Saturday, June 09, 2012

Some thoughts on Shanghai

Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai begins with a prologue of sorts – a scene where casual chatter between two lower-class men slowly gives way to something more intense and shadowy. The younger man, Bhagu, is brash and excited about the assignment that lies ahead; the older one, Jaggu, is reluctant, wary and more concerned about the safety of his small truck than anything else. Bhagu is played by the diminutive Pitobash Tripathy, who was so good in another fine film Shor in the City – he is well cast here as a loose cannon, capable of temporarily unnerving even the smug people who give him his orders. And yet, both men are basically patsies for larger forces that they cannot begin to understand. (One might, at a stretch, say they have been shanghaied.)

Together they will engineer the fatal incident that lies at the heart of this story – the mowing down of political activist Dr Ahmedi (Prosenjit Chatterjee) shortly after he makes a speech denouncing the high-profile International Business Park (IBP) project. “They’ll take your land and call it pragati,” Ahmedi has been telling the poor people who gather to hear him speak (“they” meaning the government, which has started the project in collusion with big business houses). The parable he relates is that of an unfortunate man visited by big-shots who usurp his property, build a mall on it, charge him money for water and behave like they are doing him a favour. Naturally this activism makes him a controversial figure, and when the truck “accidentally” hits him, his former student and sometime lover Shalini (Kalki Koechlin) sees the attack for what it is. But she may need the help of a small-time maker of sleazy films (Emraan Hashmi) if she wants proof that can hold up in court.
Banerjee and his co-writer Urmi Juvekar have done a solid job of adapting Vassilis Vassilikos’s 1967 novel Z (a story situated in a very specific political context) to the contemporary Indian situation – this film is a tightly knit comment on the aspirations and power struggles that brush against each other in a messy, many-layered society. Though the genre is that of the political thriller (complete with the “what really happened?” narrative that marked such movies as Blow Out and The Manchurian Candidate), this is also a slice-of-life depiction of a world where there is no lasting solution to the hegemony of power, where underprivileged people unwittingly participate in their own exploitation, pages routinely go missing in reports, and the rich and their merry men rob from the poor. (No wonder the descriptor “Robin Hood” is sarcastically used at one point to describe someone who tries to go against the grain of things.)

No time for a structured review just now, but here are a few notes:

– I watched Costa-Gavras’s film version of Z a long time ago and only remember it dimly (not having completely understood the politics of the story at the time), but I do recall the magnetic presence of Jean-Louis Trintignant as the investigating magistrate – very deadpan and very expressive at the same time as he tries to sift truth from fiction. Abhay Deol does a decent workmanlike job as that character’s equivalent, the conscientious bureaucrat Krishnan – a Naxal sympathiser (it is hinted) who understands the many ways in which power can be misused. For all the seriousness of Krishnan’s intentions, however, his “investigation” takes place in a shabby, mosquito-ridden hall with barely functioning coolers and dirty bathrooms. Some of the scenes here – the surreal appearance of a basketball mid-proceedings, a sight gag where first Shalini and then Krishnan slip on the just-washed floor outside the hall – are played for humour, but there is a subtext: this dingy, out-of-the-way setting (galaxies away from the fantasy of the posh business city “Shanghai”) is just the place for a token enquiry, the findings of which are likely to be swept under the carpet. (There is no actual carpet in the investigation room, but if there were you can be sure there would be plenty of dirt under it.) And this is a morally slippery place where people struggle – literally and figuratively – to maintain their footing. Krishnan may seem in charge, but even the policemen he interrogates regard him with a blasé eye. “When a chief minister, other politicians and Bollywood celebrities are in the city, the force has to be occupied elsewhere,” he is told when he asks about inadequate security arrangements.

– The screenplay has many neat little touches. “Mujhe interference na milay toh main aur andar tak pahunch sakta hoon,” (“If my work is not interfered with, I can make further inroads”) Krishnan tells the chief minister (played by Supriya Pathak) during his meeting with her. This is ironical because he is already sitting inside the private chamber of someone who probably orchestrated the events he is investigating – a fly in the spider’s parlour – and also because, a short while later, he will get an offer to become an “insider” in another sense. Incidentally Farooque Shaikh plays the CM’s principal secretary Kaul; it’s nice to see him and Pathak together after so many years, but it's also pleasing that these two actors – known best for playing likable, homely people in the Middle Cinema of the early 80s – are made to inhabit very different character types. Pathak looks positively sinister in her one major scene near the end, when the CM steps out of the shadows to greet Krishnan, asking him with fake warmth about how his wife is doing.

