Monday, June 18, 2007


'Life… in a Metro'… wow! I’ve just seen this movie, and I really loved it. Maybe it’s because I really wasn’t expecting a whole lot (for some reason, I thought it might be a bit boring), but this film has left me feeling good – about people, about the possibility of second chances, about relationships, about humanity. And I love when that happens.

Don’t get me wrong, ‘Metro’ is not a happy-slappy, hearts-and-kisses, fun-in-the-sun flick. No, actually it’s set in the Mumbai monsoon season, and the continual rain and dull weather reflects the turmoil and trauma undergone by the characters in this film. There’s betrayal, misery, loneliness, bereavement, regret and bitterness in this movie. It’s a tough world, one of crippling discontentment, broken dreams, and loads and loads of deception – everyone is lying to someone, even if it’s just to themselves (and I find that very realistic).

But do you like to see movies that remind you of all the greys that lie between black and white? Do you like to see movies that remind you of the challenges we all face living in big cities in the noughties? Do you like to see movies that don’t beat you over the head with moral judgment, but subtly, compassionately show that there are better choices to make than those that ultimately mean hurting yourself and/or the ones you love? Do you like to see movies where the characters are given agency, and not treated like pawns on a chessboard? Do you like to see movies where you truly come to care for the characters, to the point where, even though you can’t bring yourself to agree with all their choices, you respect their right to seek their own paths to fulfilment? Do you like to see movies that surprise you – but without being totally jarring? Yes? Then, hopefully, you’ll like ‘Metro’ as much as I did. Oh, and do you REALLY love Dharmendra, to the point where seeing him onscreen just fills every cell of your heart with pure undiluted joy? No? Aww.. well, I hope you’ll like this movie anyway.

Let’s see if I can talk about this film without giving away too much, because I don’t think I’d have liked the movie half as much had I known what was waiting around every corner. My garam Dharam is as good a place to start as any – in this, my tenth Dharmendra movie (yayyy!!) and the first I’ve seen on the big screen, he plays Amol, a man who is reunited with the love of his youth, Shivani (played by Nafisa Ali). I once said on this blog that old people in love=cute. And is it true in this movie or what? I have to say, I really like the fact that in several Hindi movies I’ve seen recently (‘Honeymoon Travels’, ‘Just Married’ and now ‘Metro’), it’s been recognised that older people have emotional and physical needs too, and that there’s nothing ugly or shameful about portraying that on celluloid. I really hope this is a trend that’s here to stay, because I think it’s a cryin’ shame that many fine older actors are stuck playing ‘Maa’ and ‘Babuji’ in every film (nothing wrong with playing parents, of course, but older people are more than just parents). Shivani and Amol walk an unconventional and difficult path with great grace, and it was so brilliant to see my Dharmendra do his thing. Wow. I don’t know why I love this man so much, I just do. I can’t wait to see ‘Apne’. I love him…

Anyway, moving on (and shaking myself out my Dharam-induced reverie)… much as I loved Shivani and Amol, I loved Shruti (played beautifully by Konkona Sen Sharma, whom everyone knows is a wonderful actress) and Monty (played by Irrfan Khan) even more. Shruti, a young career woman who is attracted to one of her co-workers, a popular radio DJ named Vishy K, is a likeable girl-next-door kind of character. You can’t help but love her, even if you’re not kind of at the same place in your life as she is (I am). But Monty is another matter. He’s a total oddball, he dresses really weird and talks weird, he has a bad habit of staring at women’s ‘bits’, and he lies a lot (and isn’t ashamed to admit it, either). But he is so cute in his nuttiness – he has a good heart, he is absolutely hilarious and he is a ‘real’ person, and I personally found him irresistible (almost as irresistible as I found Irrfan in the excellent film ‘The Namesake’, in which he played a somewhat different – but just as loveable – kind of character). I have to say I am loving Mr. Khan – I want to see more of him.

Shilpa Shetty, who’s definitely brought a great deal of good fortune to this movie by doing ‘Celebrity Big Brother’; plays Shikha, Shruti’s adorable but confused ‘didi’. (By the way, I loved that I was totally convinced that these two really were sisters, although they shared the screen very little). Shikha is unhappily married to an utterly selfish, frustrated, cold-hearted, nasty piece of work called Ranjit (played to perfection by Kay Kay Menon). She becomes strongly attracted to a young man she meets at the bus stop, named Akaash (for some reason, I found Akaash really annoying, dunno why, there’s nothing wrong with him or anything – I just did. Poor Shikha). The choices she makes (especially right at the end of the film), I found questionable, but as I said earlier, by this time I cared enough about her to just want her to find her own path to happiness – and all I could do was just wish her the best.

Ranjit (the prat) has been involved for quite a while with Neha (played quite well by Kangana Ranaut), a troubled young girl from his office. Neha doesn’t know it, but someone at the same office, a desperately over-ambitious and even unscrupulous young man named Rahul, has a crush on her. And there’s a link between Neha and Ranjit’s family that adds more drama to the situation later on – but I think I’ve said enough. The rest you’ll have to discover for yourself. But there are some lovely dramatic/hilarious scenes – watch out for Shruti going off on Rahul (Konkona is fabulous in this scene), Monty dissolving into ‘tears of joy’, the recurring ‘Brokeback Mountain’ poster that says a lot more than you might think the first time you see it, Shikha walking back into Akaash’s flat (beautifully shot), and Shivani applying make-up again, obviously for the first time in a long time – those are just a few of the scenes that made an impact on me.

