A smart political thriller

Pic source: Wikipedia

 If made a decade or two ago, Shanghai would have been bracketed in the art film genre and nobody except the film festival audience and a few intellectual types would have seen it. But Indian audience has evolved; if a Rowdy Rathore does blockbuster business, there are houseful shows for Shanghai as well, at least in the multiplexes. And director, Dibakar Banerjee does not disappoint; he has made a political thriller that is realistic and brave. Congratulations to him and Urmi Juvekar for the fantastic screenplay, which is based on the novel ‘Z’ by Greek writer, Vassilis Vassilikos.

The name, Shanghai is an interesting metaphor used by the filmmaker to describe the hollow promises of development by our politicians. Whether it is turning Mumbai into a world class city, modeled after Shanghai or transforming Gurgaon, the goal has not been reached but the so called progress has its costs. Banerjee’s Shanghai delves deep into the murky political games, scams and crimes that take place in the name of development. Set in a fictitious town called Bharat Nagar, the film reflects the political realities our country faces today. You can identify the real life politicians that have inspired Banerjee while writing the political characters in the film – there’s the lady chief minister who is called ‘madamji’ and has ambitions to become the Prime Minister; then there are the coalition troubles; a South Indian Home Minister and more.

Banerjee has also developed his characters really well and with superb casting, has hit the bull’s eye. There are layers to his characters and the director leaves hints for the audience to figure out more. For instance, Prosenjit Chatterjee plays a political activist named, Dr. Ahmadi; he is a bestselling author, who stays in the US but is passionate about the cause of the poor in India. He travels by a private jet (funded by whom?) to Bharat Nagar; does a photo-op with a Bollywood actress in town for his rival camp and his wife (the fabulous Tillotama Shome of Monsoon Wedding fame) is not convinced of his style of activism. He gives his life for the cause and is given god-like stature but there is more to the character that is left to be imagined. Similarly, the character of T. A. Krishnan, an IAS officer who is in charge of investigating the attack on Dr. Ahmadi is fascinating. Played superbly by Abhay Deol, Krishnan is a devout family man, who is torn between his ambitions and the right thing to do. While Emraan Hashmi has a crowd pleasing role, for me Abhay Deol steals the show with his perfect South Indian accent, mannerisms and restrained performance. Emraan on the other hand plays Joginder, a videographer who makes porn to supplement his income as a freelance media representative. He helps Shalini Sahay (Kalki Koechlin), a close aide of Dr. Ahmadi to unravel the real story behind the attack. Hashmi is good and has proved that he is much more than his serial-kisser image. Kalki also handles the character of an activist well who appears to be more in love with her teacher than his cause. Then there are small yet impactful roles played by Farooq Sheikh, Pitobash Tripathy and Supriya Pathak.

There is tension in each scene of the film and the director successfully maintains it till the end. The songs however could have been used well as background music instead of suddenly appearing in the film. Music by Vishal Shekhar is fine and ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ song captures the essence of the film with words like ‘Gud bhi hai gobar bhi, Bharat mata ki jai’ (There is jaggery as well as dung in the country, hail Mother India) (lyrics: Dibakar Banerjee). Editing by Namrata Rao is perfect and cinematography by Nikos Andritsakis good, except the patchy difference in the way ‘Imported Kamariya’ song is shot and the rest of the film (it looks like a separate music video inserted in the film as a second thought).

Shanghai is amongst the best Hindi films I’ve seen in the recent times. Do watch it.


Khichdi – The Movie

Laughing from TV to the Big Screen…

Pic: Khichdi The Movie; Source:

The success of Khichdi: The Movie is important for any future TV to big screen adaptations in India as the trend has just about taken off. And if such a popular series is unable to make it big as a movie then what will? Thankfully, the film is made on a small budget and from what I saw today, the film should make a neat profit. Congratulations J D Majethia (Producer) and Aatish Kapadia (Director) for delivering a clean comedy that can be enjoyed by the whole family. However, it may not become a big hit as the audience would be limited to the series’ fans and there are two big ticket competitors in cinemas this week (Robot and Anjaana Anjaani).