– As in his last film LSD, Banerjee makes effective use of the handheld camera, but here the handheld shots are “objective” (which is basically to say that there isn’t someone within the narrative holding the camera: it’s more a case of an invisible narrator juddering between characters, putting us in the middle of the action, creating a sense of claustrophobia). There are some fine compositions, as in a scene where the principal secretary speaks with Krishnan while huffing away on a treadmill. We see the two men’s reflections in the fitness room’s mirrors, but in the very centre of the frame is a third mirror, and in it is the silent, statue-like figure of a man holding a bottle of water and a hand-towel for Kaul. One wonders what “pragati” might mean to this anonymous minion.

There are other clever visuals: a shot of a large SUV being trailed by a small (but lethal) van; the irony of road traffic being stalled by a street celebration in honour of “progress”; the word “Dreemgirl” flashing on the Hashmi character Joginder’s cellphone. And the scary depictions of anarchy in the making include a morcha scene where you feel that the revellers are drunk on the idea of being part of something big and important, regardless of what it is. (The frenzied “Bharat Mata ki Jai” dance has a similar mood.) “Hum China ko peechhe chhod sakte thhe,” (“We could have left China behind”) someone ruefully says at one point. Presumably he means in terms of economic progress, but by the end we have seen the emergence – in the fictitious city of Bharat Nagar – of something that resembles a police state more than a transparent democracy.

– Trying to keep your equilibrium, turning your face away from injustice until your conscience no longer lets you...these are repeated motifs in this film. In a late scene, a character is asked to leave a building from the back-door because there are angry people outside waiting for him, and in the next scene another person (who has amusingly been portraying himself as a macho Rajput) recalls how he had to flee his home through the back-door because people were coming for him. This adds up to a study of individual scruples confronted with permanent threat of repercussion. And so, it makes sense that the ending is cynical and idealistic at the same time: on the one hand, a character does something that in a more simple-minded film might result in the cleaning up of the political order; on the other hand, we see that nothing has really changed. Perhaps the “pragati” being constantly talked about is a version of the principal secretary on his treadmill, running to stay in the same place.


  1. Lovely post, agree with most of what you've said. The staging of the film is one of its biggest strengths, apart from the superlative casting, of course. Rumman and I straightaway noticed the guy standing with a bottle of water and what looked like a bowl of fruits during the treadmill scene and guffawed, but there are so many scenes that speak of a brilliant and admirable attention to detail.

    The brightly coloured turkish towel on the back of Krishnan's chair -- so typical! -- the shiny gifts lying outside the CM's office -- possibly carried by the visitors from Delhi who just left? These things just make your eyes pop during a film and make the experience so much richer.

    Just a small quibble about what you've written here -- Farooque Sheikh's character Kaul is a Principal Secretary, I rather think, which is a pretty senior level bureaucratic position, and not personal secretary to the CM as you write.

  2. Shrabonti: ah okay, will change it - I think I may have intended to write "principal secretary", but who knows. My mind has almost entirely been on the tennis clay-court season for the past month-plus and practically had to force myself to write this at gunpoint (which isn't easy, one hand being occupied and all, but I'll stop rambling now).

    Will see the film again in a few days probably, looking forward to observing a few more of those details.

  3. I somehow felt Dibakar's hard-work in detailing showed in the film and when as an audience, i can feel 'oh he has worked so hard', i sort of feel annoyed. Like in the scene when Abhay washes his hands in the loo with mineral water, the scene has enough content and it (in my view) can come to an end there itself. its too obvious emran too will wash his hands and he will use tap and that won't have water. His mixing of two layers of narratives (one Emran and Kalki going back to his house when riots are happening. two, abhay doing something in house) reminded me of Babel (also may be because he used silence a lot). somehow it was too jarring in Shanghai, while in Babel it was just too smooth.

  4. just to continue, Babel (if am not mistaken) used music for continuity beautifully. In Shanghai, I felt music was deliberately avoided for a large part and the continuity factor was missing (which was of course deliberate) but it didn't add to the beauty..

