Shor In The City, like the city it takes place in and which is a character in the narrative, is an anachronism. It attempts at tackling the chaotic dimensions of the Mumbai way of life by using the now-common multiple stories approach, and in the process ends up offering splintered vignettes of it. Perhaps there is a subtext in the haphazardness… a method to the madness of this bursting-at-seams city where back-stories are done away with in favour of a relentless adrenaline rush. But just when you think that the film will offer an image of the city devoid of the cinema-trope handicaps where every prostitute has a heart of gold, Mumbai’s shown to have an innocence underlying all its ugliness. Enough of the Mumbai ‘spirit’ already.
This is a ‘Bombay’ film, a veritable genre that witnessed its highs in the 70s and briefly resurfaced in a raw avatar courtesy Ramgopal Varma’s underbelly films in the 90s. A ‘Bombay’ film today, unlike its multihued secular ego in the 70s, is a dark and dreary one. The crumbling of the city and its ethos has left filmmakers to see it as a haunting hallway of misfits. Delhi is the new site of joie de vivre; and the ‘Dilli’ film, marked by its flawed vibrancy, the new terra firma for an updated ‘Indian-ness’. The best thing that filmmakers Nidimoru and D.K. do then is to infuse Mumbai, and by extension a multiplex-age ‘Bombay’ film, with a bleach of colour that, even while threatening to bleed in the next whirlpool, uplifts what could’ve been a very depressing affair.
And in this whirlpool are Abhay (Sendhil Ramamurthy)- a returning NRI trying to set up a business in Mumbai, Sawan (Sundeep Kishan)- a young cricketer hoping to make it into the Indian Premier League, and a trio of loitering bootleggers and hustlers- Tilak (Tusshar Kapoor), Mandook (Pitobash Tripathy) and Ramesh (Nikhil Dwivedi). The link connecting these three separate tracks is Tipu bhai (Amit Mistry), an almost omnipotent local presence. Set during the noisy eleven days of the city’s Ganesh festival (providing more visual texture than narrative richness), Abhay must deal with the ‘lost-in-translation’ don (Zakir Hussain) standing in the way of his venture while Sawan must eke out money to bribe his way into an IPL team. All along, Tilak acts as the moral voice (borrowed from the wisdom he gleans in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist) of his triumvirate as they wonder what to do with a bag full of arms that they’ve chanced upon.
All of this makes for very good cinema, and the writing ensures that it is brisk and crisp. The acting is also uniformly good, Pitobash being the pick of the lot. The women, all unconventional and girl-next-door beauties, perhaps make their parts stand out better than the writing privileges them, but that is merely a quibble. The larger concern is whether this- non-linear narratives, frenetic editing, multiple plots, coincidental endings, casual banter –is the only voice for independent Bollywood. Dev.D, Love, Sex Aur Dhokha and now this, among others, are all good films no doubt, but all derivative of the Tarantinos and Ritchies and what-have-you. For how long will Bollywood shout and scream on borrowed lungs?
- Abhishek Bandekar