Ms. Spitfire To 'Matka' Don
By MovieTalkies.com, 25 August 2011
(Ratings: Poor * Average ** Good *** Very Good**** Excellent *****)
Gritty gangster cinema is definitely back with a bang! After playing glam roles or demure dames, actress Eesha Koppikhar has certainly outdone herself in the role of Shabri- a woman gangster ruling the mean streets of Mumbai.
'Shabri' revolves around the life of a woman by the same name (Eesha Koppikhar) staying with her family in one of the countless hutments of the city and trying to make both ends meet while dealing with an alcoholic father and a kid brother Bandya who is eager to make a quick buck by hook or crook. The brother takes to hanging out with a benevolent matka operator named Murad bhai who keeps persuading the former to "make a clean life for himself and leave this grime."
All hell breaks loose however when the brother get picked up by the police for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and despite efforts by Shabri and the matka operator Murad bhai to get him released, the helpless teen gets brutalised and killed by a corrupt and lecherous cop named Khare in a spine chilling scene.
Determined to wreak vengeance, Shabri tracks the cop down to his police colony residence and shoots him dead in front of his family before making a daring escape. Now with the police on her heels, Murad decides to rope in the help of Kisna, the younger brother of local don Rajdhar (Pradeep Rawat) for bailing Shabri out. However, when the duo turn up for the meeting and Kisna declares his intention to turn in Shabri to avoid a police backlash, Murad kills Kisna in a fit of rage.
The matter is soon brought up before Rajdhar, a gangster with a mercurial temper who doesn't think twice before shooting the messenger (quite literally) on delivery of bad news. Now with the cops and the gangsters hunting for them, Shabri and Murad decide to strike back and therein begins a game of cat and mouse involving all the three parties viz. Shabri, the cops and Rajdhar. Thrown in the mess is a ruthlessly brilliant cop Inspector Qazi (Zakir Hussain) who wants some "entertainment" for himself by playing all parties against each other.
Murad is killed by Rajdhar in front of Shabri who then puts Rajdhar on her hit list and manages to get him killed by his own men after persuading them to defect with the lure of a better life. The climax of the movie shows Shabri becoming the new don after having Rajdhar bumped off and taking control of his matka business.
Director Lalit Marathe waited for many years before his movie released, but the wait seems worth it. For a debut, Marathe has done a great job displaying the gritty side of Mumbai seen earlier in cult flicks like Satya and Company.
Performance wise, Koppikhar easily slips in the skin of the character, a rustic lower middle class woman who is pushed beyond her endurance and who decides to strike back though a bit more improvement as far as body language and mannerisms would have been welcome (she seems a bit too emotionally inhibited and refined for a lower middle class woman in certain scenes).
On the plus side, Marathe has fortunately refused to show Shabri as the quintessential gangster with redeeming virtues. The vengeful woman kills police official Khare right in front his family comprising a wife and a young son without batting an eyelid and decides to have her trusted lieutenant Vilas (Manish Wadhwa) bumped off merely on suspicions of deceit. Shabri is as cold-blooded as any person on the wrong side of the law can get.
Pradeep Rawat as Rajdhar is one dimensional-the kind of gangster who snarls at everyone around him and rules his gang with an iron fist. Zakir Hussain, who seems to be a permanent fixture of the Varma camp is brilliant, as always, in the role of Qazi, though his motive behind playing the two gangs against each other is not quite clear. Moreover, his explanation being that he does it for "entertainment" as a policing job is quite stressful doesn't sound convincing enough. Raj Arjun as Murad bhai and small screen actor Manish Wadhwa as Vilas too perform satisfactorily.
On the down side, the movie does tend to drag in some places and a crisper editing could have improved the fare. For example, the scene where Rajdhar traces his history and journey to gangster-dom in a moment of grief is really unnecessary and serves no useful purpose. Besides, why would a matka operator Murad (no matter how benevolent) be so fond of a local lad Bandya to the extent of locking horns with a dreaded gangster is anybody's guess (though it is later revealed that Murad had a crush on Shabri; however, Murad's affection for the lad seems quite forced).
Moreover, every police official in the movie seems to be corrupt and the policemen seem to carry on committing crimes from sodomising a young boy with a baton to kidnapping a woman (Shabri) for the purpose of making her a sex slave with nary a worry about the consequences of their actions. Granted that there is corruption in the police force, but it is evident that Marathe is definitely taking things too far.
In conclusion, Shabri is not a bad fare in itself, but falls short of being a Satya in many ways. Worth a watch anyways, specially keeping in consideration the performances by Koppikhar and Zakir Hussain amongst others.