Sunday, June 10, 2012

shanghai: whither progress

As the red-on-black end credits for Dibakar Banerjee's Shanghai started scrolling up in an otherwise empty theatre, that rare feeling of wanting to sit in for the next show kicked in. I also wasn't sitting through the end credits out of habit with an open eye for trivia and familiar names; I was also thinking about what I had seen.

I was thinking about all the attention to little details to embellish almost every scene. I was thinking about that ball bouncing into what should have been an otherwise serious hearing; I was thinking about the desperation in every pore and crease of Anant Jog's face. I was thinking about the chaos of protest, of impassioned mobs and of fervent futile idealism presented in the brightest hues. I was thinking about each song loaded with the sharpest lyrics in many months. I was thinking about the item song that fit so well in the narrative, that was interrupted (as it would have been in real life) by the appearance of a political biggie. I was thinking about Abhay Deol's accent and how it added the extra something to his poise and demeanour without standing out as an acting exercise. I was thinking about Emraan Hashmi turning a new corner and doing what might be his best work as the pornographer/video photographer with horrible teeth. I was thinking about how almost no character in the film really seemed truly white or truly black. You could understand the futility of those driven to ill deeds in the quest for something better than their wretched conditions. I could understand (and perhaps not stomach) the pragmatic path that some people had chosen. I also saw how justice could seem as rich as skimmed milk. I liked how the last time we see the hospital is introduced as a sound that makes sense later and then continues as a long shot tracking faces and ending with a tear.

This is a fine film worth every anna (or whatever the lowest meaningful denomination is today in inflated India) of your ticket's price. But this film is not going to entertain you in the least. You won't really enjoy the fervour of bhaarat maataa kii jay because it's after all a paean to dengue and malaria as well as to the Golden Bird of yore. You can't ogle at the lady sashaying and wiggling away in imported kamariyaa because the song is never allowed to stay long enough to titillate you. You don't have a 5-minute obligatory sad song running over a montage of sad people. You don't have jingoism making it easier for you to take sides. You just sit and squirm each time you laugh or smile, because you realise that it was no laughing matter at all.

And because this is hardly an entertaining film, I fear that Dibakar Banerjee's brilliant adaptation of a Greek novel that already sired a classic in 1969 will find few takers. It will get the good notes from people who cannot influence the masses enough. It may survive with a recommendation or two from the few that may have ventured to the cinema halls and picked this instead of Ridley Scott's compelling Prometheus or that execrable piece of dung called Rowdy Rathore. But it will not change the inevitable results this weekend: Prabhu Deva's latest directorial venture will surely triumph. And India will continue to progress.

1 comment:

Sujeet said...

I am intrigued. Wonder where I'll get to watch it though.

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