Bollywood's Dibakar Banerjee on his uncommon Shanghai

By Hindustan Times

Political thrillers are not that common in Bollywood but then director and producer Dibakar Banerjee rarely chooses conventional subjects for his films.

Banerjee, 42, explored sexual attitudes in small-town India with Love Sex aur Dhokha, Love, Sex and Betrayal, in 2010. His latest film puts
the spotlight on the dark underbelly of urban development in rapidly modernising India.

The filmmaker spoke to Reuters about his new project, the political film Shanghai about the mysterious death of a social activist and the bureaucrat investigating it.

Q: What would you say is the core theme of Shanghai?
A: "Shanghai is about the strength of the individual, because unless and until the individual stands up, there will be no public. The public is very fickle. They change their leaders. Even Gandhi didn't have a following forever. By the time he finished telling everyone not to partition the country, the partition had happened. The country just wanted a quick-fix solution and they steamrolled all over him.

"Collective will can change - Shanghai also shows that - the power of the mob. How the mob can be used to say anything and let it be construed to be in national interest ... I've spoken to and read so many accounts of those who have been in mobs and robbed and pillaged, and they are as defeated and as forgotten as the victims. Shanghai talks about how our lives, more often than not, are controlled by powers that we don't recognise."

Q: What's in the name Shanghai?
A: "The core of Shanghai is this belief by educated Indians that we have to be like China or we have to beat China or that China is better than us or that China is stronger than us. It's a pet peeve that the educated middle-class has, and it shows how we are trying to define ourselves by someone else's yardstick. It's easy because it gives you a quick-fix solution that we have to be like China, or we don't have to be like China. But I have travelled extensively in China, and I know that they have their own problems and they are sorting them out in their own way."

Q: Is it difficult to bring all these ideas and thoughts into a film?
A: "It's not difficult