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Anurag Basu's Life... in a Metro, transcends the glitz and the glamour of the city of dreams and explores the darker side of Mumbai, spinning a tale of passion, sex, desire, separation, death and an itch.
30. Single. Woman. Virgin. If one was to do the permutation of the possibilities for this equation to be wholly true, there would be only one place for its existence: in Anurag Basu's Life... in a Metro. This 30-year-old-virgin woman desperately seeking a husband on shaadi.com (a popular matrimonial website in India) ceases to understand why there aren't any good matches for her even though the census report states for every 1000 men there are 933 women. This 30 year old virgin Shruti (played by Konkana Sen Sharma) meets Monty (Irrfan Khan), a lanky man with a discordant dressing sense and socially inept behavior who happens to be her fifth prospective groom. Shruti is however shocked to learn that she is Monty's 24th, or maybe 25th, prospective bride. The meeting ends in rejection as Shruti catches Monty's eyes transfixed lustily on her bosoms. (Later in the movie Shruti, who works at Radio Mirchi, takes an unsuccessful detour from Monty, falling for RJ Wishy K. Unfortunately, he's only flirting with Shruti to hide the fact that he is gay.)
Monty and Shruti's relationship is the most interesting relationship in the movie compared to the other storylines which have been numerously portrayed and dwelled upon by other filmmakers in the past. Movies like Arth, Murder, Corporate, Page 3 and many more have worked with the topics of illicit relationship, male dominance and the questions of homosexuality. What makes the characters of Monty and Shruti stand out are not only the humorous dialogues but also their realization that the city of dreams has taken away much more from them that it has given. In their daily battle of struggle and survival, they have been caught up with mundane things, so much that they are unaware of how fast the time has fast-forwarded till it beeps an alarm at age 30.
The film explores various other facets of the human relationship, from the bedroom battles to the cold corporate world.
Sharman Joshi, who is noted for his comic timings, plays the role of Rahul, a young ambitious man who works as an executive in a BPO call centre. He works his way up the corporate ladder by striking the right cord with his bosses - which is definitely not done through hard work. In lieu of higher pay and out of turn promotions, he offers to give his bosses the keys of his uncle's empty flat, where they lurk at night with their mistresses and girlfriends and release their libidos.
Rahul silently admires Neha played by Kangana Ranaut (of Gangster and Woh Lahme fame) who is smart and beautiful, another common portrayal of women in the corporate world. Cashing in on her strengths (chips), she decides to slide through the glass ceiling instead of breaking it by being a willing participant to her married boss's whims and fantasies.
The married boss Ranjit Kapoor (played by Kay Kay Menon) is a reflection of the psyche of a successful businessman and a male chauvinist. Although he indulges in an illicit affair himself, he ceases to withstand the practice of adultery when it is reciprocated by his beautiful, talented wife Shikha (played by Shilpa Shetty). The relationship at some level breaks the notion that educated, beautiful women have it all. Shikha, a talented Bharatnatyam dancer, is dissuaded by her husband to work post delivery, and she remains within the confines of her home for nearly six years -- suffocating her ambitions and repressing the growing silence in their relationship.
Shikha, devoid of love from her indifferent husband, soon finds herself attracted to a divorced, struggling theatre artist Akash (played by Shiney Ahuja). The daily meetings soon blossom into love, and one day they find themselves each other arms. However, like all careful directors, Anurag Basu's doesn't let the actress cross the line, and few minutes into belly rubbing and shoulder massages, she is hit with the guilt bug. In sync with the patriarchal society, this scene reinforces the notion that it is acceptable for a married man to have sex outside his matrimony, but not for a woman. (Will some body ever beg to differ?)
Last but not least, the long-lost-love-comes-back pitch is also thrown into the movie with the character of Amol (played by Dharmendra). A 70 year old man who has been living abroad for 40 years, Amol returns to India to spend last few years of his life with Shivani, his first love (played by the Nafisa Ali). Shivani, who also happens to be Shikha's dance teacher, has been left alone in a retirement home by her children who have flown off shores to realize the great Indian dream.
All the actors have done justice to their roles and give good performances. The movie attempts to blend the old tried and tested recipes of sex, money, power, love and separation into one. At times it succeeds, but at others it does not. Basu manages to outline some of the characters very well, while other storylines seem to come to an abrupt end (or beginning in some cases). For example, the death of Shivani while she is been taken to the hospital due to a traffic jam. The Maharashtra Transport authorities will surely not be pleased at this connotation. Then you have Ranjit's return to Shikha at the end, when Neha suddenly flooded with feeling for Rahul, leaps out of the car, and runs towards the station to catch him as he leaves the city. The movie does keep you engaged for some time, but as story unfolds and plot becomes more obvious, the only thing that still keeps you seated is Pritam Chakraborty's music.
This director-composer duo had paired earlier in the movie Gangster, creating smash hit numbers which topped all of the music charts in India. Pritam once again pulls the show together with his lively, rocky and sensual numbers. The men in black make recurrent appearances with songs like "Alvida," "In Dino," "O meri jaan," and "Rishtey," which not only takes the movie forward but also bridges the gaps when the movie falls short.
In Metro, Anurag Basu may not have recreated the same magic as he did with his blockbuster hits Gangster and Murder, but he does succeed in bringing out the ancient yet modern city of Mumbai -- with all the daily battles and intense emotional discharges of its people.
Date Posted: 8/24/2007