Four individuals go through life experiencing the highs and lows as they chase the ever effusive goals of finding love and happiness.
‘Shab’ is a story about broken people on the lookout for a real connection that can lead to happiness. But they look for it in the wrong places. While Mohan (Ashish Bisht), a typical small town model looks for his bit of paradise in the arms of the rich Delhi socialite Sonal Modi (Raveen Tandon), chef Neil (Areesz Ganddi) looks for it in the arms of his ‘straight’ boyfriend who uses him financially as a bank and emotionally as a doormat. There’s Raina (Arpita Pal), with a mysterious past who moonlights as a waitress in Neil’s café as she supports her young sister. Raina’s French neighbour Benoit (Simon Frenay) is running away from his own past back in France and finds solace teaching kids from his apartment.
These individuals pass through each other’s lives through the film, forging and severing connections, yet all their meanderings lead them seemingly nowhere. That, unfortunately, is what happens in the film too. While it is a mature film about human relationships, it is all over the place. There are so many emotional interactions between characters, you almost need a flowchart to keep track. Besides the main characters, even the smaller characters interact with each other and drive the story forward. While this seems like it adds layers to the film, it only works to confuse the viewer.
Raveena Tandon, in her third film this year, doesn’t really stand out. There are moments when her performance is quite credible, but there are others’ when you think you’re looking at a rich socialite from Madhur Bhandarkar’s ‘Page 3’. While Ashish Bisht does look like your typical struggling model, his performance is relegated to that. Arpita Pal, Areesz Ganddi and Simon Frenay do have some chemistry between them, but as individual actors, they don’t make an impact.
Onir, with cinematographer Ashish Bisht, has shot Delhi beautifully. It’s interesting how the filmmaker seasons in the city to show what the characters are going through. We need filmmakers like him to have conversations about subjects like same-sex relationships, single mothers, but he needs to have his objective clear.