Sunday, July 3, 2011

Shor in the City (OMG HAVE YOU SEEN IT YET?!)

When I met up with my
filmi friends this past weekend in New York City, I spent a good deal of time talking up Shor in the City. As in: “OH MY GOD YOU HAVEN’T SEEN SHOR YET?! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!” (The response to that being: “Calm down, it just came out on DVD, ya.”) For all the hype about Delhi Belly being the Future Of Hindi Cinema, I think the real game-changing film came a few months earlier on April 28. Crisply edited and sharply plotted, Shor in the City is the kind of film all those NYU and UCLA educated young bucks can only dream about.

Shor is set in the hustle and flow of Mumbai. The film takes place in the 11 days leading up to the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi and follows three different narratives from three different social classes that all intersect towards the end of the film. Abhay (played by American actor Sendhil Ramamurthy whom you might know from NBC’s Heroes) is an NRI returning to Mumbai to start a small business. Tilak, Ramesh, and Mandook (Tusshar Kapoor, Nikhil Diwedi, and Pitobash, respectively) are three decent guys who have their fingers in a variety of scams and schemes. And Sawan aka Savvy (Sundeep Kishan) is a middle-class boy trying to make it through the tryouts for the Mumbai under-22 cricket team. How and why they meet is something I’ll let you find out.

While the story is certainly engaging, what I really enjoyed about Shor was the details - for example, Abhay’s re-introduction to Mumbai. Here is a man returning to a land he only knew from his childhood. We first see him in the backseat of an air-conditioned taxi, looking out at the crowds and the city streets. Shots of picturesque ‘natives’ are intercut with Abhay gazing out of the window.

[He's clearly thinking, "Oh, how quaint!"]

Later in the film, when the shine of the city has worn off a bit, we see him again in the backseat of an air-conditioned taxi, only this time the street has a sinister cast to it. Yet, we all know the ‘natives’ are the same – it’s only Abhay’s rose-colored glasses that have disappeared. This is the genius of Shor.

[Note the faded mendhi... details, man, it's all about details!]

Another delicious scene shows Sapna (the divine Radhika Apte), newly married to Tilak, by herself in the living room opening their wedding presents. She softly sings along to the radio, trying on the watches and jewelry – and a new pair of
goggles - and admiring her reflection in the surface of a shiny new cooking pot.

A third has that firecracker Mandook on the back of Tilak’s motorbike, filming some video of a girl whose shirt has ridden up her back, exposing some soft flesh.
”Kya item hai, yaar…”

[That's the old, "Really, bro, you want money for that?" expression every Westerner wears in India after a while...]

Not to mention the subtle way we see Abhay grow increasingly weary of the small gesture of tipping for everything. He pulls out his wallet and sighs – it’s a small thing but conveys so much about his disillusionment with his newly adopted city.

[Savvy and his scene-stealing friend Robin (Rohit Arora).]

The dialogues are really enjoyable, although the subtitles don’t really convey all the nuances. At one point, Savvy chides his friend for asking something twice saying, “Have I been speaking Telugu?” while the subtitles say something like “What have I been saying?” While there is some bad language, it’s not the gleeful sewer of
Delhi Belly and the swear words are used to make maximum impact. And jokes are made and brought back up again later, just like in real life – like an ongoing bicker about whether a gun is an AK-47 or an AK-56.

Music. Oh my god, the music is fantastic. Up and comers Sachin-Jigar (who also did the insanely catchy F.A.L.T.U. soundtrack) are the music directors and the OST has been playing non-stop in my iPod since I saw the film. There are no picturizations and the songs are integrated into the film without copious and awkward use of montage, which I really appreciated. Everything just flowed really well together.

Now, performances! Everybody is excellent. Raj & DK have a wonderful eye for faces – something I also loved in their previous film,
99. We are introduced to a variety of characters who fill out the world of Shor.

[They are the three best friends that anyone ever had...]

The three amigos had a wonderful chemistry. This is possibly Tusshar’s best performance since
Khakee and he’ll do well if he leaves the chocolate hero-ing to Imran Khan and continues on this duel path of comedy a la Golmaal balanced by more artsy fare like Shor.

Nikhil Diwedi was a bit underwhelming but it’s probably not fair to judge him too harshly because almost anybody would have dimmed next to the flaming mass of charisma that is Pitobash. This guy totally rocked my socks with his slightly unhinged performance as Mandook. There is one scene early on where he is jokingly waving around a gun that has no bullets in it. Tilak and Ramesh sort of roll their eyes and walk off and just Mandook is left in frame. The camera lingers on him as he holds the gun up to his head and Pitobash is so good in this scene that I could barely watch for fear that he was
actually going to shoot himself.

