Shab movie review: Onir's slice-of-life narrative set in Delhi's changing seasons has a dated feel
Four seasons, four (main) characters and their secret lives: Shab (meaning night) begins in summer in Delhi and ends a year later after we have experienced the monsoons, autumn and winter in writer-director Onir’s latest drama.
Raveena Tandon plays high society lady Sonal Modi, who alleviates her boredom and passionless marriage by careless cheating on her jet-set businessman husband Raj (Sanjay Suri). Tandon is pitch perfect in this part as she finds the ideal toy boy in the fresh-off-the-boat Mohan (Ashish Bisht). Mohan comes to Delhi from his hill state hometown in the hope of making it in the world of modelling, but who fails to make the cut in a talent pageant. Modi senses an opportunity. So does Mohan. She renames him Afzar and has him posing as her “personal trainer” and promises him his big break. During the summer segment, therefore, we witness many shots of a topless Bisht as we observe his coming of age. Bisht convincingly pulls off the deer-in-the-headlights look, balancing it competently with his character’s attempts at connivance. Tandon and Bisht also make up for other caricaturised Delhi high society fashion dahlings flitting around them.
Somewhere else in Delhi, Raina (Arpita Chatterjee) is working in a restaurant while seemingly caring for her younger sister Anu. But Raina leads a double life. Little clues are thrown in throughout till the entire dark truth is revealed. Raina’s best friend is restaurant owner Neil (Areesz Ganddi) who has recently been jilted by his male lover who has agreed to an arranged marriage. As natural and measured as Ganddi is, Chatterjee is off tone from her co-actors and plays Raina in a way that makes her highly displeasing.
Raina’s neighbour is Benoit (Simon Frenay), a Frenchman running away from a tragedy of his own. His true personality and the evolution of his relationship with Raina and Neil as well as his engagement with Delhi is gently handled and unhurriedly revealed. But where you have proficient acting on one hand, you have a disjointed narrative (script by Merle Kröger and Onir) on the other. For almost two seasons you have little idea of the motivations of these characters, and are provided almost no palpable reason to sympathise with them. An attempt to build suspense also falters as the mystery to these secret lives is greatly unoriginal. While issues of judgment, double standards and prejudice are dealt with carefully on one hand, plot conveniences and cliched charaters pop up on the other. What this means is that by the time autumn rolls around, you are into the winter of your discontent.
After My Brother Nikhil and I Am, among others, Shab should have augmented Onir’s oeuvre. Perhaps being based on a script written over a decade ago contributed to the feeling of datedness.
Published Date: Jul 14, 2017 10:41 AM | Updated Date: Sep 25, 2017 22:12 PM