Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Patralekha, Manav Kaul
Director: Hansal Mehta
If you like uplifting and cheerful cinema, this isn’t a film for your taste but if you are a fan of how brilliantly an actor can perform giving so much depth and intensity to his character, book your tickets now. Rajkummar Rao is a revelation and in the correct sense of the word. Somewhere, I can’t imagine this film being made without him without exaggerating even a bit. Citylights is the Indian adaptation of Metro Manila and the National Award Winning director, Hansal Mehta knows his way very well around his screenplay and his sense of cinema. The way he works so much on detailing should be a class for acting students. Citylights is one of those films which choke you at the time of watching its trailer, leave alone anything else. It is not another pseudo screenplay which is in your face but a story which is tempered with such sensitivity that your heart wants everything good for the characters played by Rajkummar Rao and Patralekha.
Citylights is a story of an uphill struggle and the betrayal of a man who is a small time shop owner in Rajasthan. While his inability to clear off his debt becomes the reason for him to shift to the city of dreams, Mumbai thinking he might strike gold in the big city and is forced to dream big. On one hand the very excited family makes a move to the big city, the next moment they are stranded with no money to feed their child as they have been fooled, robbed and left all alone. It hits you hard. The story of the film is packed with a thriller running in the subplot which makes you glued to your seat till the end. Not giving away much from the film, the overtly honest Deepak (Rao) is hired in a security company by rattling out a joke which he has barely understood. Such a scene is so endearing that you wonder how honest this man is. Everyone is making ends meet for the last day of the month in order to get those Rs. 15000 that have been promised and nothing else really matters.
Talking about Patralekha and her debut with the film, there are rarely many people who would want to take up such a project for their first film in between all the glitz and glamour. Rather than talking about making her presence felt, she has actually made her absence felt in some of the scenes of the film. She plays wife to Deepak Singh played by Rao and god…the way she has adapted the character is commendable. Patralekha deserves a pat on her back for bearing out her soul in Citylights. This girl makes your heart warm while you are all choked up.
What should we say about Rajkummar Rao… I don’t think anything we say here would matter. He reeks honesty as Deepak and floors you with his sincerity. The way he gets in the skin of his characters is sheer brilliance. Things as small as squatting and not sitting in the film, keeping his baritone as low as he can and even walking as Deepak does is what detailing is. In a good film, Rajkummar is the epitome of perfection which makes us smile from ear to ear but with a tear in our eyes. He makes sure that Deepak is not a caricature of a small town man but works hard on bringing authenticity to every frame. After watching him act in Citylights, we know what honesty looks like.
Manav Kaul plays a senior executive to Rajkummar in the film and the way his character turns deserves a watch. It is a treat to watch him on screen. He is subtle yet powerful, makes his point but is not in your face. Well, that is the right amount. When all the actors of a film are so good with their parts only then you can attempt a film like this.
There are a lot of moments in the film where rather than talking all out and making themselves heard, the makers decided to go silent which is one of the beautiful moments to talk about. One of the most powerful scenes in the film is just where Deepak and his wife are exchanging shattered looks to each other and crying in separate corners without any explanation or justification after she accepts the job of dancing at a sleazy bar to feed their family. It breaks your heart as the performances are so honest that you actually feel their pain. Much after you have left the theatre, the film haunts you.
The screenplay of the film especially in the first half is so tight that you are gripped to your seats and not distracted at all. The first half is a little better than the second half as somewhere they could have cut the second half a little shorter. The music of the film has been done very well and the song Muskurane, sung by Arijit Singh is the best track out of the rest. A nice job done by Jeet Ganguly.
Hansal Mehta is a good director and his film has been made with a lot of soul. Focusing on the simplest of problems, he has managed to touch the heart with such a marvel added to his filmography. His chemistry with his male protagonist is unsaid which makes them understand each other so well that it shows. Mehta likes to call Rao his muse, and we would like to call them our muse for good cinema.
Review by: Pratishtha Malhotra
Image Credit: hdwallpapers.com