Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai
Three films old he is still a novice but his cinema exudes a surprising maturity and urge to progress, innovate and experiment… Dibakar Banerjee is one filmmaker we think is probably the herald of a new Indian cinematic lingo. With each of the three he has captured a different story told differently, each beginning to reveal a certain language that he has begun to narrate. Now all prepared with his fourth, Shanghai stars Abhay Deol, Emraan Hashmi and Kalki Koechlin and is a political thriller adapted from the 1960s book Z by Vassilis Vassilikos, and also a cult French film.
As Shanghai hits the screens today, the maverick filmmaker takes platform_ behind the scenes…
Kalki, Abhay Deol and Emraan Hashmi star in Shanghai. The latter being the un-obvious but very intriguing choice here, what got you casting these three together? Casting is a process that is an independent process over which you have no hold. First, you are driven by commercial concerns, and you try and get a configuration that is attractive to buyers and financiers. Before you sell the film to the audience, you have to sell the film to the studio. Sometimes the cast is completely different to the logic of the story and I myself also get hopelessly lost sometimes. But I think there’s some kind of strange guardian angel above who ensures that the proverbial commercial choices that you’re going for somehow fall through and you end up with the right choices.
So let’s start with Abhay, he plays a Tam-Bram IAS officer – he is an actor who likes to push the envelope so that’s done there. Then, the question was whom can I pit against Abhay that beats imaginations without it being a mere gimmick. Now I have watched Emraan Hashmi and I also know how the ‘it set’ puts him down as the serial kisser. I realized that nothing can be more facile and mundane than the taste of the it-set – which is everything that reeks of star worship, classism and racism where a certain kind of skin and accent validates their own lifestyle. When that happens I am reassured that the choice I have made is right because this person threatens and unsettles the it-set and his popularity and success worries them.
As far as I am concerned when I see Emraan right from Footpath to the other films, I ignore the stylistic devices of those films because I am not the target for those films – but I see him as an effortless natural performer wielding his way through whatever shit is thrown at him. In that he has a lot in common with an Abhay which no one notices. Both have managed to keep their heads clear of the horrible pitfalls of performance, where actors become bloated, they overact or are hammy. These are the things I am looking for the rest is my prerogative as a director. The it-set will be happy going googoolala over Abhay and the average joe will go Emraan-bhai ka picture hai. There is a provocative-ness to this sort of casting where if my film works the it-set will have mud on their face!
By: Shahnaz Siganporia