At times, holdup and delays – attributed to various reasons – could act as a blessing in disguise for a film. Take SHAGIRD for instance. Though the film was completed a while ago, it has taken a pretty long time to hit the screens. Nonetheless, I wish to add, SHAGIRD doesn’t look stale or jaded, nor does the storyline come across as old-fashioned. So why should the delay act as a blessing? Well, the audience is far more receptive nowadays to movies with unconventional storylines than they were say a year ago. And SHAGIRD, directed by the talented Tigmanshu Dhulia, is not the stereotypical film on cops and gangsters; nor can you draw parallels with any film from the past. The twists in this film are hard to foretell… therein lies its strength. Nana Patekar, the protagonist, has portrayed a wide variety of roles in his illustrious career, including the role of an encounter specialist in AB TAK 56, which he handled so magnificently. But SHAGIRD is different from that film or films of its ilk because unlike most films, which project the protagonist as holier than thou, with spotless reputation, Nana’s character in SHAGIRD isn’t white, isn’t grey either, it’s charcoal black. This top cop is more corrupt than the minister in the film and even beats him in those vicious games. That, coupled with the manner Tigmanshu has handled the subject material, makes SHAGIRD a notch above the ordinary experience. SHAGIRD also works because it never takes the tried and tested route as far as the written material is concerned. It’s devoid of clichÃ©s. In fact, the gritty drama may raise eyebrows since it stuns and startles you constantly. The concept – of how power corrupts people who have access to it – is extremely well handled with lots of twists woven in the tale, right till the end. In fact, even when the film is about to conclude, a shocking twist catches you unaware. It’s not over till it’s over… Unpredictability is clearly its USP. This gritty cop drama takes place in the city of Delhi in the life of two Delhi Crime Branch officers – Hanumant Singh [Nana Patekar], a veteran officer, whose tactics and ethics are more than a little bit questionable and his shagird, Mohit [Mohit Ahlawat], a junior officer who has his own principles. Hanumant Singh and Bunty Bhaiya [Anurag Kashyap] work for powerful politician Rajmani Singh [Zakir Hussain], who rules the state with utmost unfair means. The film also stars Rimmi Sen, a television journalist, who gets kidnapped by terrorists and who demand the release of their men from Indian prisons as ransom. You realize SHAGIRD isn’t the usual chor-police tale at its commencement itself. Besides, like I pointed out at the outset, the film never attempts to be like KHAKEE, SEHAR or AB TAK 56, though the commonality in all these films is that each of them gives a microscopic view of the lives of the cops. Given the genre of the film, SHAGIRD could’ve transformed into a violent, dark film full of blood and gore, but it doesn’t. Sure, there’s violence, but the director ensures that Nana’s character has a lighter side to him, which does the trick. Even when he’s talking to the minister who has ordered his [Nana] killing, the conversation, though serious in nature, is laced with subtle humor.
On the flipside, the entire kidnap drama looks far from convincing. What makes it even more far-fetched is the identity of the person who actually formulates the kidnapping drama. Ideally, when you decide to embark on the path of realism in a film, why this need to get formulaic all of a sudden? Barring this aspect and a few loose ends here and there, SHAGIRD is an exciting fare with a sting. SHAGIRD keeps you engaged because of its super-smart screenplay. Besides, Tigmanshu is an efficient storyteller and he makes sure he narrates the story adroitly. The fight for survival and domination – only there are no winners in this competition – is depicted with expertise here. Tigmanshu’s choice of actors for pivotal parts needs to be lauded as well. Sure, Nana and Zakir Hussain have years of experience to their credit, but casting [director] Anurag Kashyap and Mohit Ahlawat in meaty roles must’ve been a challenge of sorts. Fortunately, both deliver well. Nana’s attitude is just right for the role he essays. The look and the dialect make you disregard the fact that you’re watching an actor enact the role of a cop on screen. The character seems straight out of life and that goes for his performance too. In fact, I’d go to the extent of saying that this is amongst Nana’s compelling performances. Zakir Hussain is first-rate. He enacts the role of a conniving and shrewd politician with gusto. Mohit Ahlawat springs a surprise. Those who had written him off might rub their eyes in disbelief after watching his convincing act. Anurag Kashyap is equally believable as the gangster. Rimmi Sen makes her presence felt in this male-dominated fare. Vishwajeet Pradhan and Khan Jahangir Khan pitch in commendable performances. Virendra Saxena is efficient, as always. The cinematography is up to the mark. The stunts and chase sequences deserve a mention, especially the chase at the start and also in the climax.
On the whole, SHAGIRD is a powerful film with an equally power-packed screenplay. Though a well-made film, the awareness levels have been pretty low and the hype, therefore, is missing. But here’s a film that deserves to be watched for its captivating screenplay and striking performances.