Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

December 4, 2020

Metro review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 4:53 pm

May 11, 2007

Cast: Shilpa Shetty, Irrfan Khan, Kay Kay Menon, Konkona Sen Sharma, Kangana Ranaut, Shiney Ahuja, Dharmendra, Nafisa Ali, Sharman Joshi

Director: Anurag Basu

Easily one of the best films of the year so far, director Anurag Basu’s Metro is centred around nine-odd people in Mumbai, who’re looking for love and a sense of belonging in the busy, crowded city of Mumbai.

Interestingly, all our nine protagonists are linked to each other in some way, but that you find out as the film unfolds.

Shilpa Shetty and Kay Kay Menon play a couple who have lost the spark in their marriage, thus searching for love in the arms of others.

Sharman Joshi plays a young man, so eager to climb up the corporate ladder that he’s willing to compromise on just about anything. Kangana Ranaut is a young girl involved with a married man in a relationship that can best be described as mutually exploitative.

Konkona Sen Sharma is an almost-30 unmarried girl looking for the perfect groom, while Irrfan Khan just can’t wait to be married and have sex. Shiney Ahuja is a struggling actor who falls for a married woman, while Dharmendra and Nafisa Ali play an older couple who rekindle an old romance.

Like every good film, the biggest strength of Anurag Basu’s Metro is its tight screenplay. Basu doesn’t waste time spoon-feeding his audience by giving us every character’s back-story, instead he plunges right into the plot and unravels each character as he goes along – it’s a lesson that could have benefited Nikhil Advani’s Salaam-e-Ishq considerably.

The other reason Metro engages you from the word go, is because it finds humour in everyday life, in what seems like regular situations. Like the scenes between Konkona and Irrfan mostly, which are easily the film’s warmest.

Take that scene in the second half where they’re sitting by the sea after a shopping expedition. The manner in which Irrfan reacts when he finds out exactly why Konkona had rejected his proposal, and his subsequent attempt to set her up with a friend of his – it’s a classic scene and the actors play it out remarkably.

To get a film with a solid plot that’s also technically competent has become increasingly rare in Bollywood, but Metro merges content and form so seamlessly.

Bobby Singh’s cinematography complements Basu’s narrative, he uses his camera to convey the feeling of solitude, desperation, loneliness and joy that the characters feel in a bustling metro like Mumbai.

More than once you’ll spot the obvious Wong Kar-Wai influence in the way shots are constructed – like the post-coitus scenes between Kay Kay and Kangana, both wrapped in their bedsheets against the window of an apartment overlooking the skyline. Or that scene in which Shiney Ahuja and Shilpa Shetty get cosy in a dingy flat with no light but the one reflected from the neon-sign outside. Truth is, although borrowed, these moments are strikingly beautiful.

Pritam’s soundtrack is easy on the ears and Basu comes with a very imaginative concept of using the band as the narrator, by filming them belt out their tracks as the film unfolds.

It’s a clever idea – although borrowed from the Cameron Diaz-hit There’s Something About Mary – and it would have been perfect had it been used just once or twice in the film. But having the band pop up for every song just defeats the purpose.

Crisply edited and suitably paced, Metro loses its steam only occasionally when the screenplay veers towards cliché. Like that tacky scene in which one of the film’s protagonists discovers the true identity of her lover. For one, the scene has already been done before in Page 3, and secondly because it’s so unimaginative to have a poster of Brokeback Mountain to make the point.

Another slight hitch is in the track between Dharmendra and Nafisa Ali, which is poignant for the most part, but only once goes over-the-top when the couple elopes on a motorbike.

Barring a few such hiccups, Metro is an immensely enjoyable watch, and much of that credit must go to its cast who perform so proficiently. Dharmendra oozes charm and you almost spontaneously break into an applause when you first see him in the film crossing the railway tracks to be reunited with an old sweetheart.

Kangana Ranaut is surprisingly restrained and her silences give meaning to the inner turmoil her character’s feeling. Sharman Joshi springs a pleasant surprise as he effortlessly slips into the role of the conflicted lover.

Then there’s Shilpa Shetty who shines as the hurting housewife. Just watch Shilpa in that scene where Shiney urges her to succumb to desire, watch her respond with a mixture of confusion and shame and remorse, it’s a terrific performance and unquestionably Shilpa’s best to date.

The ones who’ll get the loudest applause are Konkona Sen Sharma and especially Irrfan Khan who complement each other perfectly. They give the film it’s most enjoyable moments and make the most of their characters.

But if there’s one real star of Metro then that’s Anurag Basu who proves with this picture that cinema is after all a director’s medium. With Murder and Gangster he made a definite mark, and now with Metro he’s confirmed that he’s one of the smartest directors working in Bollywood today.

I’m going to go with four out of five and two thumbs up for Anurag Basu’s Metro, it’s a film you must watch. It’s original, it’s entertaining and it’s only two hours long. Don’t miss it, you’ll regret it if you do.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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