Dibakar’s strictures on the morphing of democracy into controlled anarchy are clearly drawn from the headlines of the day, but in the ‘director’s notes’ he shared with Yahoo!, the director traces the actual inspiration for Shanghai to Z, the 1996 novel written by the very prolific Greek author Vassilis Vassilikos.
The novel, later made into an Oscar-winning (Best Foreign Language Film) film by Greek auteur Costa (Constantinos) Gavras, tells the story of the murder of a prominent politician, the efforts of government officials and the military to cover up their respective roles in the killing, and the work of an investigating judge to unravel the plot.
His own story and screenplay, Dibakar says, is loosely adapted from Vassilikos’ novel (IMDB credits the Greek author with writing credits for Shanghai). “It is the story of State oppression and collusion in crime – a theme I think very relevant to contemporary India,” says Dibakar in his director’s notes.
Oftentimes, the ‘political thriller’ is merely an excuse for the larger-than-life hero to tear off his shirt, strip down to whatever brand of vest he is currently endorsing, and make the world safe for democracy with his flying fists (and some special effects). In the process, the storyline becomes a pretext – some injury or insult suffered by the hero or his nubile girl-friend is the spark for mayhem.
‘Time pass’, perhaps – but as you leave the theater you realize that you don’t really care: the hero has solved his problems, but you what difference does it make to you?
Dibakar seeks to view – and make us view – the political thriller from a different, more personal, prism.