  5. Pessimist Fool: see, that's a pretty good example of how one man's "too much obvious detailing" can be another man's "so detailed I have to see it a 2nd time". I actually don't even remember Krishnan using mineral water in the loo - maybe I spaced out for a few seconds when that happened!

    But seriously, I think what you're protesting against is not over-detailing as such (I don't think a film can be too detailed) but the use of detail in such a way that it hammers a point home.

  6. yes Jai i felt that. Like they say, trying to write well is the worst thing one can do while writing. in this film it was very clear to me (at least) Dibakar was trying to make a good film. For instance, that first scene could have easily ended with two men having harmless chatter the way they were doing. Making him run and paint a man's face black and then rolling credits is demanding attention - something which i dont associate Dibakar with, he was far too subtle in first 3 films. But again, I shouldnt keep those 3 films in mind while judging this, but cant help :)

  7. And did you notice it is Hashmi's character who doesn't slip? :)
    Many such wonderful visual subtexts in the film. The leaving through the backdoor is played for laughs in Z too during the final inquiry montage. This is a wonderfully rewritten film and a lesson in adapting such stuff to an Indian setting. It deserves a rewatch and an analytical write up in the future!

  8. And did you notice it is Hashmi's character who doesn't slip? :)
    Many such wonderful visual subtexts in the film. The leaving through the backdoor is played for laughs in Z too during the final inquiry montage. This is a wonderfully rewritten film and a lesson in adapting such stuff to an Indian setting. It deserves a rewatch and an analytical write up in the future!

  9. @Gradwolf - i didnt quite understand why Hashmi didnt slip. He was pretty much shown to be a coward in his past. Was it a hint that he will help Kalki in future and make up for his past cowardice? If yes, Abhay did a brave thing too at the end. Why was he made to slip? Why was Kalki made to slip? She was the bravest of all. I liked that football bit coming into investigation. That's well done. Another thing. Why did that guy go to english speaking class? (May be I couldnt follow). The dialogues in that scene are deliberately kept unclear as its made clear later it was english speaking class when he comes down and on the wall its written "Learn Speaking in English".

  10. @Pessimist Fool:

    The way I read it I felt his character is the only one morally unambiguous from beginning to end. There is this constant thing with Shalini on how she is a "foreigner" and Krishnan pretty much fluctuates on the job.

    Yes, I didn't get that spoken English class scene either. I didn't even get what the joke was there, I didn't listen properly there I think.

  11. @ Gradwolf - on that scene of english speaking class. that scene has been created in such a way that dialogues arent clear (plus there is laughter in that scene) which makes it so tough to follow proceedings. its to an extent is on the lines of,"See I am a bright director, I can blur cause and effect relationship, I can connect seemingly disconnected things", which is what I didnt like. I also can not understand why did he make Abhay's character a south Indian. He could have been a north Indian IAS officer. He could do that well. Making him south Indian didnt add to the beauty of the film. Moreover, why couldnt Dibakar take a south Indian actor in that role? Remember Mohanlal in Company. For instance, taking Prosenjit in that role again is a dicey choice. His hindi is not all that good. There must be n number of actors to choose from. Taking prosenjit didnt add to the larger beauty of the film. Emran Hashmi will get rave reviews for this performance. I still remember Om Puri in Mandi doing the same character and he did it really well. Emran's character to me wasnt well etched. It was ok, but Dibakar had set standards really high.

  12. Gradwolf, Pessimist Fool: I'm enjoying this discussion very much - it's always nice when a film can provoke this level of analysis. And Gradwolf, you're right that a more analytical write-up is in order. I'm watching the film a 2nd time today, don't think I'll be able to write about it soon (and if Rafa loses today, I'm forsaking the writing life and heading to the mountains for good anyway!) - but will certainly make a few notes.

  13. Pessimist Fool - I agree, on a rewatch at least this may not come across as tightly written as say, you could remove a sequence and the film could tumble down like dominoes. That's not the case and it might need some editing. In fact, forget the spoken English scene, I don't think the Bharat Mata Ki Jai song fit into the narrative either. It was a minor niggle (and only a niggle) for me because Dibakar has used songs/scores so well in his previous films that they always felt more organic than other commercial films (a very post Alai Payuthey Mani Ratnam trait this is, quite admirable).