Khichdi: The Movie is a situational comedy just like the series and its strength lies in its clever writing – the characters and the deadpan humour. For those not familiar with the series, Khichdi is about a middle class, Gujarati joint family in Mumbai. Tulsidas Bhai (Anang Desai) is the head of the Parekh family – a frustrated old man who is fed up of his son Praful’s (Rajeev Mehta) stupidity. Praful is not only stupid but is madly in love with his lazy and equally dim wife, Hansa (Supriya Pathak) who is obsessive about matching her sarees and accessories. Jayshree (Nimisha Vakharia) is Tulsidas’ widowed daughter-in-law who loves to gossip and is gifted with a sharp mind. Then there is Himanshu (J D Majethia) who is Hansa’s brother with similar mental prowess and the two smartest members of the family, the kids – Jacky and Chakkhi.

The film’s story takes from a thread tackled in the series earlier – Himanshu’s love story and wedding with neighbour, Parminder Kaur from the Parminder family (yes, all 65 members of the family are called Parminder). All actors are good in the characters they made famous but a special mention for Nimisha Vakharia who managed to play Jayshree well despite it being a strong character played by Vandana Pathak in the series originally. As usual, Hansa and Praful steal the show with not only their hilarious lines but also their mannerisms. Supriya Pathak who plays Hansa is easily amongst the finest actors and I’d be disappointed if her performance goes unnoticed at the film awards. Nobody else can make these lines sound so funny but her – “Hello! How are? Khaana Kha Ke Jaana…” or “Hello! This is a Hansa speaking…”

There are not many songs but a romantic number between Himanshu and Parminder stays with you for the way it is shot (silly, of course) and the lyrics that go ‘Chal Chal Bhosle Market Chal…’ The film celebrates stupidity and there is not a single dull moment (caution: if you’re not a Khichdi fan, it may not be the case for you). Whether it is Jayshree’s maid troubles or Hansa’s grand court room performance, Khichdi is a laugh riot.

I hope to see the cast return with a sequel and the producers adapting another of their hit series, Sarabhai vs. Sarabhai for the big screen. While these two are on my wish list, a movie that is certainly coming out is Pankaj Kapur starrer Office Office that traces a common man, Musaddilal’s troubles with bureaucracy and corruption in India.

My rating: * * * ½ Three and a half stars on five

– Shrey Khetarpal

Wake Up Sid

A refreshing, feel good film…

Pic: Dharma Productions; Source:
Pic: Dharma Productions; Source:

A film about a rich kid who does not know what to do with his life apart from hanging out with his friends… nothing new there! However, what makes Wake Up Sid extremely fresh and enjoyable is its treatment. You know what exactly is going to happen in the film but you are hooked to see how it happens. Take a bow, Ayan Mukerji, your directorial debut is a winner.

Wake Up Sid (written by Ayan Mukerji and Niranjan Iyenger) is far removed from the so called filmy clichés and is held together by moments that seem real and relatable; moments between a mother and her son, a father and his son, between friends and between two people who are falling in love.

The film traces the journey of Siddharth Mehra aka Sid (Ranbir Kapoor), from being a carefree college guy who simply spends his father’s money to someone who finds his true calling in life. His journey is complemented by fiercely independent, Aisha Banerjee (Konkona Sen Sharma), an aspiring writer from Kolkata who wants to make a new life in Bombay aka Mumbai.  Together both of them discover what they want in life and eventually find it.

Performance wise, everyone seems comfortable with the characters they play. Konkona is as usual fantastic but the real surprise is Ranbir who not only manages to bring alive the character but also shines amongst his excellent co-actors. Supriya Pathak as Sid’s mother who likes to speak with her son in broken English is extremely endearing.

While the film is unpretentious, one can see that a lot of attention has been paid to the details. From the styling of the lead actors (Priyanjali Lahiri and Manish Malhotra) to the production design (Amrita Mahal Nakai), everything is in accordance to the respective characters. While the music (Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy) may not be topping the charts by Dharma Productions standards, it goes well with the mood of the film and does not obstruct the narrative. Cinematography by Anil Mehta is as usual first rate. Overall, Wake Up Sid is a great feel good film and is highly recommended.

My Rating: * * * * Four stars (on five)

Shrey Khetarpal