Sunday, January 6, 2013

Shor In the City: oh, it's good. So good.

Sometimes you absolutely should take a gamble on your life's path. When Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K., two Andra Pradesh-born computer engineers who'd both moved to work in the US, decided to have a second career as film makers, it might've seemed like an odd move, but it certainly wielded great results. I've only seen their first Hindi feature, the terrific 99 (review here) and their latest, the appreciated indie hit of last year, Shor in the City, but based on these two ventures, it's clear to me that these two directors know what they're doing, and have a bright future ahead of them.

Shor tells a story of three protagonists. Tilak (Tusshar Kapoor) has recently married in an arranged match, and pursues a career in book piracy while awkwardly getting to know his new wife. Abhay (Sendhil Ramamurthy) has recently immigrated back to India to start a business, and is soon hassled by schemers, attempting to extort money from him. Sawan (Sundeep Kishan) needs money to bribe his way into a career in cricket. 

The wonderful thing about the way the narrative works in Shor, is that I wasn't constantly dying to know how the fates of these three would intertwine. Instead, I was fully content in following their three largely separate stories, because they're just that interesting. Besides providing us with fascinating portrayals of characters, I can honestly say their journeys also surprised me; if I thought I knew where the film was going, it usually didn't end up taking that route. 

As the name might suggest, Shor is a portrait of a city. It characterises Mumbai as a fairly unforgiving city, where the chaos is ever-present, but one where change (for better or for worse) is also possible. 

Tusshar's performance as Tilak was definitely the highlight of the film for me. His character's tale that leads him away from his idiotic, trouble-seeking friends and onto a path completely his own, was just really fantastic to watch. Radhika Apte gives a subtle performance as his wife Sapna, and seeing them grow comfortable around each other, after initial awkwardness, is really wonderful. The two form the heart of the film.

Sendhil Ramamurthy as Abhay was a solid performance, and he has natural, easy-going chemistry with Preeti Desai (who's not acted a whole lot besides this film - I know her better as Abhay Deol's girlfriend). He's an outsider in a country he can call his own, and it shows, and there's something really heart-breaking about the way the city forces him to bend and eventually - snap.

Sawan's story is the least interesting, if I can be honest. It's a tale of youth, and of despair (besides his cricket troubles, he has pressure from his girlfriend whose parents want her to marry as soon as possible), but it never reaches the grip that the other two stories had on me. 

The film also has a soundtrack, as good as I found that of 99, but I confess not really paying all that much attention to it. I'll probably pick up on it more on future rewatches - on this initial watch, I was too involved in the stories to really notice the music whenever it surfaced.

I find this to be one of those films where words really fail to capture what I enjoyed best. Just watch it, and discover its world on your own. It's a short (under 2 hours) journey that becomes more and more gripping as it goes along, it's seasoned with good performances and it's just a confident film by two of the most promising directors Hindi cinema has these days. It really is no wonder this was the off-beat favourite of last year.

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