An impoverished woman faces off against gangsters as well as the police after her brother is killed.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Shabri
Raj Arjun ...
Murad
Manish Wadhwa ...
Vilas
...
Rajdharbhau (as Pradip Rawat)
...
Inspector Irfan Qazi
Vijay Kadechkar ...
Bandya
Sanjay Kulkarni ...
Inspector Kadam
Datta Sonawane ...
Inspector Khare
Vimal Mhatre ...
Shabri's Mother
Kishore Nandlaskar ...
Shabri's Father
Niraj Kumar ...
Kisnya Bhau
Ragesh Asthana ...
Shardool Seth
Parvez Khan ...
Rahuu
Chandan Pethkar ...
Nana
Archana Thavre ...
Mrs. Khare
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Storyline

Shabri lives an impoverished lifestyle along with her mother; alcoholic father; and younger brother, Bandya. She is the sole earner in her family and embittered at the manner in which life has treated her. She not only chastises Bandya for spending too much time on the street with a goon, Murad, instead of focusing in his studies but also her father. Things take a turn for the worst when Bandya is arrested by Inspector Khare and tortured in the police station. When Shabri goes to see him, Khare attempts to molest her, but she manages to escape. The next day Bandya is found dead allegedly on the grounds that he tried to escape from police custody. Refusing to believe this 'version', Shabri takes a knife and goes to confront Khare. It is this confrontation that will result in Khare's death with his own service revolver, resulting in a manhunt from Vikhroli to Bhendi Bazar, and she will be compelled to seek Murad's help to go in hiding. But things are only to worsen when a heavily ... Written by rAjOo (gunwanti@hotmail.com)

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Action | Crime | Drama

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26 August 2011 (USA)  »

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An Elegy Upon the Demise of the Proverbial Indian Barbie
19 November 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

According to a list compiled by IMDb, hardly 10 of the 81 most significant changes in actors' looks in popular cinema have been by women. Namely, Natalie Portman, Nicole Kidman, Ellyn Burstyn, Demi Moore, Charlize Theron, Helena Bohman Carter, Emma Thompson, Hillary Swank, and Cameron Diaz. They have shaved their hair, chapped, freckled and scorched their skin, put on weight, all to literally get into the skin of their characters and made themselves look (conventionally) less attractive. The latest addition to them all comes from unexpected quarters. Bollywood, infamous for it's assembly line that boxes glamor dolls into arm candy roles, observes Isha Koppikhar in a new avatar called Shabri. Inspired by a true story, she sheds her graces to acquire the looks of a slum dweller that evolves into a legendary gangster.

Shabri's story narrates a greater phenomenon in turbulent times, the rise of female criminality. Westernization and industrialization have driven the traditional woman from the domestic space to the productive job sector, (as Shabri runs a flour mill). Added responsibilities, stress and failure to attain their socially defined goals drive frustration and pave the ways of their families into crime. The entry of Shabri represents and strikingly resonates with this rising demographic. She rises from the ashes of poverty forced by survival to climb into the snake pit of political power in the Mumbai underworld.

The meticulous eyes of Lalit Marathe cover every clinical aspect, be it the sewed shreds on her blouse, or her brother stealing her slippers because his own pair is torn and they can't afford new ones. The camera shots and angles are absolutely novel and brilliant. They show the characters in poignant frames and settings, putting together nothing less than a work of art. Simple objects like a dead tree branch, a window or a balcony are used as props and benchmarks to express the moods of the characters. Feels like the arrival of Louvre in the Mumbai underworld.

Throughout the film, Shabri's presence is more powerful than words, her silence more deafening than screams. As she rests her head on a brick wall while mourning the loss of a loved one, and as her tearful eyes look up in a slant to her captor that takes her home, grief gives way to fury. The supporting cast plays their part just right, with the finesse and the pace that fits the mood of the film. The villain's character is especially well developed, as he depicts a variety of emotions, not just negative tones, leading him to become one more of the characters in the film rather than just a bad guy. Shabri's relationship with Murad is very well distanced, as well as crafted. Their platonic coexistence has romantic roots, but ones that remain unspoken of. There are many tender moments in the film where bringing closure to the scene would set the film on the path of a commercial potboiler. However as a maestro would, the director holds back, allowing the viewer's imagination to execute the task.

A fascinating character in the film is Inspector Quazi. Various psychology theories suggest that one of the deepest roots to human motivation is that of seeking stimulation, and Quazi fits it perfectly. A man of outstanding capabilities who is bored with the mundane routine of his job, he strives to reinvent his job such that he may be amused and entertained. He lives his life with the pursuit of unleashing chaos, aspiring to keep the reins of all the players of the game in his own hands. What sets this movie a class apart is that the brutality and action is not driven to over kill. It makes a gritty as well as a crisp viewing experience. There isn't an abundance or overflow of blood, nor any loudness in the expressions of those in it. Fights are swift and real, not orchestrated, nor elaborate. The colors are faded and blood is dark red, not vermilion. Gunshots are snappy, and deaths of important characters devoid of melodrama. From the waters lapping against the shore at low tide at the docks, to the hand rubbed polish on Rawat's vintage Jaguar, Shabri is a vividly constructed original script as well as a well narrated tale. Unlike many others, it does not end where the audience starts to leave the theater. It ties up the loose ends, relates to how life proceeds for each of the significant characters, and how the dark night gives way to dawn. The aftertaste it leaves behind is not necessarily sweet, but one that perfectly whets the viewers' appetite.

The action role in a Saree also makes Shabri a cultural icon. Since gender equality and feminist themes in media originated in western nations, most action roles enacted by women in Bollywood have been in western attires (with the added flexibility in physical movement). But unlike the many who dress as Lara Croft to depict an action performance, Shabri kicks, shoots, jumps, and runs in a tattered Saree. Being the first female actor that embraces her action role with an Indian identity, she doesn't imitate a fighting man. She's a woman that fights as herself.

With this performance, Isha Koppikhar challenges the corridors of power in Bollywood just as the fictitious Shabri does to her male counterparts. In a land where men pursue fair and handsome and women's dowry rates correlate with the sales of fair and lovely creams, she displays the courage to add more layers of darkness to her complexion. She could evoke mourning for the demise of porcelain beauty, or celebrations for the arrival of character and essence in a woman. But her charms invade our senses as the touch of raindrops on a heated brick wall. Unnerving, yet soothing and memorable.


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