Almost all the characters are connected in some way, a theme I also saw in the recent ‘Salaam-e-Ishq’. And they’re all played very well – I must say Shilpa impressed me in this film. It’s not a groundbreaking performance, but it’s a very competent one, much better than I’d ever have given her credit for (before ‘Metro’, I’d only ever seen her in more ‘traditional’ Bollywood films like ‘Dhadkan’, films in which the acting tends to be OTT and all weepy and over-emotional). I think she did very well with her more subdued performance in ‘Metro’.

Speaking of ‘traditional’ (‘archetypal’ is probably a better word) Bollywood; in my last post, I expressed the hope that the music from ‘Metro’ would pleasantly surprise me. This was one of the interesting things about this film – the recurring appearance of a 3-man rock group, all dressed in black, performing Pritam’s songs (complete with plenty of rocker angst and passion) throughout the film. They were everywhere – on bikes, on buildings, in alleys… I couldn’t decide whether the constant appearance of these guys was cute, corny, weird, silly clever or fun (probably all of the above) – anyway, I loved the idea. It was different and interesting, and so were the songs they sang, which I really liked – except for one song that was really glaringly out of place. But for the most part, I think these songs shall very nicely fill a vacant slot in my filmi song collection – so I’m off to download them right away.

It was nice and refreshing to see a movie without any of the usual huge marquee names, and a bit less ‘Bolly’ (if you know what I mean) than is normal (nothing wrong with full-on ‘Bolly’, I love it to bits, but it’s really nice to see something a bit more toned down from time to time). I particularly liked that, in ‘Metro’, I could see the characters ‘doing’ stuff – it wasn’t all about stuff being done to them, which is something you get used to seeing in more ‘Bolly’ films (why I am using the word ‘Bolly’? There has to be a better word! Using ‘Bolly’ makes less than zero sense!) And I also liked seeing Mumbai as a strong presence, almost a character, in this movie. It definitely takes you to Mumbai, and it’s fascinating just on that level (again, a nice change from the more ‘Bolly’ thing of going to the UK or Switzerland).

‘Metro’ definitely has its flaws – for example, some of the scenes come off just a little contrived, and certain aspects of the relationships it explores are not properly resolved (especially with regard to Neha and her obviously troubled history, and Shikha’s obvious dissatisfaction with the life she lives – somehow the idea I think I was supposed to get, i.e. that being with Akaash had helped her to resolve all that, was difficult to digest); but all-in-all, these didn’t bother me too much. I found this one a very, very satisfying watch (fascinating themes, interesting relationships, good music, good drama, old people love, oddball love, self-love, what’s not to like?), and definitely one for my collection when it comes out (but of course, the mere adorable old-man-in-love appearance of my Dharam-ji would have ensured that).


Uzo said...

Excellent review...I mighr see this sometime or i might wait to buy it on dvd when we go you know where...LOL

Alan said...

I have to get caught up on movies. You have been tagged for the "prestigious" Thinking Blogger Award.

Maja said...

I love how similar our reviews are about some points of the movie :) And I hated Shikha's decision at the end, I couldn't believe it, that husband of hers was SO unpleasant ...
I'm not quite Shruti's age yet, but I see myself totally going in her direction, so I could really relate to her. And Irfan Khan was fantastic, I really have to see The Namesake asap. I just bought the book about a month ago and now I'm not sure if I should read that first or wait till after the movie. Btw, did you see that when Rahul got promoted and he invited Neha and her "boyfriend" to the cinema to celebrate, he waited for them in front of a poster for The Namesake? :)

Daddy's Girl said...

@uzo: I cannot wait... and the time draweth nigh! LOL

@alan: Thanks so very much for the award!

@maja: I know, even though I was unimpressed by Akaash and didn't want her to go that route, I was very disappointed by the fact that Shikha did not take time to deal with her unhappiness - there was no indication that the terible Ranjit made any commitment to the marriage, felt any real remorse, or changed his ultra-selfish behaviour; and no indication that Shikha had learned to stand up for herself and develop her own interests - it all just seemed really regressive, like she was getting back into a tired old cycle without learning anything new about herself and what she deserved out of life and marriage. Definitely the most disappointing part of the film.

The Namesake is a beautiful film - I absolutely loved it even if it did make me cry and put me in an emotional, nostalgic, bittersweet mood. I haven't read the book, but I don't think that detracted from my enjoyment of it. But I also don't think you'll be disappointed if you choose to read the book first - others (like Carla and Beth) who read the book first still loved the movie. I did notice the poster... the makers of Metro seem to have a thing for movie posters!

Life Lover said...

after reading the first two paragraphs I want to shut down the computer, leave this stupid cube, take my car, and drive home with the metro DVD and watch this movie. excellent job with the review and I am going to watch this movie very very soon...and oh how I wish it rains this evening, it will sure set the mood for metro :)

Daddy's Girl said...

life lover, I hope you enjoy the film as much as I did. I may have over-hyped it a bit (always a danger where Dharmendra is concerned), but I really hope you like it.