I love Bombay in the monsoons. I don’t mean the traditional eating-corn-in-marine-drive aspect of it. Has anyone noticed how the city’s noise and confusion disappear in the thudding of raindrops? Dull trees spring to life. Duller buildings look pleasantly old instead of dilapidated. The story of ‘Life in a Metro’ unfolds on one such rainy morning. This is perhaps why I gave it my approval even before the cast made its way to the screen. But a good beginning is half the battle won as this movie proves.
Shilpa Shetty, a housewife and mother dodges puddles to go through the set routine of her unexciting life. Her sister, Konkona Sen is checking out yet another matrimonial prospect from Shaadi.com to see if he is loving, caring, likes to travel and loves books. Irffan Khan, meeting her, is everything a financially stable, approaching thirty, urban single woman would despise – slightly lecherous, far from cultured and thinks that the irresistible qualification for an eligible groom would be to be a non-drinker and non-smoker. Sharman Joshi, an ambitious BPO employee still grappling with his value system, finds yet another way to grab a two-minute conversation with his unrequited ladylove Kangana Ranaut. As the movie progresses their stories unfold. Caught in the bustle of Mumbai’s daily grind, they learn lessons about life and love and eventually make choices about both.
The movie is clearly inspired from myriad sources. However, despite the lack of originality director Anurag Basu needs to be given full credit for tackling two key challenges well. The first one is to have woven his web of characters in a wonderful and credible manner. Given the large selection of characters he has picked up – a couple with a dissolving marriage, an ambitious youngster, a looking-for-love single woman, a slimy boss, a self destructive girl, two old people racing against time, a failing theatre actor – he could have easily degenerated into portraying caricatures. Fortunately he largely manages not to do so and gives each character a voice that speaks not so much as the stereotype that they represent but as a living and thinking individual. The second one is to keep your interest going even though you can guess how each story-stream would end. Perhaps the fact that you have already started getting under each character’s skin by the first thirty minutes keeps you hooked.
The music is yet another glorious aspect of the movie. Fitted into the correct sequences, it captures the mood of the moment aptly. The composer trio appearing on screen and actually shown singing was a trifle shocking initially and a trifle annoying later on. Notwithstanding, you were happy to set the story aside for a while, sit and listen at these interludes.
Irffan simply rocks as the frustrated, aging singleton who is desperate to embrace the love and lust he can get in a marriage. Kay Kay Menon turns in a good performance as an insensitive, two-timing husband and manipulative boss. The rest are pretty decent. Give me Shilpa Shetty any day over Ash Rai to be premiering movies in the UK. While having her as India’s cultural ambassador may not be my first choice, it cannot be denied that she can at least be made to act. Konkana and Kangana are both expectedly accurate in their portrayals.
The one thread that did not make much sense to me was the romance of yester year’s hero, Dharmendra, with Nafisa Ali. The idea of finding love at that age seemed sweet and realistic but do old people really act and talk like that ?
The movie is by no means perfect and falters here and there. It will however rank as one of the best efforts at capturing the challenges of urbanites in the current generation.