Shorta is the kind of police movie that we need to see more of in India. In the guise of a nerve-racking thriller, directors Frederik Louis Hviid and Anders Ølholm make important observations about the bias that underpins modern urban policing and the stereotyping of minority communities. The Danish-language movie has been released on BookMyShow Stream.
The death of a Muslim man in police custody leads to riots in an immigrant-heavy neighbourhood in Copenhagen. The situation becomes an acid test for two police officers – one older, bigoted and inclined to believe the worst about criminals, the other younger and more empathetic towards and tolerant of the ways of the street.
Mike (Jacob Lohmann) and Jens (Simon Sears) are both involved with the custodial death. Jens is inclined to testify against Mike before a committee of inquiry – an added layer of tension between the men.
As the riots spread, the officers find themselves trapped in the ghetto, with no help forthcoming from their colleagues. The teenager Amos (Tarek Zayat), whom Mike has strip-searched and arrested on suspicion, becomes both an unwanted fellow traveller and the only person who can get them to safety.
There’s no Singham or Simmba in sight as the policemen dodge rocks and bullets and try to save themselves and Amos. Instead, over 108 minutes, we get a series of tense stand-offs between authority figures and protestors and between the cops themselves.
The directors, who are also the writers, ignore moral equivalence and stay focused on the inherently unequal dynamic between one set of people who have the power to do as they please and another who resist in the only way they can. As a character tells Mike, if you are always described as something, you end up believing it.
The narrative is mildly overstretched, and there’s a twist straight out of a Hindi movie. It’s not always possible to believe that the Copenhagen police simply abandon their colleagues to their plight. But most of the time, the excellently performed, vividly shot and always thoughtful Shorta poses critical questions about cops, real criminals and invented enemies.