Film Review: CityLights

By Sayantan Dalal

Film: CityLights

Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Patralekha

Director: Hansal Mehta

Rating: ****

CityLights is a swirling drama of survival in the capital city of Mumbai. It follows Deepak (Rajkummar Rao) and his wife (Patralekha), who had to leave Rajasthan for a better life in Mumbai, only to be plunged into the chaotic world at street level, from the moment they arrive at the metropolitan city. The film shows the pitfalls of surviving urban life can drive even a principled family to the ends of desperation.

Forget about the fact that it's a remake of the Filipino crime dama, Metro Manila; forget about the fact that tales of country innocents corrupted by big city have been a staple of Indian cinema, CityLights is still an engaging and compelling movie with a fantastic blend of drama, crime, emotion and survival. Each of the characters are well-developed and well brought to life by the award winning director Hansal Mehta.

The film zeroes in on a barely surviving impoverished couple, who with their meagre belongings, move to the desperate squalor of the city to seek out a means to survive. Overwhelmed by one of the busiest and sweat-induced metropolitan areas in India, they find themselves struggling to feed their child. But the tide starts to turn when Deepak lands a job with a security company.

And not surprisingly the most striking thing about CityLights are the lead stars' outstanding performances. Playing the honourable and moralistic lead character, Rajkummar is incredibly likeable and convincing throughout the film, proving his undeniable talent with an unique flair. Patralekha is a revelation, as she gives a standout performance on her debut. A special shout-out to Manav Kaul, as the morally ambiguous and ambitious security guard. Also, the city itself, whose rapid intensity is captured with dazzling cinematography, making Rajkummar's story all the more enticing and memorable.

Even after the film is over, sequences like Rajkummar's attempts to tell his new boss a joke and Patralekha's audition as a bar-dancer, will stay with you.

CityLights is spellbinding in places and is the end result of a masterfully handled piece of work.

To watch or not to watch:

CityLights is an emotional experience that will take you by surprise and move you to the core. Thanks to Hansal Mehta's powerful visuals and extraordinary direction and the entire cast's solid performances, CityLights is not to be missed!

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