Shor in the City (Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK, 2011)
DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT READING THIS IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE FILM.
“Shor” means noise. Cacophony. Din. Anyone who has spent any time in any big city will know that the noise never stops – and this seems to hold especially true in chaotic, colourful, extreme Mumbai as the city celebrates the eleven days of the Ganesha Chaturthi festival.
Set against the incessant noise and unceasing activity of the city are three unrelated narratives about fairly ordinary people making their way through this extraordinary city: how the choices they make will impact the rest of their lives. As the song says: “Karma is a bitch”.In Shor in the City backstories aren't important. Characters are presented as they are in the here and now, the way you'd encounter them in a city. Or a newspaper story (which is where the inspiration for the narrative threads in Shor came from). The comedic collides with the horrific, the touching with the sinister, characters' free will gets all tangled up with seemingly unavoidable fate.
There's Abhay (Sendhil Ramamurthy), a recently returned NRI who expects his return to Mumbai to set up a small business to be something of a homecoming. Instead he finds something altogether more threatening.
This was my least favourite of the stories - there was just something...missing. I don't mean performance-wise, Sendhil is (surprisingly) great.
There's Sawan (Sundeep Kishan), a wannabe cricketer who discovers that to be selected as a Mumbai under-22 rep, he'll need to pay a bribe he can't afford.
His relationship is also suffering from his blinkered focus on his sporting career.
And there's Tilak (Tusshar Kapoor), a small-time criminal and publisher of pirated books who is slowly realising he can be a better person,
The book he's referring to is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Did you know Coelho essentially PIRATES HIS OWN BOOKS? He's an advocate for peer-to-peer sharing of his books, which makes the choice of The Alchemist for the pirated book that changes Tilak's outlook on life REALLY VERY INTERESTING - see also Tilak's desire to give his friends copies of the book he genuinely enjoyed, his realisation why people pay money for books and his desire to pirate responsibly: to put a good quality, accurate copy on the market. What message is this film putting out there?
while his far more corrupt friends Mandook (Pitobash Tripathy) and Ramesh (Nikhil Dwivedi) get involved in a foolhardy scheme to sell guns to the Mumbai mafia.
The film, as the title suggests, is full throttle cacophonous chaos from the get-go; the moments of intentional quiet are vivid contrasts to the hustle and bustle of the city, the constant chatter and traffic and crowding, the wheeling and dealing, the hum that is the background to any city. When the sound disappears, it's unusually touching: the dream-like conclusion when Tilak melts anonymously back into a crowd celebrating Ganesha Chaturthi; the horrifying episode with the bomb and the aftermath of the bomb exploding, the sound of which affects the way Tilak hears the world around him.
Maybe it's obvious, but my favourite story by far, and the one I haven't been able to stop thinking about, was newly-wed, The Alchemist-enlightened Tilak's. Tusshar Kapoor does a lovely, LOVELY job of conveying Tilak's awakening desire to act more in line with the person he already is – whether it's firmly insisting his pirated books are intact and possess all their pages or exhibiting wide-eyed wonder at discovering his wife can read, and went to college, and knows intimately the book he loves. And the ending – oh the ending! I know that some people were kind of “meh, fakeout, whatever” about it, and some people probably just think it's weird or anticlimactic...but that ending! I CANNOT STOP THINKING ABOUT IT. This could be my favourite scene in any film I've seen so far this year.
Tilak wants a new beginning...left for dead, alone in the bank, there's something so pure and perfect and utterly Bollywood about the way he opens his eyes as a huge idol of Ganesha, remover of obstacles, passes the window.
He's bathed in light. He's alive – he winces at his gunshot wound – and he makes his way outside, unseen by the police or the bank staff, as the Ganesha parade passes by. He melts into the crowd but as he does so, he sees a boy who looks just like the boy he tried to save from the bomb.
He has his chance at a new life: he can start living a new way and become the man he wants to be.
The last time we see him he is with his wife.
I love that ending. I love that he sees the boy. I love every single expression on Tusshar Kapoor's face. I love that I don't really know what it all means,
Like this scene. This scene is haunting me.
or understand just how the boy came to be there, and the way I interpret it is quite likely different to how you interpret it. I DO tend to overanalyse.
But that's the whole beauty of Shor... Much of it is open to interpretation if that is your thing; if it's not, you don't need to go down that road, you can just enjoy it for the glorious attention to detail, the dialogue, the stories and the outstanding, thoroughly excellent performances.
I feel like I need to watch this film 12 more times before I can even attempt a proper write up that remotely does it justice, but for now, this will have to do.