    Jai - Oh come on. Nadal is not losing today. Take it from me, a Federer fan who is already at the mountains. Choose another mountain, please. But you may not have to.

  14. "Making him run and paint a man's face black and then rolling credits is demanding attention - something which i dont associate Dibakar with"
    @PF, just wanted to address this point of yours. Yes, slow-mo in that scene is a bit jarring, but I think that Dibakar may also have been paying homage to Costa Gavras. In his movies, there will be some directorial flourishes of that kind -there are quite a few in Z. For example that wig scene. And then that mind-blowing horse scene in Missing.
    Gavras is also one of the most innovative users of sound. Z had a great soundtrack - I kind of missed that in Shanghai.
    I know, Z is so etched in my mind that it was hard to watch this movie on its own terms. But this is a different movie, and some choices that did not work out for me , for example, the focus on Emran Hashmi, the political machinations in the end etc, may work better on a rewatch.

  15. "Nadal is not losing today."

    True. Today will probably be rained out, so he'll lose tomorrow. *Weepy face*

    I agree about the "Bharat Mata ki Jai" song being a little jarring. Haven't really gotten around to listing the things that didn't work for me, but there were I few. I did like the face-blackening bit though, mainly for the use of the camera and the way the "pragati" poster at the back flutters gently.

  16. P.S. A Federer fan is in the mountains? The guy has already achieved everything a tennis player could possibly hope to achieve, and continues to be extremely competitive at age 31 against great players who are younger and in peak form. What more do you greedy b******s want?!

    Okay, okay, got carried away. Back to Dibakar and the film now - I'll create a separate tennis-related post sometime!

  17. @ Jai , Gradwolf. True 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' is again averagely written and very badly stitched in the larger narrative. We have 'Sapney Main Milti Hai' and 'Bidi Jalai Le' doing an outstanding job on what Bharat Mata ki Jai aimed to achieve. The choice of music director (Vishal Shekhar) to me is not appropriate. Thats another angle. There are hardly any music directors in BW today. That girl who composed music for 'Oye Lucky Lucky Oye' travelled in Haryana to incorporate local music and thats a fab job. I also felt the use of silence a bit forced. Silence could have worked well if he had an outstanding background score helping in continuity. What he had was jarring everyday noise, which didnt help narrative. I'm sort of reminded of Bhumika which excelled in using sounds we hear everyday and nothing was jarring. What helped in case of Bhumika was excellent acting. The change in facial expressions of Smita, Amol Palekar and others cant leave any doubt in audience' mind as to what they want to convey. In Shanghai, all character had same expression throughout the film. Cant blame them. This is more of a screenplay limitation. Hashmi did have changes in his expressions, but werent great. Farooque Sheikh to my mind and that Shor in the city guy did a good job in acting. The remaining cast ended the film with the same look they started. Me too watching the film again this week to figure out what exactly was missing. Jai - Nadal can't lose :P or call him and tell him, else we will send Morcha people in Spain :P

  18. Tennis aside, great discussion unfolding here. Discussion worth a nuanced movie that this was. Good film all around.

    Reg the narrative, did anyone feel this as a procedural movie. I felt the "how does this unfold" structure very interesting and got hooked on to it.. The detailing of the administrative workings and power structures was very good. Minor quibble was that perhaps this procedural narrative could have been more central. Did anyone feel there was a deliberate attempt to dumb it down to make it commercial. Something that wasn't tried by the director in OLLO and LSD.

    Film was replete with small bits that helped to move the narrative along. Like the lift conversation where Farooq Sheikh first tells Abhay deol about Dr Ahmedi and refers to an incident where he had been rubbed the wrong way. Though it was FS who brought it up, he makes it appear that AD has been holding a grudge and this is the time to take it.

    Abhay deol's character in general(excusing the attempts at accent) was very good and reminded me of Guy Pearce's character Ed Exley from LA confidential. Ambitious, cut throat at the same time also trying to do the right thing. Also felt, the last scenes in the two films depicting the inner workings of the LAPD and the IAS respectively were also similar in nature

  19. ...reminded me of Guy Pearce's character Ed Exley from LA confidential

    Raj: very good analogy there - saw L.A. Confidential a long time ago but I know what you mean.

    Did anyone feel there was a deliberate attempt to dumb it down to make it commercial.

