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BOLLYWOOD | Film Review
Meaningful But Uneven: CityLights

Directed by: Hansal Mehta
Produced by: Mukesh Bhatt
Screenplay by: Ritesh Shah
Based on:
Metro Manila by Sean Ellis
Starring: Rajkummar Rao, Patralekha and Manav Kaul
Music by: Jeet Ganguly, Raju Singh (background score)

Review by: Joginder Tuteja
Rating: ** (Mediocre)

(Above): Patralekha and Rajkummar Rao in “CityLights.”

Meaningful, well intended but a bit uneven and inconsistent, this is how CityLights unfolds. Brilliant at points, engaging at several moments, though jerky at a few places, CityLights is a film that could have been so much more if the last 20 minutes would have been better handled and a few scenes in the second half would have been cut a little short.

For a film that set its base well and peaked well, till the interval, CityLights has a good plot, though meanders a little in execution.

Let me begin with a few pointers that keep playing in one’s mind through the film’s running length. (Spoilers ahead) When Rajkumarr Rao and his wife Patralekha realize that things aren’t going well for them in Mumbai, they still stick to the city instead of heading back home.

That, they don’t have a roof over their heads and are missing out on meals. Chalo, even that could be a person’s emotions coming into play. But otherwise, the huge turn in the tale involving an important character (played by Manav Kaul) towards the pre-climax is haphazardly done.

One can’t really comprehend if it is for real or part of a plan. It is unexplained and doesn’t bear connect with the conversation Rajkumarr and Manav were having moments ago.

Also, the sub-plot involving Manav’s wife and his ‘side business’ (read mistress) does not hold much water. This isn’t all, as the whole setting of Transporter like business in a shady setting makes one question its legitimacy.

(Above): Rajkummar Rao in “CityLights.”

Now all these questions start popping up in the second half due to an uneven narrative that starts getting repetitive at places where Manav continues to instigate Rajkumarr by reminding him of his poverty. Otherwise in the first half you are still reasonably glued to the proceedings.

Rajkumarr and Patralekha being promised a rented accommodation, their respective ‘interviews’ at the security office and dance bar, their earlier days at work, the angst and humiliation that comes to fore – one truly acknowledges Hansal Mehta and Bhatts for taking this route.

As for the music, while “Muskurane” is haunting to the core, rest of the songs seem to be just too many as a part of the background score. The film is shot well and full credit goes to Hansal for presenting Mumbai in a totally new avatar.

Thank goodness, he doesn’t begin the film with a usual cliché of Yeh Mumbai Hai, Sapnon Ka Shehar!

Instead, he keeps it all real and balanced. This is in fact the core virtue of performances too, be it Rajkumarr, Patralekha or Manav.

Rajkumarr is brilliant all over again and the Gurgaon boy actually comes across as a Rajasthani. Patralekha is very unusual for being a Bollywood leading lady but is good in this setting. As for Manav, he is superb, all over again, after his politician act in Kai Po Che! He should be seen more often.

As for the film, it may have just worked better had it maintained a thrilling pace right through and stuck to that genre. Instead it gets into a dramatic space and also turns depressing at many junctions. So much so, that at the end of the film one wonders if anyone gained anything after all.

Joginder Tuteja is a Bollywood writer based in Mumbai, India.


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