Mayank Shekhar's review: Shabri

By Hindustan Times

Director: Lalit Marathe
Actors: Isha Koppikar, Pradeep Rawat
Rating: *1/2

This is lead actor Isha Koppikar’s second film on female empowerment, if you may. The first one was a lesbian love-triangle called Girlfriend (Yeah, I’m kidding. Of course). The Times of India, I recall, had a three-word review for that 2004 masterpiece. It merely said: “Avoidable. Very avoidable.” This one, in comparison, is infinitely better. For sure.

The heroine is tanned from above the neck (strikingly fair-skinned around the shoulders). She’s supposed to be a street urchin. Her young brother’s randomly picked up by the police and killed in custody. For no apparent reason. She bumps off that rogue cop in return. The screen is dust-brown, dark, dingy, even grainy in parts. Drama mostly takes place either indoors or on quiet, sanitised gullies. There’s very little Mumbai in this city film.

Unlike popular insinuation, this is not a movie based on a female Mafiosi either. Instead, it follows Shabri (Isha), the slum woman, on the run. The movie’s main don is a well-built, oldish man in white, who runs an odd sort of mini-empire. He shoots his colleagues and minions dead -- as and when he feels like. A loyal Man Friday serves him heavy meals. What’s cooking, is roughly what he always wants to know. ‘Matka’ (illegal gambling), it appears, is his core line of business. But he was once a wrestler, back home in his village.

Here’s a trivia question for you: Who plays Ghajini in (the film) Ghajini? Sad, that you haven’t heard of one Pradeep Rawat. The film named after his character remains one of the biggest blockbusters in Bollywood’s history. Pradeep plays that big don in this movie as well. You’ll probably forget his character again.

This fellow pumps a full round of bullets on a man he’s been trying to get hold of for a while. His victim happens to be Shabri’s partner. She and this dead partner had together killed the said don’s brother. The don, who’s rightly mad, gets another gun out, starts shooting at the dead-body all over again. He still patiently leaves Shabri, the partner in crime, alone to wail in the corner of his den. That’s a pretty dumb don, if you ask me. The slum girl merrily leaves, wants to kill him off now. Good for her.

The only person admittedly getting “antertainment”, among a motley crew of lame Muslim brothers, Hindu butchers, is a studiedly calm super-cop: “Qazi. Irfan Qazi. Naam toh suna hoga!” He follows the slum-girl Shabri into a cinema hall. The film playing before them is Ek Haseena Thi, a different kind of minor masterpiece from 2004: solid, female revenge drama, well made at least until first half, produced by Ram Gopal Varma. Like this film itself. Though this one had been lying in the cans for years.

Actor Zakir Hussain plays the said calm cop. Incidentally, he'd made his debut in Ek Haseena Thi seven years ago. He’s been there, done that since; enacted a similar role in Varma's Not A Love Story just a week before. Poor guy. He must be bored, looking at himself do the same things all over again here. So be it. He can join the crowd. If there's any. Or maybe not. Audiences won't find anything new in this movie either. Why bother.

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