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8 June 2012, Deccan Chronicle

New film questions India’s ‘Shanghai’ envy

Gateway House's Ambassador Neelam Deo was quoted in an article by Deccan Chronicle on the recently released Indian movie 'Shanghai.' The article discusses India's envy and obsession of China's financial capital which is the theme of the movie.

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A Hindi political thriller called Shanghai hits cinemas on Friday, raising awkward questions about India’s development with a fictional town trying to emulate fellow giant China’s shiny financial capital. The film, a Hindi version of 1966 Greek novel Z, is set in a small unnamed town being pumped with funds to become a major economic hub, ‘the next Shanghai’ — a vision that is a common promise among politicians.

Director Dibakar Banerjee says the film looks at the gulf between the dream of Shanghai and the reality for hundreds of millions of people every day — and questions whether one model can fit every country. “Shanghai has become kind of a touchstone for much of the political debate around development that goes around in India,” he told online magazine BollySpice.

The film, unusually for a Bollywood plotline, delves into a murky world of crime and politics, the gaping rich-poor divide in India and the thorny issue of the less well-off being thrown off their land for urban development. Banerjee, known for small-budget hits such as the 2006 movie Khosla Ka Ghosla (Khosla’s Nest), is among a growing band of Hindi filmmakers whose works deviate from the popular but generic escapist blockbusters.

His latest offering has already raised hackles ahead of its release on Friday, with a Hindu nationalist group filing a court case seeking a ban over a song that refers to India as a land of diseases and cow dung. Indians are conflicted in their feelings about China, whom they compete with for investment from the West, say observers. There’s mistrust over a military defeat in 1962, contempt over its lack of freedom and democracy and, latterly, a great envy for its economic progress.

Former ambassador Neelam Deo, a director of Gateway House, an Indian foreign policy think-tank, says there is no doubt about the covetous glances cast towards the north by middle-class Indians and businessmen. “All the Indians who visit Shanghai are just blown over. They’re really impressed by the new construction, the shininess, as well as the efficiency,” Deo said.


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