Shanghai starts with a mob chanting Khoon ki kasam khayie hain, yeh shehar nahin, Shanghai hain (We have taken an oath of blood, this isn’t a city, this is Shanghai). It ends with the image of man who has been employed by the company that has taken over his land, to demolish the very building which till yesterday he called home. The movie is symbolic representation after symbolic representation. It asks you to question the development process in India, without doing so itself. It does not say whether something is good or bad, leaving that question upto us to decide. There is no ‘thrill’ in the movie per se. No climax. No big dialogues. No action. And yet, it becomes a thriller.
But what really holds the movie together are the performances. Emraan Hashmi is a revelation. Abhay Deol simply stunning as the Tamilian IAS officer, never overdoing the accent or letting it get in the way of his role. Cough SRK cough Ra.One Kalki has is perfect for the role of the devoted and slightly psychotic student follower of Prosenjit Chatterjee, who is simply mindblowing in his short role. Farooq Sheikh puts in an astounding performance as the senior IAS officer.
Banarjee has a command over every little thing in the frame, infusing symbolism into every small action, sometimes overtly, sometimes being innocuous, but all deliberate. It really is very difficult to review this movie, principally because I cant get over how brilliant it is. Just go and watch man.
P.S. Watch out for the line where Farooq Sheikh says that if a particular person becomes PM, we can move ahead of China. It really puts our whole China inspired development model in perspective.