Reviewing the Reviews: Shanghai

11 Jun,2012

By Deepa Gahlot



Starring-Emraan Hashmi, Abhay Deol, Kalki Koechlin, Prosenjit Chatterjee

Produced and Directed by Dibakar Banerjee

Produced by Ajay Bijli, Sanjeev K Bijli,  Priya Sreedharan

Screenplay by Dibakar Banerjee & Urmi Juvekar


In what seems to be case of a one-eyed man leading the blind, most critics went totally overboard praising Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai.  It cannot be denied that he is one of the most exciting filmmakers in Bollywood today, but remaking a 1969 Costa Gavras film just shows up his film as vastly inferior. Just because it is better than most Hindi films, does not make it a masterpiece that some 4 and 4.5 star ratings have indicated.


Karan Anshuman of Mumbai Mirror led the rah rah pack with 4.5 stars. “I found myself unable to move as the end credits started rolling. Shanghai had surprised and startled. It had me involved, it had me thinking. I had to tell myself that there would be other chances to watch it again. This is what a perfect film does to you,” he gushed.


Aniruddha Guha of DNA gave it 4.5 too and wrote: “Shanghai, Banerjee’s fourth film, is his best. It’s also a very important film, in addition to being consistently engaging and extremely satiating. Why just make a good film, when you have the wherewithal to make a powerful one? A film that can change perception; one that can make a statement, and push the envelope. Shanghai does all of that, and does it well. Banerjee brings together great plot (inspired by Greek writer Vassilis Vassilikos’ political novel, Z) some very good actors and a bunch of able technicians in a movie that clocks just a little under two hours, but occupies your mind for many after.”


Anupama Chopra of Hindustan Times gave it 4 stars and raved: “Shanghai doesn’t provide the comfort of answers or happy endings. But it forces us to ask urgent questions. It is the best Hindi film I’ve seen this year. I strongly urge you to make time for it.”


Madhureeta Mukherjee of the Times of India was slightly subdued with 3.5. “Director, Dibakar Banerjee’s adaptation of Greek writer Vassilis Vassilikos’s book ‘Z’ is impressively Indianized. The story-telling is embossed with naked realism, rawness and brutal honesty. Be it blood stained bodies, close-ups of blackened faces, or ugliness (of body and soul) – he bares it with gut, grit and gore. But it’s not the first time we’ve seen the struggling aam aadmi made scapegoats by mantris who go back to plush seats in their power hubs. It’s not the first time chapters on humanity and morality are shamelessly ripped from political text books. The story is predictable (expect for a few scenes), and the revelations that follow, don’t send shockwaves or make your bellies churn. Yet, reality stings. Sometimes more than the ‘dengue and malaria’ in our very own hinterland.  Whether Shanghai is off-beat or mainstream is debatable, but if you thrive on rustic realistic cinema, however heavy-duty – this is your pick.”


Shubhra Gupta of The Indian Express gave it 3.5 too, but found enough flaws. “Shanghai’ is fashioned as a political thriller, but it could just as well be a strong treatise on how much of today’s India functions. If you have a powerful ‘haath’ on your ‘sar’, as the propulsively small man Pitobash boasts, you can do anything, even knock a living man down and leave him for dead, without a twinge of conscience. Banerjee builds up the layers unerringly, (please note the by-play between the lowering, intimidating senior cop and the wanting-to-do-his-best ‘babu’) assembling a terrific cast that is mostly played to its strengths. Mostly.”


Rajeev Masand of IBN found it watchable, but not great. He gave it 3.5 stars too and wrote: “Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai is a crisp, take-no-prisoners drama about seeking justice in the complex landscape of the Indian democracy. The film benefits from the compelling performances of its cast and the director’s sharp eye for detail while narrating a simplistic, and at times, predictable story that traces the inevitable nexus between Indian politics and crime.”


Throwing a spanner into the works with his well aimed criticism is‘s blogger who goes by the handle Punjab da Puttar. He nailed it when he snapped: “Shanghai might just be the last straw that broke this camel’s back. It is a sad but well-known fact that we are perfectly ok with mediocrity in this country at every level. An ‘Andhon Mein Kaana Raja’ gets away with being brilliant and repeatedly drives people into raptures simply because everything else is so bad. Shanghai, to me, is a very average film and little else and I feel this even more so because I have watched Z, which, though made by Costa Gavras way back in 1969, is still miles ahead of Shanghai in terms of its cinematic craft and storytelling. Everything Dipakar Banerjee has tried here has been done better in the Costa Gavras film 43 years ago! For those who don’t know, both films are adaptations of the novel Z by Vassilis Vassilikos.”


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