I told you earlier, I’m looking at films that inspire. I found Blue Valentine and As Good as it Gets. Then, I started looking for Bollywood films, and the first film that caught my attention was Life in a Metro. So here’s why I think this film is worth a writer’s, movie buff’s or anyone’s time.
Characters and subplots: The characters in this Anurag Basu film, become more important than the stories told. This speaks volumes about the acting skills of the talented ensemble cast. Monty(Irfan Khan), middle aged and unmarried is bride-hunting. He enthusiastically discusses each prospect with his mother, when he chances upon a thirty year-old virgin Shruti (Konkana Sen Sharma). Their journey together through tears and laughter makes you vouch for them. Whether they are shouting on top of a terrace to let it all out or shopping lingerie, or Kangana riding on her scooter with Irrfan as pillion, this middle class working couple with their silliness and awkward glances, pull you in.
Then, there’s Rahul (Sharman Joshi) who’s in love with his colleague and his boss’s girl friend Neha (Kangana Ranaut). Rahul is a smart young man, who rents out the flat he is living in to his managers in office, to get ahead in the rat race. On one such occasion, he finds Neha. How their love blossoms is depicted in a refreshing and convincing manner. You don’t doubt Rahul’s falling in love with Neha, despite his ambitions. Or Neha reciprocating that love.
Love-revisited: What stood out for me and took the cake was this sub plot. Where Dharmendra and Nafisa Ali, the elderly couple estranged in the past, come together only to enjoy brief moments of happiness together. This is a much-awaited and may I say, radical break in terms of portraying love being only for the youth. High time, we showcase elderly love in Indian books and cinema — more and often.
Love that’s not to be: Well, a lot of popular writers in India like Ravinder Singh and Preeti Shenoy have written about extra marital love. And love outside marriage has been depicted in Indian cinema for long. So Anurag Basu’s depiction of extra marital love isn’t really path breaking. But it is nevertheless woven well into the plot. What remains to be seen is how we can talk about different love, differently.
Musical: Pritam’s music literally becomes a part of the movie and unobtrusively carries the story forward. Every time a couple find themselves in love, a group of musicians start singing. This technique could have been hilarious and an absolute disaster but it’s executed so well that it doesn’t appear jarring or inane. In fact, it adds to the mood of the drama and brings in musical relief.
Setting: The story unfolds in Mumbai and as a viewer, you are reminded of the city’s presence through its roads, local train and the ocean. Mumbai remains at the heart of the story, much like the characters and their journey. I mean you really can’t tell a story without talking about the setting or the place, now can you? Basu does just that. He talks about Mumbai, visually.
I know some of you may dismiss this film as a remake of the 1960 Oscar award winning film, The Apartment. But the thing is there’s no work of art, that’s original. Every creation is inspired by something else. And an idea that comes to you and you think is ground-breaking has also occurred to ten other people — at the same time. The only difference is, someone will actually sit down and do something with the thought. Maybe write a book. Paint. Sculpt. Or make a film.
Life in a Metro, moreover, is about characters like us. People working in the corporates. Married women unhappy about giving up their careers and finding no appreciation and love at home. About young people falling in love. And old people too.
Mumbai: It’s also about a city. A city which houses millions of dreams. A city which bustles with lights and traffic, even in the wee hours of the morning. A city which also fights loneliness, sorrow and failure, in each of its bustling minute. This film says it all. And says it well.
Favourite scene: I don’t know how, but I completely forgot about that one scene. I should have put it right at the top. I mean, each time I think about Life in a Metro this is what comes to mind. You remember the scene where Shiney Ahuja is performing on stage in an almost empty theatre, in what appears to be an intense solo act. Ahuja by the way is a fledgling actor, like thousands in Mumbai. Anyway, so there he is doing his bit with utmost sincerity, when a mobile rings. And obnoxiously rings again. This scene kind of nails the agony of an anonymous artist — fighting alone in an indifferent and unappreciative world.
I know most of you have watched it already and yes, it’s not a new film. But that’s the thing about good films, you can always watch it — again.