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Movie Review: Life in a Metro

Movie Review: Life in a Metro
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First Published: Fri, May 11 2007. 11 45 PM IST

Updated: Fri, May 11 2007. 11 45 PM IST
Director: Anurag Basu; Producer: Ronnie Screwala
Cast: Shilpa Shetty, Shiny Ahuja, Kay Kay Menon, Irrfan Khan, Sharman Joshi, Konkana Sharma, Kangana Ranaut, Dharamendra, Nafisa Ali
Music: Pritam Chakraborty
New Delhi: With a sure shot winning theme of relationships in a contemporary metro setting, Anurag Basu deftly sketches the roles of all his characters, taking us through their lives and dilemmas. While the movie starts out by bringing the viewer upfront with the well thought out decisions taken by them, which may border on being selfish, calculated and materialistic; post intermission, you see a subtle soul searching take place, as a reorientation in the psyche leads to the heart emerging stronger than the head, levelling some of the harsh so called realities of life.
In the end, the movie turns out to be an eminently watchable commentary on present cosmopolitan lives. Discount some of the exaggerated elements and mindless coincidences that one kind of takes for granted in a Hindi film but grant the film maker credit for telling a story that is not entirely hinged on stereotypical and clichéd narratives.
The pairing of Nafisa Ali and Dharmendra as a distinguished senior couple, reunited in the twilight zone of their life, serves as a conscience keeper. The well crafted dialogues define not just the characters but also place in context the larger meaning of life itself. In a refreshingly tender role Dharmendra makes the younger generation see that in the bhagambhag of life you prostitute your feelings, the most integral part of your existence, realizing that making amends or starting afresh later may not altogether be possible.
The film explores the mostly dark side of ambition, lust and power amongst the young brigade. While making it big in a fast paced city like Mumbai is the predominant theme, there is a maturity in the characters and the choices that they have made as they make that giant leap forward. Here, short cuts are ethical if they take you closer to the end goal.
So if Kangana Ranaut has a relationship with her older married boss Kay Kay Menon and at some point accuses him of using her, she is firmly put on the mat, when he says without mincing words, that they had settled the dynamics of their relationship right at the start. There were to be no emotional demands and for the physicality of their relationship he had amply compensated by doling out-of-turn promotions, providing business class air travel and other perks. End of matter so far as he is concerned.
Sharman Joshi who lets out his residence (uncle’s property) to all the virile men in his office also has made a tradeoff with his conscience – that helps him notch up his financial savings and work his way up at the call centre, where he is paid a measly Rs 14,000 to deal with 14,000 abusive clients!
In a hilarious scene he reschedules
an office employee nee’ client’s ‘booking’ at his apartment by going through a circuitous channel of calls with each person adjusting his illicit date, having you believe for a moment that all of Mumbai is into illegitimate relationships, so much so that two office colleagues sitting next to each other are sleeping with the same man at the same venue at different times and are blissfully ignorant.
While the central protagonist is Shilpa Shetty, essaying a sensitive role of a balanced woman trapped in a loveless marriage, bordering on the abusive (not necessarily physical), each cameo has an equally powerful role. Ultimate success of the film lies in connecting disparate stories together and having a common thread run through, without appearing splintered or melodramatic. Shiny with whom she gets into an emotional relationship, tells her matter of factly how jobs, success and wife have run a mile from him. When she asks him as to whether he left her or she left him, he says simply, “love left us”. No blame game, no guilt, no recrimination, just an acceptance of what exists.
Ronnie Screwala, succinctly gives the gist of the theme saying, “Instant coffee, cell phones, speedy desires and furious ambitions….life is bound by a ticking clock with no time to stand and stare. Fate of emotions in this metro city are determined by choices which are easier and goals which apparently come closer, but not before emotionally draining you and making you question: growth, prosperity and comfort but at what cost?”
The cold blooded streak that a big city nurtures is brought out in subtle ways like the scene where Nafisa and Dharmendra have decided to move in together and the nasty caretaker of the old age home, accuses Dharam of spoiling the pious atmosphere of the home and Nafisa’s kids, who though long distance in far away USA, are suddenly ruffled with the presence of a man in their mother’s life. Their only concern is that she not sign on any property matters, for the intent of the guy seemed obvious. Their parting shot is also an expression of disgust at what “she is up to”.
Comic relief comes from Irfaan Khan who once again through sheer brilliance exhibits his command over the medium. Backed with witty one liners he has you in splits as Monty, a guy who at 38 is still waiting to get married to the right girl. His pairing with Konkana Sen as the odd ball couple is well timed, for she too inspite of being in the youthful and fun-filled profession of radio jockeying is pushing 30 while still being a virgin.
With stray shots that are reminiscent of Bridget Jones Diary, the ordinariness of her life is endearing as is the reality of her being a thinking woman. Irfaan’s earthy wisdom comes through in a shot where he takes Konkana to a high rise from where you get a vantage view of Mumbai. As he pontificates and tells her how the city takes away much more than what it gives, she too must find a way to vent her anger. He gently gets her to follow his mantra, “shout and spit out the anger”. From a miserable yelp to a ferocious scream, Konkana eschews her anger much to the relief of Irfaan who hugs her reassuringly and says, “your servicing is now done”.
While the movie would have you believe that illicit relationships are the norm, and that fidelity, trust, faith and living within one’s means, are dead and defunct, thankfully, the movie’s end brings home the point that sometimes duty and family before self can predetermine the tugs of the heart. Internalizing one’s desires and stoking the flames of passion in the larger interest of those around you, is also as much a part of metro lives as is the blatant pursuit of material gains.
Sharman Joshi after Rang de Basanti’s comic caper, shows a natural and effortless fluidity, surely an actor to watch out for. Shiny Ahuja’s slightly wooden performance is more than made up for with his handsome looks and a screen vulnerability that makes you immediately reach out. The casting is perfect, and Kangana with her new straight hair look, is also credible as the young girl who makes the conscious decision of placing her small town middle class values temporarily in the closet.
The music is already a hit with chart busting numbers. It is a welcome change to not have actors run around trees, lip syncing songs, rather have the real music people flow into the frame of the film, singing songs that are an extension of the dialogue. But this was perhaps overdone, with the band emerging in every song on screen. With a perfect two hour duration and efficient editing in place, the movie is ideal for multiplexes though it may just turn out to be a winner in two and three tier cities too.
Mint Scale: * * * Strongly recommended
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First Published: Fri, May 11 2007. 11 45 PM IST