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4.29 

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Encounter Cops in a Topsy turvy world
May 16, 2011 12:21 PM 3959 Views

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Way back in 2003, Timangshu Dhulia, made an impact with Haasil, his look at the phenomenon of  student  leaders getting drawn into goondaism, and the influence of goons in campus politics, set in small town Uttar Pradesh.


Aided by some power house performances by  Irfaan Khan, Ashutosh Rana, Jimmy Shergill, the movie was a realistic look at the gangsterism that had begun to dominate the politics in Uttar Pradesh.  The movie though not much of a commercial success, slowly picked up by word of mouth, and it became a cult  favorite, especially in it's portrayal of the UP underworld and the lingo used.  In a way it kick started the trend of  movie set against the backdrop  of  UP-Bihar  gangsters,  Gangajal, Apharan, Omkara, Ishqiya,  all taking a look at  this issue. Dhulia's  second movie Charas, a look at the drug trade in Himachal Pradesh, was not much impressive though.


After a long time, Dhulia  makes a comeback, with  Shagird, I believe this movie had some problems in being released earlier, not much aware of it. And this time  the setting is Delhi,  and it's  underworld.  Looks  like   in  recent times, Delhi  has become  the  favorite choice of  subject  for  Bollywood  movie makers,  be it   charming middle class stories  like  Khosla Ka Ghosla, Do Dooni  Chaar  or  candy floss  stuff like Aisha  or serious dramas  like  Rang De Basanti, Delhi 6  or  the gritty crime tales like Yeh Saali  Zindagi.   Having  lived in Delhi  for  a good  2 years,  I can surely say  the city  has much more to  it  than  the usual touristy sights or  the Govt  offices, it  is a city  that  has a stunning diversity,  be it  the rich  enclaves of  South Delhi or  the more busting middle  class enclaves of  Karol Bagh, Punjabi  Bagh,  Janakpuri to the crowded  gallis  of  Chandni Chowk,  Older Delhi,  it is  a city with so many  different  layers  and   personalities.


Hanumant  Singh( Nana Patekar) is  the central character  of  Shagird,  an encounter cop  who is as shady  and crooked as they come,  with a love for old Hindi movie songs. He   carries out  random encounters,  and takes the cut  from the other parties, and distributes the loot among his team  of  cops, all as shady  and crooked  as him. He   is on the payroll of  Rajmani Singh( Zakir  Hussain),  a leading politician, equally crooked and shady, for whom he does all the dirty  work.   The  movie  kicks  off  with  Bunty  Bhaiyya(  Anurag  Kashyap),  a notorious  gangster being arrested by  the  cops. The opening scene  is  shot  superbly, in rain, and the scenes, where  Bunty  walks into the prison like a hero, the cops doing the salaam to him, other prisoners hero worshiping him  are all well shot,  setting the tone.  Bunty   used to be the hit man for Rajmani Singh, and  he believes his  master will bail him out soon.  Rajmani  however  has other plans, as Bunty could turn out  to be an embarassment  for  his aspiring  political career,  and wants him to be bumped off.


Into this  shady and corrupt  world,  enters Mohit Sharma( Mohit Ahlawat),  as a member of  Hanumant  Singh's  team. Mohit  is fresh, young and idealistic,  he  looks up to Hanumant  as  as role model. However  he  is  shocked by the corruption he sees in the force, and the way  Hanumant  and his associates  openly  indulge in  it.  Hanumant  tells him that  honesty and idealism has no place  in the force, and one has to survive. Things  take a turn,  when Mohit's  girl  friend  Rimi Sen, a TV reporter is kidnapped by some terrorists,  who demand the release of  their  Lashkar E Haq  comrades in prison. And  this sets  the stage  for  a number of  twists and turns  in the movie, where  nothing is  what it seems.  Things go topsy  turvy, people double cross each other,  no one is what  they seem to be they are.


The  first  half  of  Shagird  is good in parts, the  encounter  killings  are well picturized, as also the scenes  between the  encounter cops, and  the parts where they  share the loot  amongst themselves. Also  the  scenes between  Nana  and Zakir  Hussain are first  rate.  The camera beautifully captures Saddi Dilli, be it  the spacious India Gate lawns, the crowded  gallis and mohallas, the  Chandni Chowk area,  the ruins of  Delhi,  the city  is well captured.  However  what drags  down the  movie in the first  half  is  the entire Mohit  Ahlawat-Rimi Sen track,  the romance is half baked,  and  the media is shown in an exaggerated  manner. The biggest  letdown however is the entire  Rimi Sen kidnapping drama, done  in such an amateurish and slip shod manner, it  just sticks out  like a sore thumb.  The entire drama is so  stupid and silly,  just  makes you wonder what  was the point in it.


The  movie picks up  pace however in the 2nd  half,  and  the twists and turns in the story, keep you hooked till the end, the scripting is really good, here, as we see the characters play games, double cross each other,  and nothing seems to be what it is.  This is the major  strength of  the movie. Some of  the action scenes, however  seem  straight out  of  the 90's, especially in the climax, and don't really fit  in to the movie.  Also  excessive  use  of  slow motion  and a  loud background score, at  times, is pretty  jarring.


Nana  Patekar is  first  rate as Hanumant  Singh,  playing a more shady version of  his Ab Tak  56 role, also  his love for old Hindi movie songs, makes his character much more endearing.  Zakir  Hussain, another brilliant actor, effortlessly slips into the role of  Rajmani  Singh, playing the shady politician to perfection with that typical UP lingo of his.  Anurag  Kashyap  as the gangster  Bunty  Bhaiyya, does a decent job.  Mohit  Ahlawat  however  is a big  let down, he just  can't  act at all, too stiff.  Of the supporting  cast, the actors who play  Nana's colleagues do well, as also the actor who plays the role of  Punditji,  Rajmani Singh's  close confidant and adviser.


In spite of a rather weak  first half, with  some rather silly scenes, I would still recommend  this movie for it's  unpredictable and exciting  second half, which keeps you hooked. And above all there is Nana Patekar, a good enough reason to watch it.


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