The brutal reality of Shanghai the film: Disturbing and thought provoking- June 20, 2012

For those who think films are about out and out entertainment, Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai was no joyride. The film hits you with its reality and thoroughly subtle characters. No gimmicks here.
It was one line delivered by the poor innocent tempo driver who got caught in the political mess and was ruthlessly used to murder the unwanted activist, that got my attention. He said “Jeena haraam ho Gaya hai par marne se bhi to dar lagta hai”. Telling the political side of India’s journey of ruthless real estate development, Shanghai highlights the ultimate tragedy of democratic development. Millions in our nation feel this way about their lives, as they continue to see the fruits of development being reaped by a few while their lands are snatched, livelihoods lost, rights taken away and self esteem eroded till they are forced to lead an existence without meaning, devoid of self respect and filled with a constant, irrational fear.
Last year’s backlash against corruption led by Team Anna showed us that this frustration is very real for the middle classes as well. Neither the poor, whose existence is severely compromised in these sort of ruthless power games, nor the middle classes, have any recourse and feel sandwiched between corrupt politicians and bureaucrats on one side and on the other, the daily struggle of their lives. We all live from day to day, hoping against hope that transformation will come. Some of us join hands with the system, others convince themselves to take an apolitical, neutral stand but when we reel under the impacts of poor governance and sheer callousness from those in power, it’s hard to not be angry. The anger simmers and we watch helplessly as our society disintegrates; rising crime and self-centredness become expressions of this frustration we all feel.
The film captures all this beautifully. It helps you see the story behind the headlines, the news of RTI activists killed and collectors mown into. It makes me deeply sad. This beautiful rich land of ours literally being raped in the name of development. As a planner I know there are better ways to do this. That inclusive and sustainable development is possible. But for that, the government and all those in power including developers will have to blunt the razor of greed and sit across the negotiating table with the community to find win win solutions for everyone. Utopian? Perhaps, but let us at least try!

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About ramblinginthecity

I am an architect and urban planner, a writer and an aspiring artist. I love expressing myself and feel strongly that cities should have spaces for everyone--rich, poor, young, old, healthy and sick, happy or depressed--we all need to work towards making our cities liveable and lovable communities.

Posted on June 20, 2012, in Arts and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. As Shakespeare would say – “the fault my dear Brutus, lies in us.” We elect the politicians and it is unfair to blame just the politicians for corruption. Corruption in India exists from top to bottom – the common man is very much a part of it. We start complaining when we see the bigger corrupt system over-riding us. The system is fixable, especially in the era of social media, but the common man has to make the start.

    • I agree. Citizens need to take responsibility as well. What is scary is the basic human tendency of the powerful exploiting the weak. It disturbs me that those meant to safeguard citizen interests are the very ones who are guilty…and unashamed to boot!

  2. I am glad you saw it and liked it … hope this trend of waking up the masses continues through more movies and TV shows

    • liked it yes, but it was too disturbing….went round and round in the head. yes, i think i want to start something along the lines of citizen awareness, inter-citizen communication of some sort. a forum? a publication? write columns in other peoples publications? events? i dont know…we need more and more voices against this completely untenable system where power means everything and life is cheap

  3. Every time I feel that this must be the nadir. But every time I am proved wrong.Shame is something people in power have even forgotten the spelling of.There doesn’t seem to be any light at the end of this tunnel.

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