MUMBAI: Film-maker Dibakar Banerjee talks about the response to ‘Shanghai’.
Q. Kalki Koechlin’s performance has been uniformly panned. She’s accused of being stereotyped as the traumatized woman. Comment
(In a raised voice) “Ok. This is a challenge for all critics. Two hours after making love to your lover/spouse/partner/secret paramour, you see him or her being hit and mowed down by a truck in front of your eyes. Now smile. No, seriously, smile. Shalini Sahay is traumatized to the extent of becoming unhinged and it’s because of her relentless quest for revenge that the plot of ‘Shanghai’ emerges. If Kalki had not had the courage to not play up to the sexual stereotype that we expect from a female lead today we would have been panned for having a slightly muddle- headed plot.
Q. You sound defensive?
“I’m up to every sort of criticism. I can see hundred more faults in my film than anyone else can but this one about Kalki, I only have scorn for. It’s like saying when a man loses his temper he is being assertive. When a woman does so she’s PMS-ing! Those who want to see the lead heroine doing precious else but simper please watch something else. Those who want to see a lead actress carrying a film on her shoulders without giving any thought to her sexuality please watch Kalki in ‘Shanghai’ and please – please- let’s not confuse Kalki’s character with her acting. It’s because she nails Shalini head -on that she threatens you! It’s like saying, ‘God! The villain was so scary I can’t stand him!’ Well the villain acted well for Christ’s sake! Kalki acted a contrary person. At loggerheads with the world, but she, only she is the character who is doing things with true courage and no material advantage in mind. She remains my personal triumph as a true character and if you don’t like her, I don’t like you.”
Q. On the other hand critics say it’s a new beginning for Emraan Hashmi. But how would he be encouraged to do more experimental roles when ‘Shanghai’ doesn’t get the same response as ‘Jannat 2’?
“Emraan needs no encouragement from anyone except his own instincts. He acted in ‘Shanghai’ against many people’s advice. He smiled and told me that many would not like this one to succeed. Emraan will do exactly what he wants. He is already acting with many A-List directors in really prestigious projects. And if this one does not have the collections of ‘Jannat 2’, ‘The Dirty Picture’ and many others, what does it logically say? That it’s Dibakar who made shanghai different from Emraan’s other films. So the brickbats are all for me and I accept them with full perverse glee!”
Q. Your film is an expose on rampant industrialization and globalization. Are you anti-globalization?
“I’m anti-injustice, and also pro- development as long as it is true, intelligent development that is flexible, inclusive and pro-weak and not dumbass and short- sighted which it frequently is.”