In Shanghai silences speak louder than words and noise. Long pauses interrupt sparse and crisp dialogues making a hard hitting statement on our system and the way everyone works it to their advantage.
Prossenjit is a social activist raising his voice against IBP, a development project that aims to swindle land away from the poort in the name of progress. Killed by the powers that be leaving his student Kalki and a porn film maker Emraan Hashmi to try and bring out the truth out in the open, his death is investigated into by Abhay Deol who plays a bureaucrat.
Based on the novel "Z", Shanghai adapts the story of a political thriller to Mumbai and Bharat nagar echoing almost every single issue that the nation is baffling with under the current regime-from land grabbing to internal displacement, from corruption to cover ups, from suppressing dissent to trying to control truth and information-Dibaker Bannerjee touches every single issue while remaining truthful to the basic story device of a political thriller.
As is the case in real life, no character is black or white. If the CM madam and her crony Farooqq Sheikh are corrupt power hungry monsters who can arm twist the system through their position and power, Prossenjit and his wife do the same under the garb of social work, using media as a tool instead. If Supriya Pathak as the CM colludes with the opposition for her personal ambition, Prossenjit is depicted as a womanizer with serial affairs with his students. The only clean one ironically turns out to be Emraan Hashmi as Jogi, the porn film maker with a conscience. Abhay Deol's brilliant take as the moral bureaucrat (perhaps the first non-mocking south Indian character in mainstream Hindi cinema of late)finds a way to work the flaws of the system from the inside, perhaps a comment on how Anna and gang cannot achieve anything as long as they are outside the very system they aim to reform.
Shanghai aims at jolting the audience and conveying a sense of frustration with the way things are, a fact amply established by the story telling. The social activists death, a pivotal incident in the film, is repeated in quick succession to shock and stun, even as a sluggish lazy pace of the the story mimics the snail like blob of a system we have to deal with every day in the country. As doors close one after the other on the investigation into the murder with just a stern "investigation under progress" excuse, the film depicts the secretive, primitive and feudal nature of governance we have even after independence..
The other great strength of the film is its pitch perfect performances. Abhay, Kalki, Supriya, Farooq and Pitobash ar the usual suspects who deliver bang on. the surprise package however is Emraan Hashmi who impresses with his paunch, stained teeth and immaculate acting. Shanghai will definitely change the way audiences perceive this serial kisser.
The makers have also worked the current "system" of bollywood intelligently, keeping all the market friendly songs including the now mandatory Item number to just the publicity material and mercifully relegating all of them to the background in the narrative. An intelligently crafted and superbly executed idea, Shanghai is one the best films thus far this year. Definitely worth a watch.