I was anticipating something great from Dibakar Banerjee, the writer/director, who brought us Khosla Ka Ghosla, one of my favorite Indian movies, and LSD: Love Sex Aur Dhokha. Again he delivered a smash hit with his new film Shanghai which kept us crazy-glued to our seats from the first to the last minute. Just like Khosla Ka Ghosla, where Anupam Kher gives his life to his role together with a rocking group of actors, also here with Shanghai it’s really the brilliant cast who makes the film come to life. One of the weaknesses in Indian movies is that you got one or two A-listers, one or two B-listers and then a terrible supporting cast, which can easily ruin a perfectly fine film. In a good movie, every single actor from top to bottom is chosen carefully. I am giving Dibakar Banerjee a lot of credit for choosing again such a wonderful team.
Emraan Hashmi, who when given the right role, proves himself to belong to Bollywood’s big league. I like him less as romantic hero but roles like this one here as pimp photographer or as crook in Once Upon in Time in Mumbai and film director in Dirty Picture show us how gifted he is and what a fantastic range he has.
Abhay Deol nailed his role as investigator, who is initially miffed at being given an assignment to document seemingly an accident of a political dissident and how his conscience slowly awakens to take a stand for what he believes is right. I just love him as an actor and what he brings to his roles. By far the most gifted actor of the entire Deol clan.
Well, and Kalki Koechlin is so unique and enigmatic. She is at the same time difficult and intriguing to watch. Her performances are edgy and uncomfortable and brings a new intensity to any film you put her in. You will always remember in what roles you saw her, even if you can’t recall any of the other actors! She is a blast. One of the most interesting actresses you can find in India, besides the fact that she is white and Indian :-)
Not everything we would like to know about gets explained in this movie. We learned little about the background of the characters, we learned little about the political figures or the corporation that robbed people of their land. Information was stripped down to the bare minimum but the fact that we had to fill in the voids in our imagination didn’t impact on the pace of the movie nor its quality. We got drawn in by the characters and in a way I was even glad not everything was spelled out.
It makes movies drag easily when you get voice overs or lengthy explanations by the actors as they inform each other – with the only underlying aim to inform the viewer.
If there was a weakness: the multiple repeats of the “accident” in slow motion as eye witnesses report what they had seen- a tad over the top.
The ending felt a little rushed and we leave the theater with a few more questions to ponder. Overall though, a movie I would highly recommend.