Sendhil Ramamurthy does a wonderful job of conveying the complicated emotions surrounding his experience of Mumbai – from wonder to disillusionment and back again. And Sundeep Kishan is perfectly cast as the average middle-class boy Sawan.

Radhika Apte was a revelation and
Girija Oak held her own as spoiled Sethu. Of the entire cast, the only person who really didn’t impress was model-turned-actress turned Abhay Deol's girlfrand Preeti Desai playing a model… but perhaps that is because models don’t really impress me in general. When I see a film, I want to see actors.

Amit Mistry as the eternally busy
bhai of the neighborhood is a delight. With one ear glued to his cell phone, he negotiates dinner arrangements with his mother (“Not that veg, maa, it gives me gas.”) and how many protestors are going to show up for a rally (“My boys don’t tip over buses.”)

[Anybody know that guy on the far left? He was hilarious.]

As Savvy’s friend Robin, Rohit Arora makes the most of his two-three scenes, adding a well-timed head-waggle and grin as necessary and the casting director dug up the perfect guy to play the English-speaking choad who antagonizes Mandook - this gormless looking guy in khakis whose arrogant use of the word ‘ass’ manages to shut Mandook up for the first (and only) time in the film.

[And an ID on these guys, too, please! My crack Googling skills couldn't figure it out.]

And it would be criminal not to bring up the two actors playing the ‘heavies’ of the film, whose names I also do not know. They were at once very threatening and very ordinary - just like real villains.

I don't want to get into spoilers in this post since I'm assuming nobody else has seen this yet but I wanted to briefly touch on the ending, which I found really fascinating. There is kind of a fake-out ending where it seems as if a main character is killed off but then we see him rise in a dream-like state. The first time through I liked it; the second time I thought it was a cop out. But, the more I thought about it, the more I liked the ending. I'm glad that the film doesn't end on a bleak note because while the world isn't the Disney-fied place Abhay thinks it is in the beginning of the film, it's not the dark world Abhay thinks it is in the middle of the film, either.

The opening song is titled "Karma is a Bitch" and I can't think of a better tag for the film. I am dying to discuss things in more detail so everybody go out and watch and then come back to dig into it in the comments section!


Ness said...

Ooooh kind of skim read because I want to see this - IT'S SITTING IN MY SHOPPING CART! will come back and (hopefully) squee in maybe a week...

luscious-words said...

This is one I keep looking at. Now I have to be sure I get it. I've got a birthday gift certificate burning a hole in my pocket.

~ Layla

PGB said...

Of the two actors you want ID'd. The top one is Zakir Hussain. He shares his name with the more popular Indian tabla maestro.

kunalmistry said...

Of the two ID guys, the first one is Zakir Hussain (worked in other films like Sarkaar,Johnny Gaddar, etc.) and the other is Suresh Dubey.

Found out at:

Mansi said...

Superb film...Lovely review! Couldn't agree's what I thought!

Do drop by :)

Abhijit said...

FilmiGirl, I'm not sure if you recall this one scene wherein Sapna reveals to Tilak that she'd read The Alchemist while she was in the first year of college and Tilak's jaw drops and he's all like why didn't you tell me you went to college and Sapna simply says because you never asked me (or something to that effect). This, as the moment when Tilak first realized that this quiet and unassuming woman, so obviously way out of his league, made him want to be a better man, was extremely well done indeed, I thought. Actually, A+ to both Tusshar and Radhika for pulling off ALL their scenes together superbly.

Also, I thought Sendhil's character (strong, silent type with a past that is hinted at but never revealed) was somewhat underdeveloped as compared to that of the others. As soon as we were shown the scars on his back that he refused to talk about with his girlfriend, I could guess exactly how his story was going to unfold from that point on and what he was going to end up doing. I would've been happy to be proven wrong, but it wasn't to be :-(

Anyhoo, definitely a very, very good film.

Ness said...

OMG I finally saw this...LOVED IT. LOVED LOVED LOVED. I totally agree with the previous commenter too = I thought the scene between Tilak and Sapna re: the Alchemist was just beautifully done, and I actually just love the effort made to show from the very beginning that Tilak always had more depth of character and morality than his activities may have suggested.

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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