really disappointing to see Supriya Pathak been utterly wasted. An actor of her caliber deserved more than just a few handshakes and thoughtful looks. Banerjee can't be pardoned for neglecting such a talent.
To sum it up, Shanghai, at just being an expose may not be a complete massy affair but it does make for a compelling one time watch, especially for the outstanding performances.