Shanghai is a political thriller set in Bharat Nagar, a fictitious town in India. It stars Abhay Deol as an IAS officer, Kalki Koechlin as an activist and Emraan Hashmi as a local videographer. Read the review for more.

Shanghai Review (Shanghai Movie Poster)
Shanghai Review

Rating: 4.5/5 stars (Four-and-a-half stars)

Star cast: Abhay Deol, Emraan Hashmi, Kalki Koechlin, Prosenjit Chatterjee, Farooq Sheikh, Pitobash Tripathy, Supriya Pathak, Anant Jog.

What’s Good: The engaging script; superlative performances; direction.

What’s Bad: The screenplay is of the kind which might not appeal to the lay viewers.

Verdict: Shanghai is a classy, entertaining fare.

Watch or Not?: Definitely watch Shanghai for the superb performances.

User rating:

PVR Pictures, DBP and NFDC’s Shanghai is a political thriller set in Bharat Nagar, a fictitious town in India.

IAS officer T.A. Krishnan (Abhay Deol) is the vice-chairman of IBP, a business infrastructure project that is to be executed in the small town of Bharat Nagar. As Krishnan is in the good books of the chief minister of the state, Madamji (Supriya Pathak), and her principal secretary, Kaul (Farooq Sheikh), he is scheduled to be promoted to a higher post. IBP is the brainchild of the CM and her coalition partner. The politicians, whose party workers have a strong hold in Bharat Nagar, are projecting IBP as their pet development project in the state.

Shalini Sahay (Kalki Koechlin) is a young, US-educated daughter of a tainted army officer. She is a part of a group of activists who are opposing the massive displacement of people that IBP entails. Dr. Ahemadi (Prosenjit Chatterjee), Shalini’s former teacher and the leader of the anti-IBP movement, arrives in Bharat Nagar to give a public speech to oppose the infrastructure project. In spite of a death threat, demonstrations by political workers and a reluctant district administration and police, Dr. Ahemadi delivers his speech. But soon after, he is grievously injured when he is hit by a running tempo.

The driver of the tempo, Jaggu (Anant Jog), is apprehended by the police. The other accomplice in the crime, Bhaggu (Pitobash Tripathy), manages to get away. Jogi Parmar (Emraan Hashmi), a local videographer and his boss, who are making recordings for the political party, capture some footage of the moments preceding the mishap.

After a media furore over the incident, Krishnan is asked to head an investigation into the Dr. Ahemadi accident. Kaul makes it amply clear to him that he is just required to be seen doing justice, without going into details of what really happened.

Shalini fights to nail the culprits. Jogi, who is initially reluctant to help Shalini, is forced by circumstances to reconsider his position. Krishnan, on the other hand, is faced with a dilemma when he is presented with incontrovertible evidence which shows that the politicians were involved in the attack. In the meantime, the situation in Bharat Nagar becomes worse and curfew is imposed.

What does Krishnan do? Where does Shalini’s search lead her? What about Jogi? Who ordered the killing of Dr. Ahemadi? What happens to the infrastructure project in Bharat Nagar? The rest of the drama and the climax answer these questions.

Shanghai Review (Shanghai Movie Stills)
Shanghai Review (Shanghai Movie Stills)

Shanghai Review: Script Analysis

The screenplay of Shanghai, based on the novel Z by Vassilis Vassilikos, is engaging from the word go. The screenplay writers (Urmi Juvekar and Dibakar Banerjee) have ensured that the viewer is pulled into the murky world of political machinations. The characters are wonderfully etched; their interpersonal relations beautifully evolve as the drama progresses.

While the viewer is engrossed in the story, he identifies with the moral dilemmas that various characters face. What the script doesn’t allow them to do is to take sides, and in that it holds a mirror to the contemporary situation of the Indian state. More than this, the screenplay works at the plot level. Incidents that take place in the second half not only shock the audience but also makes them await the epilogue. The climax doesn’t disappoint. The dialogues are first-rate.

The only minus point in the narrative is the fact that it doesn’t ask the audience to be mute spectators to the drama unfolding on the screen. Instead, it seeks them to, at times, put the bits and pieces together. The lay viewer, who is not necessarily used to watching such films, might find parts of Shanghai a little difficult to comprehend.

Shanghai Review: Star Performances

Abhay Deol is simply superlative as the straightforward IAS officer. His South Indian accent is so well-done that it is impossible to imagine him as not being the character of Krishnan. Emraan Hashmi is boisterous as Jogi Parmar, the sleazy but well-meaning videographer. His look is also commendably authentic. He does a wonderful job. Kalki Koechlin emotes beautifully. Farooq Sheikh, as Kaul, is a delight. Prosenjit Chatterjee is very natural and believable as Dr. Ahemadi. Pitobash Tripathy (as Bhaggu) does a fine job. Supriya Pathak (as the chief minister) is very good in a short appearance. Anant Jog as Jaggu is natural. Kiran Karmarkar (as the CM’s coalition partner) looks like the quintessential politician. Tillotama Shome (as Mrs. Ahemadi) and others offer adequate support.