    To an extent, yes. Especially in the use of the "Bhaarat Mata ki Jai" sequence.

  20. Reg. what Pessimist fool said about silences - I disagree. I thought it was the best use of silence in Hindi films in a long time. (when was the last time there was a significant silence in a mainstream film?)I think a background score would have intruded in most of the moments. These scenes were also framed so beautifully that I never felt that these silences were forced - mostly after Abhay's meetings with Farooque Sheikh, one scene where Emraan finds his partner dead and the guy's wife slips from the frame sobbing and we are only left with Emraan staring in anguish and disbelief. I have to watch once more to notice more of these scenes but a b/g score in most of these places would have been manipulative.

    The b/g score itself was sparingly used but I loved the effect - a mix of tense beats with the frenzy of desi drum sounds used in political rallies.

    FYI: the background track of the film is here

    I was also astonished at how much I liked this movie even though its plot was mostly perfunctory and there wasn't much here that I didn't glean from the first trailer. Detailing is one thing, but it was these scenes that blew me away. Silent and evocative. Actors who can hold the frame. Not at all an Indian sensibility (at least for mainstream Hindi films). This has good potential for cross-over you know. (Not that it's the most important thing in the world of course)

  21. A word about the editing. I thought at some places the transitions were abrupt where it would have been better to linger. I'm no expert on editing but it was jarring to me as a viewer. Did anyone else notice this? 'Kahaani' also had a couple of abrupt cuts and it had the same editor.

  22. Sudipta Bhattacharjee9:28 PM, June 10, 2012


    Hope to see your thoughts post the second viewing soon. I thought it was a good movie and merits much discussion (as is in evidence here :-) Was dis-satisfied about a few things:
    1)why couldn't Prosenjit's and Abhay's character be Bengali and north Indian (respectively)? Prosenjit's Hindi and Abhay's Tamil accent were not upto the mark and took away something from their otherwise competent performances.This is a particularly relevant point given that these actors were decided before finalizing the screenplay.
    2)The 'Bharat Mata' song, while well done on a stand-alone basis, was more suited in a Madhur Bhandarkar movie
    3)the almost complete lack of background music was jarring and took away something from the storytelling - it is a very difficult thing to pull off and 'Shanghai' IMHO didn't succeed in this aspect
    4)Why Vishal-Shekhar for music direction in this one - somehow, music seems to have gotten a step-motherly treatment in this movie - very unlike Dibakar

    P.S. - Did you know that Prosenjit is yesteryears' star Viswajeet's son, started his career in Hindi films as a 'chocolate-boy' romantic hero with 'Andhiyan' (you may youtube. The movie also starred Mumtaz and Shatrughan Sinha)and was offered 'Maine Pyar Kiya' before Salman Khan? a delicious 'what-if' scenario for a bollywood buff, no? :-)

  23. Sudipta: yes, I know about Prosenjit, and coincidentally I watched one of the Aandhiyan songs on YouTube just a few days ago, for an essay I was writing about Hindi-film mothers.

  24. For me, one of the highlights of Shanghai is that its 'message' is more nuanced than that of the Costa Gavras film Z. In fact I feel that makes Shanghai the better of the two films. I saw Z many, many years ago, so I could be wrong, but I felt Costa Gavras wore his left wing sympathies on his sleeve, while Dibakar Banerjee does not. In Z, if I remember right, the distinction between the 'good guys' and 'bad guys' was very sharp and simplistic, while in Shanghai that is not the case. The Kalki Koechlin character Shalini for instance, has a father who is involved in a Rs 40 crore fraud. (Though the film does not say so it is entirely possible that some of that money paid for her US education.) Shanghai also turns the photographer of Z into a pornographer (the Emraan Hashmi character). Even Dr Ahmadi, around whose murder the entire film revolves, is shown as an inveterate womaniser. He is clearly a 'professional protestor': there is a very telling piece of dialogue by his wife which goes something like this: "For four years after our marriage, I followed him everywhere, but then I felt, instead of always protesting, I should do something." It not only shows up Ahmadi, but also brilliantly captures the feelings of many disillusioned activists who move away (and are accused by their ex-comrades of having 'sold out to the establishment). Granted, one of the last shots of the film shows the wife (now widow) at a complete opportunist, but it doesn't ring true, I wish Banerjee had not done it. The point is that Banerjee recognizes that even those who fight 'the corrupt system' are part of the system - it has to be that way.

