Cast: Raveena Tandon, Ashish Bisht, Simon Frenay, Areesz Ganddi, Arpita Chatterjee, Gaurav Nanda, Raj Suri, Sanjay Suri, Shray Rai Tiwari
In Shab, Onir attempts to showcase the lives of those living on the fringes of society (for want of acceptance). The film obviously draws from real life incidences/ biographical experiences mined from newspapers headlines and personal confidences, for its drama.
The story is a complicated series of trysts in the dusk and the narrative plays out like a game of ‘finding your partners’ in a field of restaurant goers and party lovers. In fact, most of the sequences in Shab are set within the closed confines of restaurants, apartments, fashion parlours, while making all too brief forays into the streets of New Delhi, where each player bumps into the wrong person before falling into the right arms (at least for the duration of the story which covers all the four seasons Summer, Monsoon, Autumn and winter).
Shab is basically ‘Fashion’ without the passion and smarts of cinematic enterprise. It tracks the intermingling lives of four characters; Mohan (Ashish Bisht) from small-town Dhanaulti comes to the city for a supermodel contest, loses and immediately manages to set himself up as a ‘Trainer/Toyboy’ to a rich socialite, Industrialist Vivek Modi’s (Sanjay Suri) wife Sonal (Raveena Tandon). Along the way Mohan now rechristened Afzar goes all tender about Raina (Arpita Chatterjee) who has a dark secret as Afiya, and is friends with Neel (Areesz Gandii) and Benoit (Simon Frenay). Added to this assorted mix are a fashion designer Rohan (Raj Suri), Baljeet (Gaurav Nanada) who is Afiya’s obsessive lover and Nishant (Shray Rai Tiwari) who is Neel’s on again, off again love interest.
The plotting is complicated and entirely contrived. It feels almost like the people in this convoluted drama are living in a parallel universe where every character bumps into the other in the space of a year. It’s a stark, unfeeling representation of life behind the curtain of stigma and leaves you distended rather than disturbed.
For filmmakers like Onir, it’s almost become fashionable to have gay, bisexual characters take centre stage in an accumulated tableau. This hackneyed attempt to hold a mirror to the lives of those in forbidden relationships is sensitive and non-judgemental in its assay but the lack of passion is sorely off-putting. The cinematography and music have haunting flair but the stilted dialogues, the lack of momentum in the pacing, the hesitant performances (save for Raveena who looks ravishing and does a fairly good job) and the un-purposeful narration makes it tough going.