A certain immunity insidiously develops over time if one is part of a metropolis..especially if experience has not provided an alternate lifestyle. One gets accustomed to Life- In- A- Metro, its eccentric and erratic ways, torpedo engined pace, ego centric paradigms, demanding emotional bonds, unquestioning surrender to its gargantuan appetite for devouring the spirit. So much so that when a ‘big deal is made of ‘metro life’ one wonders what the fuss is all about. Isn’t this what life connotes anyways?
Therefore when one sets out to view a film the title of which screams out ‘Life.. In A Metro’ one has sub consciously resigned oneself to expecting an exaggerated, superfluous. hyperbolic, frenzied account of the above mentioned characteristics. You are as excited as a terrapin on land. The one factor that does elicit a whiff of curiosity is the ensemble cast. A smorgsabord of actors who have lately proven to be delectable in their prowess..Irrfan Khan after Namesake and ‘Maqbool’ has almost acquired the status of ‘demi God of ‘parallel cinema’, Shiney Ahuja, the SRK of the financially challenged maker. Kangana Ranaut the impoverished version of Ash, but an actress with great potential, Konkona Sen, the actor with the most-est, ability, proficiency and enviable roles, KK the man who does not flinch, even in the presence of a “Sarkar” and has carved a niche slowly but surely .
Lastly the Director Anurag Basu..here is a man whose last films“Gangster’ had managed to erase the flop tag that is uncaringly pre fixed on a maker, irrespective..Whether the inherent talent is crying out for recognition , is hardly worth a thought..as is evident with his earlier Ekta kapoor debacles and Bhatt camp films, ‘Saaya’ and ‘Tumsa Nahin Dekha” Who cares and is concerned with the reason for a non success. You can go cry yourself hoarse, finally have to accept your destiny. But he was lucky to have survived, most are not, and got his chances to prove his mettle all over again. .after the huge success of ‘Murder’.
The film’s focus on life vis a vis sex and money is as good a take off point as any. Relationships struggling to balance themselves entrapped in the vixen hold of these, provides the conflict plot. Who survives and how real is that which has, is finally the crux of the story.
Does it encapture the turbulence of metro life? Yes and more. From the first scene to the last one is kept rivetted. The dialogues and screenplay as if providing a slice of life in its un corrupted almost pristine version. Never a false moment, contrived emotion. This proves to be the strong-point of the film. One forgets oneself, loses sense of separateness from the characters. No small feat!
Flaws however, do make their presence felt. First the inclusion of Dharmendra and Nafisa Ali. Their story somehow seemed redundant and did not fit in. Considering that sufficient thought may have gone into development of characters and the rationale , one is thinking aloud. If it is meant to convey old age homes as the growing phenomenon of metro life , the perhaps the logicality does impress. But then again..Why Nafisa Ali. She hardly appeared as fit candidate. If at all her presence was integral to the film, since Shilpa met Shiney there, then why the love angle? Unless yet again we decide to logicalise it. Perhaps the intention was to mirror the ‘live and let live’ adage in cities. Where traditional old shackles, long past their expiry date, are broken to welcome the advent of a new freedom, Love Happens..irrespective of Age. One wishes however the pair was different. Victor Banerjee, in the role of Dharmendra would have been fantastic.
The only scene which worked with the couple was a dying Nafisa Ali in an Ambulance and a traffic bottleneck that reuses to melt. How often we experience that..its scary! A truism of Metro life. Second flaw is the jarring break with the band playing at the height of emotional pitch of a scene. Why O Why? But besides these two, which in the final analysis, do not amount to much, unless one wants to make a gung ho of it as have some critics, obviously with a personal axe to grind, the experience is Fulfilling.
Irrfan Khan and Konkona Sens track provides guffaws and the much required light interlude. Surprising this coming from two actors so far known for their serious performances. It proves their versatility as much as Anurags brilliant writing. However, the duo whose story was the most appealing was Shiney Ahujas and Shilpa Shettys. Shilpa had signed on for the film previous to her halo-ed ‘Big Brother days’. Destiny has been kind to Anurag..all his actors had metamorphed into mini stars during the making of the film. The film is said to have been conceived during the filming of ‘Gangster’, when none of these hadas yet staked their claim to celebrity hood. So the Gods have been kind, deservedly.
Kudos to Shilpa and the Director, her performance is her best so far. Who could have imagined that she’d make you cry one day.. I mean films like ‘Garv’ finished her chances forever one would have imagined.
Shiney should now be officially declared the ‘eternal jilted lover’ after Hazaaron Khwahishe, Gangster, Woh lamhe..he has perfected the longing in his languid eyes, stubbled Devdas look, utterly romantic guy look to the hilt. He probably breezed through the part..but came out quite a winner.
Sharman Joshi, was the surprise package. Here is a guy who knows his marbles. Confident, self assured and professional. The story with Kangana and KK reminded one of ‘Yes Boss” ..similar dilemma, money vs Love as also the dream restaurant et al. Has Anurag intentionally lifted the story or is it that this phenomenon is so widespread/ubiquitous in a metro that singling it to a film would be unfair?
Kangana..Now she seems like someone form the silent era of Indian cinema, with accent to boot, re-mixed with the lost-in-the-woods, American babe look! Quite a combination. Is it appealing? Mmmm..donno.. Ask the guys.! Talent wise she is one who you can bet on.
KK you love to hate. Anurags depiction of a typical male chauvinist , replete with double standards, open to promiscuity, to a fault, but unwilling to accept his wifes needs, was unnervingly real.. though one hopes fervently their tribe is diminishing. But elucidating on this would go beyond the ambit of this review. Suffice to say that Anurag was honest enough to admit the prevalence of this decadent male, without excuses. However , why Shilpa decides to accept him once again bespeaks of how it is the inherent strength within a woman, her mental construct fed on a host of factors, social, economical, psychological which will ultimately dictate and reflect on her decision making process.
Musically, the song ‘In dinon’ hauntingly melodious..was the one you take home with you. The album on the whole..Certainly not Pritams best .
The success of this film will provide great hope to makers who have been marginalized due to the staggering star system. Dearth of talent was never the criteria. It’s the lack of backers who shied away from a project that did not reek of ‘Names’. Perhaps slowly audiences and Producers are being compelled to accept that a good film, is a good film, is a good film..irrespective of the marketing, packaging, glitz and glamour,empty star attraction and even more inane story telling.. Think ‘Ta Ra Rum Pum’.
The ‘Khans’ and the ‘Kumars’ should go view this film. The writing is up on the wall . They have bullied the industry for too long.
Lets not make the mistake of alluding to this film is ‘small’ by Bollywood’ film standards. UTV has been lavish in choice of cast and locales considering that shooting on Mumbai roads is an expensive affair. The budget appears to be more on the 7-8 crore bracket.. excluding publicity . Coupled with expert marketing and aggressive PR, the desired result has been gratifying..The film will have recovered its cost in a week or two ..which is commendable. Anurag Basu at his sensitive best..a ‘must watch’..
Favorite scenes: Refreshingly remarkable writing and performances in the scene between Irrfan and Konkona on the rocks, where he enquires of her as to why she’d rejected him. Unforgettable as also when he takes her on the roof and urges her to shout out her angst. Shilpa running out of Shineys friends house confused, tormented and guilty! A film I’d want to watch over again.