    The other thing that struck me was the accuracy of the detailing, it's truly outstanding. The relationship between the district magistrate Krishnan (Abhay Deol's character) and the police chief, the SSP of the district, is brilliantly depicted. I've noticed this is district after district: they are always 'frenemies', ostensibly very friendly, but in fact not so. Theoretically the DM is the boss, but the SSP never wants to acknowledge this, believes law and order is entirely his domain, and the DM should not interfere. And if the two belong to different castes - as is often the case - the situation gets even more piquant (if that's the word) with caste camps within the district bureaucracy, lining up behind each one. The setting of the enquiry commission is also spot on, this is just the way it is. The film also brings out very well how difficult it is for those appointed to conduct probes or enquiries - very often the people they have to question as the same ones with whom they interact and socialise all the time. It gets so awkward! That business of tearing out pages from the 'GD' is also so typical. Dibakar Banerjee really knows his India

  25. I did think Prosenjit and Abhay Deol's Tamness were cast to fit into stereotypes. The whole protestor aura and the IIT-ian background Tamizhian etc. But I don't know if it is a good or a bad thing. But you could ask, why not a Tam actor then? Fair question.

  26. Of course there is a mismatch between character and actor there, which is why a lot of people have raised the why not Tamil actor for that role then question.

  27. Just a few thoughts on the comment thread here:

    a) I think there's too much emphasis on Abhay Deol's Tamil accent and his suitability for this role because he's not a Tamilian etc and not enough on the gravitas, the 'thehrav', as Indian Idol judges like to put it, that he brings to his performance (here and on B Rangan's blog; the discussion spaces seem to have merged). Incidentally, I agree with Rangan and the accent seemed beautifully done to me -- living in Bangalore and talking to many Hindi-speaking Tamilians here, it didn't seem fake to me. Patchy yes, but that's how it often is IRL.

    b) I feel there's too much over-reading going on, especially around scenes such as the slipping on water one. I think Jai is right when he refers to it as a visual gag

    c) I overall like the way humour is used in the film and interjected at unexpected moments, even the gallows humour of a policeman making a quip about Baba Ramdev and making corpses dance during an especially gut-wrenching scene

  28. RAFA WON HIS 7TH RG and you losers are talking about Abhay's accent?!

    Priorities, people?


  29. Oh dear God.

    But what did I tell you? Always trust the words of a Federer fan :P


  30. i just love your blog more and more every time i read it.. informative.. books, movies.. your blog is about everything that i love and just the mammoth amount of information overload i have to deal with while reading.. i love it :)

  31. @Jai - Betting on him breaking Fed's record of number of grand slams?

  32. Pessimist Fool: no way. He's already won far more than I ever expected him to, and 16 is a long, long way off for someone who is very old in tennis years, even if he's only 26.

  33. 11 he has won. assuming he plays till 30, 3-4 french open, that takes his tally to 14. i think he is pretty close. cynically speaking may be thats why Fed is still playing :))

  34. this comment thread is exactly what mr banerjee is talking about

    (1) a discussion of art begins

    (2) this art is supposed to be a reflection of reality

    (3) and by the end, we are discussing a tennis tournament in Europe, because this is "cooler"

    touche! well done, all!

  35. by the end, we are discussing a tennis tournament in Europe, because this is "cooler"

    Anon: not because it's cooler, but because it too is a "reflection of reality". The only attempt at being cool here is your sad comment.

  36. Yeah and maybe thats why Federer loses to Djoker because Djoker has more chance to beat Nadal than himself.

  37. Okay, seriously let's end the tennis talk here. It only began because I made an offhand remark to Gradwolf (knowing that he was a tennis fan too).

  38. Great blog. I don't think the tennis discussion went out of hand. Some people wanted to use it to advance a particular reading of the discussion - and that's it. You shouldn't let that stop you talking about the tennis.
    On topic, I thought the treadmill scene was also a fantastic instance of bureaucratic subservience. Farooque Shaikh stops running to take a call from 'Madamji', before even pausing to catch breath. In that sense, while he is far above the power hierarchy, he is not entirely different from the minion holding water and fruit for him.
    I loved the movie, though there were things here and there that jarred. Especially making Abhay Tamilian. But my husband pointed out that accents are not consistent - education and environment tend to change the way you speak, though you return to your accent now and then. By that argument, Abhay's accent in the film is not a problem.
    I wish the film had explored Emraan's caste issue a bit more, though it would have been incidental to the main plot.

