Shor in the City: Bombay Beats

Again, it’s been a long while since I posted…and it’s been even longer since I saw a Bollywood movie! My last was No One Killed Jessica and not much has tempted me since. Last night however saw us at the INOX after ages, for Shor in the City, a movie that has got 4-star reviews from every critic according to my cousin. It’s a movie produced by Ekta Kapoor, former ‘Queen of Soaps’ on the Idiot Box and although her soaps were heavy on the usual drivel…her movies are a different matter. They tend to be anchored in reality, well cast with gritty performances. Shor in the City follows that trend admirably.

It’s a story of small-time crooks and their struggle to keep afloat in this, India’s own Maximum City, with its seamy underbelly, unforgiving, harsh ways and strange, unexpected rewards. As is the trend these days, there are three different narratives woven into the script…one follows an NRI with a mysterious past, back in India to run a small business; the second follows the travails of a cricketer struggling to make it into his State team; and the third unifying thread, follows a trio of small-time crooks that run a ‘business’ in pirated books. The stories are both believable and contemporary…most people who live or have lived in Bombay will identify and recognize them instantly. Kids selling pirated books at traffic signals all over the city; the local goons insinuating their way into the NRI’s life and demanding protection money; a corrupt Cricket selector…familiar & all too prevalent stereotypes in our present day society. The movie is set during the eleven days of the ‘Ganesh (Elephant God) Festival’, that massive, annual event in Mumbai‘s social calendar, when ‘Lord Ganesh’, is worshiped in almost every house in the city and on the eleventh day, duly immersed in the Sea, with much pomp, ceremony and prayers for future prosperity. It’s a spectacularly noisy day even by the standards of this constantly, insistently, noisy city. No wonder the film is titled as it is…’Shor’ (pronounced like ‘shore’, means noise) in the City!

I like the symbolism inherent in the title and the use of noise in the movie. It serves as a cover for the undercurrents of desperation, frustration and angst that exercise a stranglehold on most of the people who struggle to pursue their dreams here. It’s an avenue through which they let off steam, celebrate and defy their circumstances and fragile existence. It’s the beat of Life in this ruthless city, where standing still is a cardinal sin – unheard of and unacceptable. It drowns out the silence that allows, even encourages us to think, analyse, consider and just be human. It makes us capable of things we never imagined ourselves doing, and allows us to rationalize our craziness in novel ways. It is a beast unto itself, this Noise, and while for many it is the Music of Life, for others, it is the sound of Doom and a harbinger of death.

The performances are uniformly good. Sendhil Ramamurthy sizzles in the role of the rather mysterious NRI, unafraid to face his demons head on in an alien environment and ultimately do what it takes to survive. I have liked him since LOST and this movie showcases his considerable sex-appeal and acting skills admirably! Tusshar Kapoor surprised me yet again with his dramatics. The last time I was impressed with him was in the cop drama Khakee, where he managed to hold his own in an ensemble cast that included Mr. Bacchan. He plays the conflicted small-time crook with gumption & gentle humor, helping his friends out of loyalty, while reading The Alchemist and pondering the meaning of his Life and the direction it’s headed! He’s the crook with heart and even in his pirated book trade, he sticks to his principles! Another actor who stood out, not only coz of his real and screen names (Pitobash & Mandku respectively!), but also for his acting chops is Mandku, the unpredictable, excitable member of the trio with a passionate love for guns, girls and bombs. He portrays the funny, edgy, scarily unpredictable character of Mandku with ease and panache, reveling in his little idiosyncrasies and hilarious monologues. Well done! The conflicted cricketer, sensitively played by newcomer Sundeep Kishan, is another character sure to tug at your heart-strings, as he deals with the threat of losing his sweetheart and the pressures of getting selected for his State team. The tug-of-war between his desperation, that drives him to consider crime as the solution to his troubles, and his inherent integrity that makes such a notion unthinkable, is handled well, without much fuss. The artistes who play the local goons are exemplary! Appropriately seedy and scary in a very real sort of way. The ladies in the movie have no great role to play, but what they have to do, they do well. Once again as in most of Ekta Kapoor’s movies, the City itself plays a lead part. The seamier side of Bombay, is portrayed effectively and true-to-life here. There are no exaggerations, no excessive dramatizations, just Bombay as it is on a daily basis – chaotic, vibrant, noisy! At once exasperating and appealing, City of Dreams & Doom. That’s the thing I most liked about the movie…it keeps things direct, simple and to the point while telling three interesting tales. No mean feat that!

Having said that, I must confess that it took some getting used to. I started to get the feel of the movie and was wholly sucked into the lives of it’s characters only towards the latter part of the first half. The second half though was right on the spot. Pacy, whacky and interesting. The music is good and perhaps in keeping with the title, rather loud at times, but it belongs. At one instance in the movie, a local gang leader vocalizes a well-worn thought…”The noise in this City, doesn’t allow people to hear their thoughts”, he says, “What on earth will happen to this country?”. My sentiments exactly! All in all, a good movie and one that’s more than worth your ticket-fare and the noise! Watch it!

Happy Monday, People 😀

4 thoughts on “Shor in the City: Bombay Beats

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