Directed By: Onir
Produced By: Sanjay Suri, Onir
Cast: Ashish Bisht, Arpita Chatterjee, Raveena Tandon
Duration: 1 hour 40 minutes
Bollywood Bubble Rating: 2.5/5
I couldn’t shake this feeling that I had uncovered more than something ordinary.
That’s the kind of repurcussion we looked for, from Onir’s ‘Shab’, especially after he created slice-of-life films like ‘I…am’ and ‘My Brother Nikhil’. He starts with what looks like an account of how the world of fashion and glamour works. We are quite intrigued at the felicitous characterisations while the story develops into a more complicated one.
In whisper of hankerings, in the pang of futility and in love that’s forbidden, ‘Shab’ struggles to tell a story of multiple crises put together. But where’s the powerful corollary we were looking for?
Through the blazing summer, the deluging rains and the glacial winter of Delhi, the story flows as a few individuals, with their share of inner battles, come close and float away with the course of time. Mohan (Ashish Bisht) comes to the capital city from Gadwal with the aspiration of becoming a renowned model one day. He miserably flunks his very first audition, but wins over judge Sonal Modi (Raveena Tandon). Sonal takes him home, promising to introduce to him a leading designer. This portion is particularly noteworthy since it firmly puts across how it’s not just the women who fall prey to sexual exploitation. Sonal and Mohan’s relationship is dark, but not delicious. As the guy, inexpert at such trades, develops a strange association towards Sonal, he is only left with more emotional dismissal. Life brings him across Raina (Arpita Chatterjee), a woman with an initially mysterious livelihood that we discover later, who stays with her sister. Raina is in proximity with Benoit (Simon Frenay), a French man who has kind of run away to India. Raina is an intriguing character who secretly longs for love but wouldn’t surrender her heart. During a phase on intense dilemma, she happens to meet Mohan. By then, the struggling model has lived a hundred years of misery within quarter of a year.
Onir is a maestro at reading and painting human relationships with their smallest conflicts. But this one has gone haywire. The overriding problem with the film that feels throughout is, none of the crises comes alive. You long for something impactful which would be an acid test for your perceptions. But nothing like that happens, despite the characters giving in the finest performances.
Ashish Bisht has this wholesome simplicity about him, which works in his favour; since his character is that of a naive guy who just floats himself with circumstances. Arpita Chatterjee shines through with her moods and will probably be a discovery for Bollywood. But Raveena Tandon takes the cake here. She can trounce you with her glare.
We would rather rate ‘Shab’ high in terms of production values. Sachin Krishn’s cinematography almost becomes a language of its own as it captures the perfect frames for narrative. Mithoon’s music is fitting for the vivid moods.
The film’s pace further fails it. Throughout first half, you are unable to figure out which way it is heading. We were intrigued with the characters, their own silent sufferings, cramped relationships and the nanoseconds of emptiness that gloom up their skies. But it doesn’t just stir our senses. At the end, ‘Shab’ remains a film with brilliant possibilities that remain unexplored.