‘Shab’: Convoluted but astutely mounted

By Troy Ribeiro

Film: “Shab”; Director: Onir; Cast: Raveena Tandon, Ashish Bisht, Simon Frenay, Areesz Ganddi, Gaurav Nanda, Shray Rai Tiwari, Arpita Chatterjee, Sanjay Suri, Raj Suri; Rating: **

Onir’s “Shab” is a bit less stark than its title which means “night” in Urdu, but it is just as provocative. It explores as well as gives some substantial and interesting observations about various relationships. However, the film only scratches the surface not delving deep into the lives of its characters thus, leaving the audience longing for more. Nevertheless, with what it does explore, it makes for a satisfying and light-hearted film.

Drawn from real life incidents and characters, the plot weaves the lives of Sonal Modi – a socialite, Mohan – a wannabe model, Raina – a Bengali waitress, Neil – a restaurant owner, Nishant – his friend and Benoit – a French teacher.

Set in Delhi, the narration begins with a talent hunt for models. An ambitious small-towner, Mohan is rejected for not being up to the mark. After the show, he goes over to Sonal, who happens to be a judge of the show, to plead his case. Sonal, instead of helping him out leaves her visiting card behind, subtly insinuating to him to keep in touch.

Now depressed and out of luck he lands outside Neil’s restaurant where he meets Raina who works there as a waitress. While Neil and Raina help him out that day, he takes his last chance by calling up Sonal and lands up becoming her toy-boy. She christens him Afzar – “The gifted one”, and showers him with gifts and herself. She introduces him to her circle of friends as her trainer.

Mohan loses his heart to Raina, the waitress who works in Neil’s restaurant. But Raina has issues of her own. She has a younger sister to take care of and is attracted to her neighbour Benoit, who she later learns has a secret too.

Meanwhile, Neil is having trouble with his boyfriend Nishant who is on the verge of getting married to a girl his parents have chosen for him. Raina keeps insisting that he break up with Nishant.

Soon, Benoit loses his job as a teacher and Raina recommends that he work at Neil’s restaurant. Mohan finds it difficult balancing his life with his emotions.

This slice of life tale, though complex, is relatable. Co-relating his scenes with the seasons, though they defy logic, Onir manages to mount the film with dexterity.

The performances of the entire cast are sincere. Ashish Bisht, in his debut, gives a credible performance as Mohan. Raveena Tandon is almost always dependable and she plays the bold part of Sonal with panache.

Areesz essays the character of Neil with a cheerful disposition without being stereotypical. Simon Frenay as Benoit is charming and at home with his role. Arpita Chatterjee has many layers to her role of Raina and she executes each layer with flamboyance. Raj Suri as the charming yet vindictive designer Rohan Sud is natural and Sanjay Suri in a miniscule role as Mr. Modi is staid and unimpressive.

With moderate production values, the film manages to exude a fairly appealing look. The visuals captured from cinematographer Sachin Krishn’s lens are impressive. So is the editing by Irene Dhar Malik and Onir.

The background score by Mithun Sharma along with the song, “Kis tarah mein bataoon”, creates an impact.

The film lacks drama and, thus, would appeal only to a limited audience.

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