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'Shab': Maverick Director Onir's Distinctive Take On Modern Relationships

21/07/2017 8:28 AM IST | Updated 21/07/2017 8:28 AM IST
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Still from 'Shab'

Shab is the latest offering from the National Award-winning filmmaker ofI Am, Onir, who is also one of the pioneers of independent cinema in India. In many ways, it was the critical success of his 2005 film My Brother... Nikhilthat encouraged other directors to look upon indie filmmaking as a viable alternative. Over the next few years, Onir has continued to experiment, making films such as Bas Ek Pal and Sorry Bhai! that try to grapple with the different issues associated with sexuality. With Shab, Onir continues this trend. Moreover, it is heartening to see him make a film about the underbelly of Delhi's elite. Unlike some attempts by lesser filmmakers in the past, the subject's treatment is not superficial and has been done in a deeply meditative manner.

'Shab' is a dark brooding treatise on the complexities of human relationships (heterosexual as well as homosexual) that's nothing like anything Bollywood has ever attempted.

In his films, Onir has always managed to present relationships in a different light and he succeeds in doing the same in Shab as well, only this time he goes further than he has ever done. And the result is a dark brooding treatise on the complexities of human relationships (heterosexual as well as homosexual) that's nothing like anything Bollywood has ever attempted. He succeeds in eliciting wonderful performances from an ensemble cast that includes the likes of the 'Mast Mast' girl Raveena Tandon, the Bengali actress Arpita Chatterjee, French talent Simon Frenay, Areesz Ganddi, and the newcomer Ashish Bisht. It's Ganddi and Frenay who stand out with their subtle and deeply nuanced performances. While Chatterjee is a sight for sore eyes, Tandon is the archetypal femme fatale in the vintage Hollywood mode. Bisht is alluring as the small-town boy who dreams of making it big.

Another unique aspect about the film is that it's been shot in Delhi across four different seasons — summer, monsoon, autumn, and winter — and captures the distinct mood of each of these seasons.

Shab, co-written by Merle Kroger and Onir, is essentially a story of love and betrayal but one that's elevated by multilayered characters, ambiguous subtexts and complicated subplots. Another unique aspect of the film is that it's been shot in Delhi across four different seasons — summer, monsoon, autumn, and winter — and captures the distinct mood of each of these seasons. Sachin K. Krishn's cinematography is top notch and helps bring the characters to life, with the city of Delhi as a distinct character in itself. Handling a story with multiple characters requires parallel editing of the highest quality and the brother-sister duo of Onir and Irene Dhar Malik, a National Award winner herself, is certainly up to the task. The songs in Shab are already creating a buzz and the credit goes to composer Mithoon, lyricist Amitabh Verma, and Tips Films & Music.

Sachin K. Krishn's cinematography is topnotch and helps bring the characters to life, with the city of Delhi as a distinct character in itself.

Overall, Shab tries its best to avoid clichés and comes across as a thought-provoking film that offers a refreshing take on human relationships in a world driven by opportunism and hypocrisy. However, Shab is far from being a seamless film in that it unravels like a puzzle and may, therefore, end up puzzling the average viewer looking for a straightforward story of love and heartbreak. Yes, there is plenty of that in Shab but Onir like any intelligent filmmaker hates to spoon-feed his audience. The only way to enjoy the film is to surrender yourself to its ebbs and flows or else you are better off skipping it altogether.

Rating: A-

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