The city Mumbai unfolds a red carpet of opportunities to people from across the India, but the stage is a different ball-game altogether. With dreams of a good life and improved economic status, these immigrants are ready to sweat it all, so that they can get a toe-hold in the door of fortune that the city offers. The gullible learns the hard-way that the street-smart city abounds with devious minds and opportunist tendencies.
In pursuit of their passion to earn for their livelihood, these people do not realize that they are taken for granted and victimized by the high-handed ways of the power-players and the management. It is a norm more than the exception that such people are not paid on time. Much worse, they are even removed from their jobs without much of an explanation; getting the salary becomes a tumultuous task. The humble housekeeper does not even have a union to back him. The fact that he is an immigrant also puts him in the back-foot, with state-run unions meting a step-motherly treatment to him.
Citylights offer a tribute to the hardworking yet unappreciated people, bracing a compromised future – the security guard, office boy, housekeeper, the watchman, the servant, the toilet cleaner, who silently but nonchalantly do the dirty work for us, so that we are treated to a hygiene-friendly, safe and secure environment.
Mahesh Bhatt and Mukesh Bhatt take Bollywood a step forward with this film that has been sensitively directed by Hansal Mehta. The official adaptation of the multi-award winning British-Filipino Film by Sean Ellis, ‘Metro Manila; Citylights shows how the city of dreams can be a nightmare to the gullible, impoverished immigrant.
Story of Citylights
Deepak (Rajkummar Rao) is knee-deep in financial crisis, when lenders come barging in and throw him out of his shop. Buried in despair but with a wave of optimism in his mind, he along with his wife Rakhi(Patralekhaa) and their little daughter Mahi; leave for Mumbai. The family has nothing but the name and number of a friend for help; which turns out to be an exercise in futility. Hours into the city, Deepak is swindled off his money, by a sweet-talking property agent and the family is left absolutely penniless. While, lodging a police complaint, Rakhi meets a bar dancer, who offers to help the family. She helps Rakhi get a job in the bar, while helping the couple with a makeshift under-construction building as home. Meanwhile, Deepak finds himself a job in a security bureau, an agency that is entrusted with the responsibility of transporting highly-valued commodities and cash belonging to rich people, in specialized armored boxes. Deepak’s senior and colleague Vishnu (Manav Kaul), frustrated with highhanded treatment from clients and bosses, hits upon a master-plan to become rich overnight and asks Deepak to execute it for him. He has the latter in bait, which leaves Deepak little scope to avoid the clandestine operation. Will Deepak stick to his righteous principles or fall to the lure of easy money?
Plus points of Cityilghts
Director Hansal Mehta takes you away from the world of artificial mid-air fights and saccharine item girls that are a part of a typical Bollywood fare now, and paints reality with a thicker hue. He bares the soul of the struggler, drinking to his fate, mixed in a cocktail of despair and hope. While the first half of a movie is a heart-tugging drama, the second half takes the shape of an unpredictable thriller. The finale leaves an indelible impact; while your mind lauds at the presence of the mind of Deepak, your heart reaches out to the once-content family which lost its innocence to the hypnotic charm of the cosmopolitan city. Two tracks ‘Muskurane ki Wajah Tum Ho’ and ‘Soney Do’ work with the film, instead of curbing the flow. One wishes that they had extended the ‘Muskurane’ song or at least kept it the full version at the end, when the credits rolled.
Minus points of Cityilghts
Some of the sequences in the second half appear a tad stretched. For instance, it would have been better to focus on the equation between Deepak and Rakhi, than on the frustration of Manav’s character. But nonetheless, the penultimate moments of the movie and the climax leave you a with a lump in the throat, as you exit the auditorium.
Best scenes of the film
Citylights is peppered with moments that reflect cinematic brilliance. Here are some of the scenes
- When Patralekhaa finds that they have been swindled off their ten thousand rupees by the property agent.
- The Patralekhaa interview scene, where her character (Rakhi) is asked to dance.
- The scene where Rajkummar and Patralekhaa cry together on hearing her uncomfortable decision to work in a dance bar
- When a drunk, frustrated Rajkummar wakes his wife up and asks her to dance for him
- The climax scene
Performances in Citylights
The movie bears Hansal Mehta’s emotive charm all over it, and his actors translate his vision into a tangible reality. Mahesh Bhatt has always included the character of a pivotal male friend in most of his films, be it Aashiqui, Sadak, Zeher or Aashiqui 2. Citylights has a looming presence of a ‘friend’ with his own axe to grind. The character of Vishu played by Manav Kaul, develops with every frame of his existence in the film. Manav Kaul is sharp and creates an impact with his performance. His wife in the film, by Sadia Siddique gets just two appearances and she is superb in both of them, especially the one, when she breaks down.
Debutante Patralekhaa delivers a surprisingly brilliant performance as the wife of the protagonist . She is made of superior stuff, sure to shine in more performances to come. National Award winner Rajkummar Rao makes ‘Deepak’ totally believable; he is the soul of the film. Both Patralekhaa and Rajkummar have invested efforts in detailing their respective characters, working on everything from the Rajasthani dialect to the body language with remarkable finesse. The child in the film is cute and has an endearing screen presence.
Citylights is rich in content and creativity. A poignant tale of strife in a metropolitan city with heart-tugging moments and amazing performances, this is one movie that is not to be missed.
***** (4.5) (Very Good)