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Helpless Realities: Citylights Movie Review

“Ye saare panchi hai na, yeh bahut duurr se aate hain humaare sheher main, par ye kabhi akele nahi rehte, akele rahenge to maare jaayenge.”

This unrelenting truth about migrant birds is apt for probably every person who leaves their small hometown and comes to a big city, mostly for a better life. However, the truth is an innocent, hardworking and honest fellow doesn’t often find a group of other birds who can support him in the big, bad city The seemingly strong ex-army man Deepak is one of those birds but apart from his family he is all alone. I feel sad seeing the reality of this world that doesn’t fail to nail you down for its own pleasure.

The award winning duo, director Hansal Mehta and actor Rajukummar Rao who won acclaim for their dramatic movie ‘Shahid’, are back to show you the reality the poor and the helpless face.

“Garibi ek bimari hai jo humse jang ki tarah chipak jaati hai.”

Hansal Mehta’s CityLights is an adaptation of a British-Filipino indie crime drama, “Metro Manila” that came out last year. The heartbreaking plot of ‘CityLights’ essentially revolves around a poor man Deepak (Rajkummar), his wife Rakhi (Patraleka) and their kid. The family hails from Rajasthan and come to Mumbai in search of a livelihood. However, Mumbai is not kind to them, and after a string of setbacks which lead Deepak to extreme destitution and his wife to take up a job as a bar dancer, he finally meets a man (Manav Kaul) who helps him land a job as a guard-cum-driver in an armored truck company. What follows, is an emotionally jarring drama-thriller that will move you to pieces.

CityLights is basically a drama from the get-go and every single frame of the film bears Hansal Mehta’s signature dark, often horrid and mostly heart-breaking style. I would have loved the film, had it not have been under the Bhatt effect. The mark of the Bhatts can be seen when this dark cinematic beauty is mostly ruined by songs and background music that try to set the mood of every scene but end up making it soap-opera-ish. I just had to mention that, because this could easily have been the movie of the year if it were entirely in Hansal Mehta’s hands.

Despite that, the film is not bad at all. The movie deals with the bad times and the good, of a family facing immense hardships on their first encounter with the big city of their dreams. Mr. Mehta captures the essence of the story beautifully in a scene where Deepak and his wife are both shown crying together, while hiding their respective faces from each other after the latter is forced to seek work as a bar dancer, to make things work for the family. The film leaves a lump in your throat when the poor man, after working hard the whole day managing to get just three vada-pavs and a Parle G for his little kid. Hansal Mehta enhances the beauty of his film with these little moments.

One of the characters in the film says,

“Yeh jo flats dekh rahe ho na, ye makaan nahi hain, ye chote chote sapne hain.”

He entices you to feel for the character as he fails to make a living, surrounded by people and situations which won’t let him have the life he dreams of. Even with Hansal Mehta’s touch the only one who makes the film as good as it is, is Rajkummar Rao. He holds onto the central character like he holds the little girl. He fills the glass of characterization to the brim with his emotionally fantastic self and splatters it on to the screen, yet again delivering his 100 per cent. The end result is a captivating performance that will keep you hooked. If you really want to watch a film with an actor at his best, this is for you. The other person who impressed me a lot was Manav Kaul who was amazing as the helpful partner with secret baggage. Patraleka as the wife was pleasant as she tackled the emotional scenes just right.

Another refreshing thing about this movie is that unlike filmmakers in Bollywood who blindly copy from foreign films without giving them any credit ,whatsoever, ‘CityLights’ specifically mentions ‘Metro Manila’ in its credit roll – not once, not twice – but six times.

Final Verdict: I would have loved the film if it was not forced to be partly commercial with the sex scenes and unnecessary music. Nonetheless, it’s a very good film, that I highly recommend watching at least once.

Rating: 3/5

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