City Lights poster

City Lights (2014)

My Ratings: 4/5

After the National Award winning film Shahid, (director) Hansal Mehta and (actor) Rajkummar Rao comes together with yet another promising film – City Lights.

The dazzling lights in the big cities are often tempting from a distance but on a closer look one notices the dark shadows they cast that can easily swallow the weak and the naive along with their little expectations.

Deepak Singh (Rajkummar Rao), his wife Rakhi (Patralekha) and their sweet young daughter – lost and fragile yet desperate to try their luck in the city of Mumbai.

In this film we get to see a glimpse of the ugly side of Mumbai, the famous city of dreams that ruthlessly crushes the dreams of the poor and the helpless only to feed the riches. People are cheated manipulated and humiliated, pushed to their limits until they fight back and demand their existence.

City Lights is uncomfortably raw; it makes us look at poverty and despair from disturbing proximity.

A remake of the British film Metro Manila, City Lights is a superb effort to tell the story of the ordinary – their lives, their wishes and their endless limitations.

Brilliant performance by Rajkummar Rao – I personally think he deserves another National Award for this act. The portrayal of a naïve Rajasthani villager – the accent, the body language, the tone, the expressions – he was just perfect.

Patralekha, the debutant actress also did a pretty good job but the surprise package in the film is Manav Kaul who plays the superior of Rajkummar in the film. A very powerful actor – so natural and spontaneous.

The director Hansal Mehta has done it again. It seems that he has perfected the art of telling stories of ordinary people in a simple, realistic fashion which is kind of rare in Bollywood. He along with his cinematographer Dev Agarwal has deliberately set a dark tone for City Lights to get the gritty feel of poverty and hunger. A wise decision.

Well edited by Apurva Asrani and of course with the backing of Mahesh Bhatt (in production and marketing levels) the film has evolved into a fine piece of cinema.

The only problem is the songs in the film; actually it’s not that the songs are bad but I think they are over-used. It can be irritating at times when every emotional scene is underlined by heavy doses of mediocre songs in the background. Then again Jeet Ganguly could have done better.

On the whole a very emotional film; it certainly makes you reach out for the central characters – to warn them, to protect them from this cruel world (or rather the cruel city).

It’s not advisable to miss this film.

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