Metro: An urban symphony
By Manisha Vardhan, MovieTalkies.com, 11 May 2007
Once again we have a film which we can call our own. A film which reflects and echoes the times that we live in. The first instance in recent years was a film called Dil Chahta Hai directed by the now-famous Farhan Akhtar. Anurag Basu's canvas in Metro is slightly different. Its colours are more muted and somber. You may not agree with his take on ‘life' in the metro. But you would have to agree with his integrity to his storyline. He strikes the right note from the beginning, and except for an occasional fumble, the note is carried forth right through till the end.
The setting for the film is Mumbai. Or it could be another metro, and the people trapped in it. Basu's characters and their lives are all connected. And not just by the fact that they live in the same city. Their lives intertwine and overlap and yet remain individual, complete stories in themselves. One among the ‘many stories' in the film is about Ranjeet (KK Menon) and Shikha (Shilpa Shetty). Ranjit is a top ranking official in a call centre. The couple have been married for a while and have a young daughter as well. Their marriage has run its predictable course. They are now at a point where each of them is doing their own thing. And then there is the story of Ranjeet and his girlfriend Neha (Kangana Ranaut).
Bored by his marriage, Ranjeet gets his charge from a no-strings- attached relationship with Neha, an employee at his firm. Bringing on the third angle to this triangle is Rahul (Shraman Joshi), a colleague of Neha's at the call centre. He is in the city to make money and rise up the ladder. He finds a novel way to do that and endear himself to his superiors, till, finally, one day, none of it is worth anything. Metro is also the story of Akash (Shiney Ahuja) and Shikha. A chance meeting at a bus station sparks off this relationship. There is Amma, Shikha's Bharatnatyam teacher (Nafisa Ali) and her first love, played by Dharmendra. And finally, my personal favourite, the story of Shruti (Konkona Sen Sharma), Shikha's sister and Monty (Irfan Khan).
Despite there being so many stories doing the round, Basu manages to keep the film moving at a decent pace, without being bogged down by details. He smoothly lures you into the narrative and keeps you engrossed by the tumult of emotion that takes place within. And there is a lot of agony and darkness in this film. There is Shika's stark loneliness which sparks an equally lonely note in Akash. There is also the suicidal Neha, desperate to love and to believe. The sunshine, in this otherwise dark film, comes with the story of Shruti and Monty. Shruti's character has shades of Bridget Jones. Her angst at being 30, single and a virgin, is bound to strike a chord with many singles. As is her utter desperation to get rid of her single & virgin status.! Monty, desperate as well, to rid himself of the singles tag, meets Shruti in response to an ad in a matrimonial site. She rejects him because of the way he ogles her cleavage. The only discordant note is struck by the Akash-Shikha-Ranjeet relationship, which needed a little more, one felt. Somehow it all seemed over too soon and one is never really sure why. The only bit which seemed contrived was the romance between the senior citizens—Nafisa Ali and a very old Dharmendra. (Will someone please tell him that we want to remember him as the Garam Dharam of the 70s. Please) One somehow never connected with that, even though one wanted to.
The film's music is very urban and matches its subject matter. Basu's masterstroke in this urban drama is his band of minstrels—Band Metro (Pritam, Soham & James) who comment on the action and even enhance the emotional appeal of the moment. Thus Basu ensures that the film's music forms an integral part of the narrative.
Metro is peopled by some brilliant actors. And all of them play out their characters adequately too. There is not much that one can say about a KK or an Irfan. They are in the habit of ‘living' their roles. And they stay true to nature in Metro as well. Konkona reveals again how versatile she is, while Shiney seems to have a Gangster hangover. Having said all of that about the acting in the film, one has to give full credit to the director for the control that he exercises on his script. The characters are part of the larger design and that's how it remains. The end result: an urban symphony. But it is not a full blown symphony. The entire look of the film, rain and all, is very deliberately muted. There is no flashy camerawork. It is perfect case for content and form supporting each other.