  39. @ Jai - Did you watch Shanghai again? Writing a longer piece?

  40. Pessimist Fool: watched it again, yes. Don't have the time for another post just now - later perhaps.

  41. "What more do you greedy b******s want?!"

    How about one convincing win against Nadal on clay, in a best of five? Or not even that, how about just one match where he really lets his shots go and doesn't do the whole nerves-and-shanking-and-sighing and AHHHHH FOREHAND DROPSHOT GAAAAAHHH

    wouldn't care if he lost (he probably would), I just want one match like that. what 2003 federer would have played like against nadal.

  42. Just a few points:
    1. The english speaking class scene was a follow up on the comment Pritobash character makes to the mama that damle says learn some english and you can be manager in the election scene or something on those lines. Also it was to show that Damle has promised these people a lot of things (such as paying their fees, etc.) which he was in reality not doing.
    2. The accent of Deol was spot on I think. It was not a caricature (which is usually the case in most commercial films). he came across as someone who is fluent with his Hindi, having worked in the bureaucracy for so long, and yet the Tamil accent slips in once in a while.
    3. The use of shallow depth of field, which were jarring to the eye intentionally, was very effective in some scenes - added to the mood of the scene brilliantly.
    4. Yes, I too felt Hashmi gave a very nuanced performance, which is very uncharacteristic of him. Especially in the early scenes.

  43. having just watched some 04/05 nadal-federer highlights I'm going to retract the "'03 federer" comment.

  44. Re: why a tamil officer...apparently the character is also loosely based on someone (a tam guy who went on to become an IAS officer) DB knew in college.

    I thought the movie was rather evocative and nuanced, with the cast putting in some superb performances. But I did think he was ultimately more interested in making the film 'look' good and added a lot of directorial touches to bring that out. And also, as Bikas Mishra has pointed out at Dear Cinema, the character of Dr. Ahmedi is very sketchily drawn. The fact that he lives abroad, is famous because of his book in a village like Bharatnagar is a little difficult to believe.

    Kalki's acting also seemed a bit like a deer caught in the headlights. Tillotama Shome is superb and like Emraan, plays a character whose approach and attitude are driven by human pathos and not just notions of good and evil.

  45. I wasn't trying to be cool. Sorry if it came off that way.

    Actually, no, I'm not sorry. Did you even notice I put the word cooler in scare quotes? Did it signify anything?

    The point is simple: we allow ourselves to be distracted by things that are only tangentially important. There's nothing "wrong" about this. But you got to accept it, or argue against it. (In a sense, even the comment I posted earlier is an example of this.)

    Instead, you launch a personal attack, whereas I was only trying to point out a feature of an argument .

  46. I guess posts like this make it such easy work for the uninitiated to understand cinematic details and its particular lingo. Loved the post, I too agree with most of what you have said. But after reading this, I feel I would love to see this a couple more times to read more deeply. I was planning on writing a review, but I think you have done such a nice job of it.

  47. Hye... Awesome post as always. But it is strange tht no one mentions Prosenjit's activist character who "works" for the people here but he himself lives in a foreign country.

  48. I am very late to this discussion...having just watched the film. Loved your post, Jai.

    This is my first Abhay Deol film and, as a TamBram, I loved how he nailed the TamBram IAS officer in every way. After all the "aiyyo rama" annoying filmi caricatures of my childhood, his accent and body language was spot on, and even the Tamil he mumbles to his mom when watching the dance was perfect. Bravura casting! I will have to look for more of this guy's films.

    And Farouque Shaikh- what an actor. We lost him way too soon.

    I have to refute snickersnee now- DBs college was NID, about as far removed from a path to the IAS as you can possibly get! Though lots of NIDians end up not practicing design, rescue me from bizarro universe if someone actually ended up in the IAS. :)

  49. I always feel like Emraan Hashmi is a dark horse of bollywood. If you watch his movies than you will realize that he carried whole and every movie on his shoulder.

    He just amazing in the realistic roles and we love him for that.

    My Top 10 of him >>>