Satirical Shanghai: Revealing the Mismatch!

Review by Farizuddin Khan *

A poster for Bollywood movie Shanghai

A poster for Bollywood movie Shanghai

Bharat Mata Ki Jai, SonekiChidiye, Dengue, Malaria......
(Hail Mother India, Golden Bird, Dengue, Malaria........)

This is the line of the title track song of the new Bollywood movie, "Shanghai," directed by the young, seasonal and critically acclaimed director, Dibakar Banerjee of the "Oye Lucky Lucky Oye" fame and others. The song is the perfect launching pad to review the movie.

The satirical yet importance of the song (title track) penned himself by Mr. Banerjee brings out the pros and cons of the popular slogan, "Bharat Mata Ki Jai," mainly used as a tool by self-claimed nationalists, in particular, and politicians and wannabe student leaders alike in campuses, streets, market places, meetings, public platforms etc. across the country particularly in the Hindi belt region.

Dibakar Banerjee's timely movie highlights the plight of common people on one side and nature and attitude of Indian politicians and their loyal bureaucrats in general in a balanced manner with humour.

Jogi Parmar (Emran Hashmi) plays the role of a lead protagonist who happens to be a porn videographer as well as an assistant to his boss, a political videographer. He turns out to be a relief for Shalini Sahay (Kalki Koechlin), a young activist who came from America to make a documentary on the State Govt.'s priced project, IBP, which is a pipeline dream of turning Mumbai into Shanghai at the cost thousands of poor dwellers whose lands have been snatched away by the state without adequate compensation and respect for their losses.

Jogi has the evidence of direct involvement of Chief Minister in the murder of a well-known New York based activist and Shalini's teacher and lover, Ahmedi (ProsenjitChatterjee), who came to Mumbai to speak against the project and support the agitation by the poor whose lands have been taken away by the state in the name of development and an unrealisable dream.

Shalini's effort to uncover the murder and political wrongs depends on the support of a high-ranking Tamil Nadu cadre IAS officer, Mr. T.A. Krishnan (Abhay Deol) who leads the enquiry Commission ordered by the Chief Minister herself.

Here comes the turning point. Krishnan although is well aware of the repercussions for his honesty, doesn't shy away from couraging till the end to make right, right and reveal the political crime of the government to the Central government. The director deserves a well applause for the way he presents an IAS officer upgrading him as an important person in decision-making process and the difficulties he could face while observing his duties and responsibilities smoothly.

The movie is a representation of the current Shining/ Incredible India! Banerjee wasted no time to highlight the ambition of the political elite class who constantly promise to turn Mumbai into Shanghai, Delhi into Singapore and Kolkata into London but without changing the rule of the game.

The game being -"what they say is right, what they wish is the rule, don't ask questions, just go on, bolo Bharat Mata Ki Jai!!" The movie sends out a message to the audience that there is innate gap between these cities and Indian cities and dreams.

In India, a BMW passes on the street and the passer-by close his/her nose at the same time because of the lack of sanitation. At least that doesn't happen in Shanghai. Long way to go before Mumbai becomes a Shanghai and India equates itself with China in every sense.

Superb performance as usual by Emran Hashmi and Abhay Deol just perfected the role of a conservative yet courageous IAS officer. Kalki does justice to her role. Overall the movie is a package to watch for. There are lots of satirical and humorous scenes in the movie. I like it.

The movie is short, crispy and abruptly ends leaving many questions for the audience. A balanced movie and I hope it would serve as a cup of coffee for critical cinema goers. Banerjee discovered an uncharted/ untouched arena which is different from other political thriller movie like Rajneeti, etc.

* Farizuddin Khan wrote this article for
The writer is currently doing M.A. (in Politics) at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
The writer can be contacted at fareezjnu(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was webcasted on June 08, 2012.


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