Shanghai Review: Direction, Music & Technical Aspects

Dibakar Banerjee’s direction is excellent. He spins a drama that is both, entertaining and thought-provoking. His portrayal of the milieu of Bharat Nagar and his understated narrative style deserve kudos. Michael McCarthy’s background score is appropriate. Music, composed by Vishal-Shekhar, is very good. The lyrics, by Dibakar Banerjee, Anvita Dutt Guptan, Kumaar, Neelesh Misra and Vishal Dadlani, are meaningful. The production design is realistic. Nikos Andritsakis’ cinematography is brilliant. Editing, by Namrata Rao, is sharp.

Shanghai Review: The Last Word

On the whole, Shanghai is a first-class political thriller. It deserves not to be missed.

Shanghai Trailer

Shanghai releases on 8 June 2012.

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  1. Last week I saw one of the worst Movies in 2012 But this week I saw one of the best Movies in 2012…contrasting week

  2. I am very impressed with review and koimoi gave Rowdy Rathore 2.5/5 and Shanghai 4.5/5 so guys If you have mind…Than decide which is better ??

  3. This is not your usual Bollywood dhisum dhisum masala film, a serious flick with a voice and make you think. A must watch for true movie lovers!It’s strictly not made for Masala movie lovers!

  4. Abhi to Rowdy Rathore ne Shanghai ko tatti kara di hai as will be confirmed when collections are out.

    Even if 5/5 rating is given audience will not go to the cinemas for Shanghai.

  5. we can’t compare sensible cinema like, “shanghai” with the mass appealing, masala movie, “Rowdy Rathore”..both the films have the audience of its own kind and taste…even the sensible janta has gone to see Rowdy Rathore…so there is no question of seeing it and talking negative abt it later. the simple notable thing is, the sensible, intellectual cinema has a few audience/takers compared to mass oriented flick.

  6. Fantastic movie. Great perfomances by evryone. My Fav Emraan is Excllent. Emraan is one of the best actors in the world.. Proud to be Emraan Hashmi Fan !

  7. rowdy rathore is disappointing, jaha tak akki and salman ki baat hah unlog k dictionary me intelligent movie nam ka word hi nai hah … , vo kam bas srk aur aamir ka hi hah

  8. Does anyone in India at this moment have desire to watch Shanghai film? To watch dark film with political element in hot and humidity weather will be painful for people in India. In India people are already watching real life Indian political drama of Hazare, congress, corruption, etc. So it is headache for people to watch another painful drama in cinema. As for their work at weekdays are concerned so they need some entertainment to relax themselves. That’s why Rowdy Rathore is right choice for them in this tension time and weather condition. So that’s why Shanghai is not working at box office. It may likely to work in Australia or London or America because weather is calm and less tension around themselves.

  9. Very average film. Dont bother seeing it. Even for the non bollywood audience , its a bore. It did not leave any impact.

  10. The film is like watching news. The same graph through out. Farukh Sheikh was too good. And Emraan hashmi is a revelation. but the film is so below average.

  11. Movies like Shanghai can really save the good image of Bollywood..
    Its really better than Rowdy Rathore..
    Dont understand that why bollywood producers shows interest in copying south movies which are totally without logic??

  12. aadhe log to pagal ho gaye hai…bhai there is noting like izzat ka sawal sab acchi bol rahe hai to bolo….

    ek normal si moive thi etni bhi koi dassu nahi thi….

  13. imran ka ki to sari movies mujhe best lagti h, pta nhi desh bhagti ka ye rup us pe kaisa lagega
    agr aap movie dekh chuke h to plz.. tell me who was the movie …

  14. I haven’t seen the movie yet. But I see a very basic flaw in the story. I believe IAS officer don’t do investigations IPS do or CBI. I have to see the film to comment any further.

  15. good movie….agneepath,vicky donor and shanghai and kahaani are the best movies of 2012….i dont think any upcoming movie can be good like these 4 movies….good performances

  16. I’m so looking forward to it. This movie is gonna be really enthralling, I believe. The plot is gonna be so exciting. Political films don’t intrigue me much but I’m not at all gonna miss this one. Gonna watch this today only at Wave Cinema in my vicinity!!! I heard Emraan Hashmi has acted so well. Plus the presence of Abhay Deol makes the movie sensible itself. And director like Dibankar Bannerjeee actually justifies the whole point. Have watched all his three previous movies: Oye Lucky ! Lucky Oye!, Khosla ka Ghosla and Love Sex aur Dhokha-that were superbly amazing!!! No wonder his films won national awards. Classic Director!!!

  17. Western side Indian people (Bihar, UP, MP, Rajasthan..etc) are not watched in good movies like Shanghai, Vicky Donor. Such the bad movies like House full 2, Rowdy rathore,Ishqbazadee & other ugly movies.


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