They say fact is stranger than fiction. This does not hold true, unfortunately, in the case of Shor In The City, where the three meandering stories, each purportedly inspired from a piece of newspaper reportage, are simply not told interestingly enough to hold the audiences' attention.
Directed by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK, Shor In The City is a collage of three stories, largely disconnected from each other but tangentially coming together at points. And, perhaps affected by the title, it's a fairly chaotic mix.
The script, penned by Raj and Krishna, along with Sita Menon, revolves around three sets of protagonists. There's the case of a trio of hoodlums, Tilak, Ramesh and Mandook, small time book pirates and wannabe gangsters, who chance upon a cache of weapons they want to sell for some quick bucks. Only, the newly married Tilak, who has something of an intellectual bent of mind, isn't sure a life of crime is what he is after.
There's also the foreign returned Abhay who is in the city to set up a business of his own, only to run into a bunch of goons who are out to collect 'protection' money from him, a concept that he doesn't understand. When the goons start stalking him and his new model girlfriend, Shalmili, matters quickly turn dangerous.
And finally, there's Sawan, a budding cricketer who realises he can secure a place neither in the city's under 22 team, nor in his girlfriend's life, without greasing the palms of a shady team selector.
In the midst of all this, the writer directors try to link the stories to the eleven days of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, when the city is at its chaotic best. However, while this festival motif is introduced to the audience at the start of the film, the correlation is simply not clear enough to carry through the entirety.
For a film that seemed so impressive in its promos and trailers, Shor In The City turns out to be a bit of a weak affair. This can primarily be chalked up to the fact that the track that most of the film's duration is devoted to, that of Tilak and his pals, is almost impotent, in the sense that it wanders around for the most part and doesn't go anywhere.
Watching the three try to get around the city looking for a buyer gets boring quite quickly, especially as they're interspersed with the inexplicable angle between Tilak and his wife, Sapna, going through the shyness of a new marriage, something that doesn't add anything to the story. Also, the evolution of Tilak's character, where he goes from being an integral part of the trio to trying to get out of crime and starts spouting philosophy, is quite unconvincing, especially since it comes in the most undecipherable and random ways.
The film is not helped by the fact that the reticent Tusshar Kapoor as Tilak, seems quite uncomfortable in his character's skin, while Nikhil Dwivedi as Ramesh, is just about okay. Radhika Apte as Sapna, though, does quite well as Tilak's housewife.
Still, the track has its interesting parts. The newcomer Pitobash Tripathi, who plays the kooky Mandook, deserves enormous credit here. Tripathi is wildly hilarious in every scene he's present in, especially the ones he gets to control, like the one where he sticks a random guy up in a club men's room and the one where the three try to test out the bomb that they've found.
Though Abhay's track is quite interesting, depicting the frustrations of a common, albeit foreign returned, person's frustration at being victimised by the crime and quid pro quo, baksheesh, system in India, the angle simply doesn't get enough screen time to convincingly approach its violently cathartic climax. Also, after all the hoopla about Preeti Desai as Shalmili and her sensuous scenes with Sendhil Ramamurthy's Abhay, it's a bit odd how she completely disappears post interval. Perhaps the Censors are to blame here?
Still, Abhay's angle about his tryst with the gangsters gives credence to the Shor in the film's title, and is a perfect depiction of the chaos inherent in the city's nature. Sendhil, as Abhay does quite well in his first full fledged Bollywood outing. He is ably backed up by Zakir Hussain as the antagonising gangster, while Preeti Desai doesn't get much scope for histrionics, with just about three four scenes of screen time.
Sundeep Kishan, the Southern star, who plays Sawan, is short changed by the film, given that he turns in an able performance as the beleaguered cricketer, who can't catch a break, whether it in his cricket matches, or in trying to land a career that will convince his girlfriend's family to allow him to marry her. Though his angle has great potential, the film is just not interested in exploring it, even as it gets the most interesting epilogue of the three tracks. The beautiful Girija Oak, who plays Sejal, also deserves praise for her act here.
Musically, though the film has a superb soundtrack by Sachin Jigar, tracks like karma is a bitch and deem deem could certainly have been better used. Tushar Kanti Ray's cinematography also shows great visual sense, and captures the anarchic essence of the film.
With two good stories, out of three, to tell, Shor In The City loses out because of the fact that its focus is on its weakest link. While it seemed immensely promising in its promos, ultimately, the film suffers because of lack of clarity in the directors, Raj and Krishna's collective vision. Still, given that this isn't exactly your run of the mill Bollywood fare, Shor In The City could still make for an interesting watch, especially for the likes of Mandook and Abhay.