Saturday, April 30, 2011

Shor in the City (2011): Chaotic Brilliance

There are few things I hate admitting. This is one of them. Ekta Kapoor, in my humble opinion, is fast turning into a remarkable film producer with a unique place for herself in the industry. Through a regular dose of wildly experimental films, she is changing the ball game entirely. Last year, it was Love, Sex aur Dhokha. This year, it is Shor in the City followed by Ragini MMS. First to hit the theatres is Shor in the City and my, what a movie this is! It is arguably the best exercise in black humour that we have seen in years in this side of the world. It is tough, gritty, mean and at times, oh-so-funny. This is the kind of movie that Dhobi Ghat wish it had been.

The film has three intersecting stories set during the Ganpati Festival in Mumbai. The first is of Tilak (Tushar Kapoor) who runs a printing press that specialises in printing pirated copies of bestsellers. Recently married, he bums around with his two friends Ramesh (Nikhil Dwivedi) and Mandook (Pitobash). A bag stolen from the train opens a can of worms that none of them are prepared for. Next, we have Sawan Murthy a.k.a. Savvy (Sundeep Kishan), who needs to come up with 10 lakhs to make the team for state cricket (and from there, IPL). He also must deal with his girlfriend who is under constant pressure for marriage from her family. Finally, we have Abhay (Sendhil Ramamurthy, Heroes), an NRI returning to India, who is struggling to start a business and must deal with local thugs trying to extract money in the name of “security”.

Clocking just over 100 minutes, the film is a taut, well paced dramedy. The stories run parallel to each other and the proceedings get quite chaotic. However, the film has been directed with great precision by first timers Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK. They direct the film with a steady hand and hold the attention of the audience throughout. They show a great eye for visuals and rich, atmospheric details that help set the tone of the film at several places. The movie is incredibly tense and deliriously funny in equal parts. Moreover, the romance here, particularly between Tilak and his wife, has a lovely awkwardness to it which is absolutely adorable. As they navigate through different moments of intimacy, there is a certain poignancy, humour and charm that is all but lost in romances these days.

Technically, the film is absolutely brilliant. The camerawork is stupendous and captures a completely different side of the city. While Dhobi Ghat gave us a look at the city and its culture from the outside, choosing to observe things from a distance, the cinematography Shor in the City consciously chooses a more intimate approach. Suffusing the frames with a warm colour palette, it immerses you in the city, whether it is the upper middle class milieu or the large street processions during Ganpathi Visarjan. The odd angles and the crisp editing help create the atmosphere of chaos that is central to the film. The minimal music is absolutely fantastic and used appropriately throughout.

In terms of performances, the entire principal cast delivers fine performances. And yes, that includes Tushar Kapoor. In an interesting mix of machismo, decency and almost childlike innocence, he is actually perfectly cast in the role. Nikhil Dwivedi is also brilliant as the best friend. However, the one performance that you take with you from the film is that of Pitobash Tripathy who is stupendous as the wise cracking, naive and extremely annoying part of the trio. He is impulsive, absurd, and downright daft at times and absolutely convinces you of his idiocy.

The film does have some minor flaws primarily in its conclusion where it seems to suffer from spasms and goes a bit erratic. But overall, this is easily the most fun I have had in a Hindi movie in a very long time. It does draw inspirations from Four Lions, Dog Day Afternoon and other films. However, it brings its disparate elements together and weaves them into a sharp narrative. It is smart, funny, shocking and gritty in equal measure and totally worth the price of admission. In these sad times, how rare is that?

Rating: 4/5

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