Why We Need Films Like Shanghai in the Age of Hyper-nationalism

Bollywood

Why We Need Films Like Shanghai in the Age of Hyper-nationalism

Illustration: Akshita Monga

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n one of the early scenes of Dibakar Banerjee’s terrific Shanghai, a stone is hurled at Dr Ahmadi (Prosenjit Chatterjee), an activist, while he is mid-speech on a makeshift stage. Ahmadi brushes off the attack lightly, jokingly calling it “hail”. Applause ensues and his convincing speech about the heavy price of development continues. Except, it’s merely the calm before the storm. Once he steps down after finishing his speech, Ahmadi is mercilessly mowed down, which the police justify as an unfortunate drink-driving case.

The setting had all the expected ingredients for unrestrained and continuous drama, yet the film chose to leave it muted, forcing the audience to let it affect them sans any decoration. This scene is a classic example of films provoking you to feel, instead of telling you how to feel. It’s a rarity in the Hindi film industry, where the currency is always overdoing and every frame is overloaded with profound dialogues. You don’t go “Less is more” when you sit through an elaborate two-hour long Yash Raj Film, do you?

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