by Amrita Simon
'Shabri' is the story of a slum-dweller girl,working hard at an Atta-chakki for her family that is almost as poor as church mice.
An alcoholic father,a mother working herself almost to the bone making pickles and a young brother who loiters around mixing with the wrong kind of people, adds to the burden of the already heavy laden,weary and frustrated Shabri..
The ashen tinted film symbolizes the lack of any hope or color in Shabri's life. Her concern for her brother 'Bandhya'(Vijay) is expressed only through tight slaps and scraps over a pair of rubber slippers.
'Murad' (played by newcomer Raj Arjun) is a Mathka player with a heart.
From the very beginning, he is shown as a savior of sorts.His expressive eyes say it all.... his compassion and kindness.
Acutely aware of and almost hating what he does for a living, Murad is seen constantly discouraging Shabri's brother to have anything to do with anything illegal.
The only dramatic entry in the film is that of the Villain (Pradeep Rawat). He seems even more sinister than what he was in Ghajini, literally making the back of the hair on your head stand up.
Bandhya gets picked up by the police for a crime he is innocent of. Murad frantically tries to get him out but fails.
Shabri turns up at the Police station to set her brother free. While she waits outside the Cop-in-charge is shown slurping his meal in a disgusting way. The way he tears into the meat he is eating and sucks at the bones depicts what some corrupt and cruel cops are capable of doing.
As he leers and touches Shabri, her terrified young brother, his beating wounds visible, his voice quivering with terror, musters enough courage to tell the cop to lay off his sister or else.....
Later Bandhya is shown in a dark cell with a lone bulb swinging mid-air,with cops all around him and one of them undressing.
What you see later is not for the faint-hearted.
The Director, Lalit Marathe shows Bandya's torture and brutalization, in a way that has never, ever been seen on any Hindi Movie screen before.
Murad breaks the news to Shabri in silent scene that nevertheless conveys his own pain.
When Shabri sees her brother's young broken body, his torn chappals (the very pair she'd fight with him about) laying alongside, a representation of sorts, of the perverted, animal like cruelty he had to go through, something inside her snaps and she takes the law into her own hands.
Murad stands by her like a rock. The rest of the movie is about how because of their actions Murad and Shabri are on the run and literally have to 'hit the mattresses' with both the police and the Villain 'Rajdhar Bhau' hot in their pursuit.
In a juicy, author backed role, Isha Koppikar,(Shabri) gives the best performance of her career with her slum-dweller look (dark pancake,crumpled saree, et al) and gait down to a pat.
Almost always serious in every frame, one gets to see Shabri give a slight glimmer of a smile when she catches Murad looking at her as she dries her freshly washed hair.
Newcomer Raj Arjun (Murad) is the surprise package of the film .
Considering,this was his first film, he has given a beautifully restrained performance, expressing himself softly with words or sometimes with his eyes only. Any other actor in his place would have hammed or may have been tempted to but Raj gives a stellar performance in a role that should have been longer.
Zakir Hussain is good as the stony faced cop with a wry sense of humor.
As the main Villain, Pradeep Rawaat has out done himself. He is just too good. Unlike other Directors who show the Villain as just a very bad guy, Lalit Marathe has carved out many facets in his Villain that shows his cruelty, his pain and finally his stunned grief.
In fact the Villain is the best etched character of the film.
As a first time Director, Lalit Marathe has done a good job, paid attention to detail, made a good film on a novel concept and is worth watching out for.
Even though, in my opinion, the film could have done without the ashen hues and expanded the romantic angle between Murad and Shabri a little more, it is unquestionably a must watch for all those gangster film aficionados out there.