Dibakar Banerjee, the emperor with no clothes, comes out with his fourth film. All of his movies, excluding Khosla Ka Ghosla (2006) and including this one, feel clunky and hollow. They lose steam midway and mostly the train never reaches the station. Or the station it reaches is the wrong one. I did think this time he would make something interesting but then I saw the trailers and I was reminded of scenes from the 1969 film, Z, by Costa Gavras. My main complaint first arose there, that it's highly unoriginal. But I can be very lenient there. I love to see an old story updated on screen. Be it a great story or an okay one. The only thing I wish to see in a remake (or an adaptation, whatever lets the filmmakers sleep at night) is how with the same story, it creates a new world. I have to be engaged and emotionally involved. Shanghai, sadly, cheapens the story, resorts to mere sensationalism and is just plain uninteresting. As an adaptation, it fails miserably.
Another complaint I had with Shanghai is that the film is titled "Shanghai" and it decides to uncover the pretensions of a political ideology which believes that the fictional Bharat Nagar will be made like a foreign city. We all know how that will pan out. But the inherent hypocrisy of this film which is itself based on foreign source material shows that the filmmaker is himself doing what he is making a film about and allegedly pointing fingers at. I can only see those three that are pointing at you, Mr. Banerjee.
Emraan Hashmi is excellent. His character is also the only one that has more than one dimension. Abhay Deol, on the other hand, speaks in Abhay Deol English or with a Tamil accent whenever he wishes. As a concept of an adaptation, Shanghai is great. But it never converts to the screen and becomes a movie. There are a few wonderful touches, but the again, Banerjee has always been great with dialogue.
People generally have a complaint with commercial potboilers like a recent Rowdy Rathore. They say it's the same old stuff. There's nothing new. But Mr. Banerjee is not concerned with this audience. His audience is the multiplex audience who want to see something new. I am a part of the multiplex audience and I'm sorry but I have heard this story many times before. I've read it as a play - The Dario Fo masterpiece called The Accidental Death of an Anarchist. And I've seen it as a film - Z (which is based on a novel). The Accidental Death of an Anarchist was a satire. Z was a thriller. Both inspired by actual events. Both utterly compelling but also extremely topical. They spoke about the times. The times were late 1960s. What is Shanghai then? Is it a satire? Is it a thriller? Is it inspired by true events? Is it a story of our times? (BJP's India Shining movement was circa 2004, we have other problems now) For those who haven't seen Z or read Accidental Death... this story will be interesting. All I could think was that I'm watching the same old stuff again. I've seen and read this before. There is nothing new.
I know I do not represent the entire multiplex audience. But I represent that part of it that feels cheated, just like the Indian people feel towards its government. I would rather watch Singham where an "honest" cop rises against corruption. It may not be "realistic". It may not be pointing fingers or trying to uncover a conspiracy. But at least it doesn't pretend to. It doesn't pretend like it will change a country. Its main concern is entertainment and it fulfills that promise handsomely. Hell, it even provoked me more than this film did.
The filmmakers (not all) who believe films are for entertainment are busy making products. The filmmakers (not all) who believe films can be art and make people think are busy making mirrors. Most are not telling stories. Most are not making movies.