Starring: Rajkumar Rao, Patralekha, Manav Kaul
Directed by Hansal Mehta
One of the perennial tales that my maid shares with me over our morning tea together is about the Rs 69,000 that she was duped of in a kitty. Still haunted by the loss of her hard-earned money, she often wakes up in cold sweat in the middle of the night. Citylights unspools similar misfortunes, setbacks and despair in the life of its hard-up protagonist Deepak (Rajkumar Rao). The film gives due credit to Metro Manila, Sean Ellis’s much celebrated British-Filipino crime drama, of which it is a remake. Hansal Mehta told me that he hasn’t seen the original. Yet, he has been able to craft a fine, affecting film from the adapted script handed over to him.
The theme—of rural exodus and exploitation of the poor—fits the contemporary reality of a rapidly urbanising India quite well. Also, despite the 60 years separating them, Deepak of Citylights also feels like a throwback to the Shambhu Mahto of Do Bigha Zameen, immigrating from his village to the city, in search of a livelihood and life. It’s about the ridicule, indignity and humiliation he and his family face to try and get their share of happiness. It’s about being oppressed by city folks, who themselves are as embattled. But the film then goes on from being a sort of social documentation to becoming an edge-of-the-seat thriller, yet doesn’t quite give up on its messages. In a nutshell, quite a see-saw of emotions.
Mehta keeps things real, but not too raw and stark. He shoots with a sense of rhythm. There is a gentle flow to the story-telling and a nice moodiness lingers, be it the delirium of the dance bar or the military-like operations of the security agency where Deepak finds a job. The frames that seemingly look most calm and quiet brim over with the disquietude within the characters. Like the scene when Deepak’s senior partner (Manav Kaul) looks at the tall buildings around him and rages about his own dump of a house.
The climax involving a key left me with some niggling questions. The songs in the background detract from the narrative too. Given the pace and mood of the film, the use of Raju Singh’s background score alone would have been far more effective. But these minor issues are settled by strong performances, even in the minor roles. Rajkumar proves that when it comes to acting, less could well be more. He communicates as much with his subdued, diffident body language—the way he sits on his haunches—as he does with his face. You can’t help not feel for him. Manav, as his senior, has a more flamboyant, show-stealing character, the kind who makes evil look incredibly attractive. The two are in stark contrast—innocent and gullible as against street-smart and manipulative—yet in perfect sync with each other. It’s interesting to see that instead of any visible upmanship, the two actors complement each other and help bring out the other’s traits. So far, they make the best couple in Bollywood this year.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT