When will Hindi Cinema ever learn that the lifeline of any good film is its script? For all its good intentions and in spite of fine performances from most of its ensemble cast, Life in a ... Metro finally falters due to a weak, stereotypical screenplay. After viewing the film, one cannot help but rue it as a film of missed chances. The film's problems are compounded by the fact that suddenly Hindi Cinema is being flooded with multiple stories and ensemble cast films. For newer films to come out using this device, they now have to have a new insight or be treated in a fresh manner be it through the structure, film flow and treatment of scenes. Metro for all its efforts fails on those counts.
To be fair, the film starts off promisingly as the main characters are established and you feel the director looks at the various characters, who for once are etched out with not just black and white but enough shades of grey, with empathy rather then being judgemental about who they are and what they do. But as the film proceed, the various storylines start getting unstuck and are finally resolved with so called morally accepted endings thus undoing much of the film's earlier good work. In the end, you feel all the filmmaker has shown you characters who were naughty and have now decided to become good. The one strand where the characters do go beyond society's norms to take their happiness into their own hands ends tragically.
The script fails to develop the various tracks convincingly. The Shilpa Shetty - Shiney Ahuja Brief Encounter like angle is not gone into suffieciently for you to believe that they both could actually have fallen in love in those few meetings. Neither do you see a convincing change in Konkana's feelings towards Irrfan for her to realize she loves him. The Kay Kay - Shilpa marriage is typical and regressive wherein he expects to be forgiven for a full fledged physical relationship he's had outside marriage for two years but cannot take it when wife Shilpa Shetty tells him she's met someone in the last 4-5 weeks and hasn't even kissed him yet! And she's made to feel the guilty party! Kay Kay Menon returns to wife and daughter only because he has been dumped and not on any great realizaion on his side what a cad he's been. Of course, he's readily forgiven by the goody-two-shoes doormat wife who ends all ties with Shiney wishing him all the best and all is well. Sharman Joshi with shades of The Apartment as the call centre executive who gives the keys to his apartment to use for their various adultrous affairs in return for climbing up the corporate ladder too is given a filmi justification of doing what he does to fulfill his father's dream of opening a hotel thus diluting his character. The less said of the Dharmendra - Nafisa Ali track the better. Supposed to oh-so-cute and poignant this mature love story is by far the weakest strand in the film and falls horribly flat.
For a film like this the city has to be a character in the film. But what the filmmaker offers is a very guarded and a set view of just a section of Metro life. Yes, the has city today has became synonymous with jobs, wealth and excitement, development of malls, hypermarts, multiplexes and call centres. But what of its underbelly, crime rate, poverty and slums? Barring the shots from high skyscrapers where you cannot avoid the slums of Mumbai, care has been taken to avoid showing 'the other side'. In that sense the film is unidimensional and not as layered as it could have been.
The film does have its share of likeable moments. A sequence that particularly stands out is the one where Sharman has to juggle the various people who use his apartment as suddenly a date change of one of the parties tends to throw his entirely carefully planned scheduled haywire! Another well handled sensitive sequence is the one of Shilpa Shetty and Shiney as they slowly and hesitantly move towards intimacy.
What helps the film are the performances of its extremely competent ensemble cast. Without doubt the track that works best is the Irrfan Khan - Konkana Sen Sharma one. The lightest in tone, both the actors are in fine form showing good chemistry among themselves. Irrfan in particular is a revealation possessing a razor sharp sense of comic timing one was totally unaware of. Konkana compliments him perfectly. Just see their scene on the terrace of a tall building as theys scream and let out their frustartions or as he speaks to his boss in Punjabi to get her a job in his company. The fairy tale ending to their romance, however, was plain stupid and takes a lot away from the till then realistic tone of the film. Kay Kay Menon responds with another fine performance as the call centre boss sleeping with his employee Kangna Ranaut while wife Shilpa Shetty who has given up her career once they have a baby languishes at home. Shilpa sincerely tries and responds with one of the better performances of her career though there are times where you feel she is the most filmi in the ensemble and must 'act.'. Sharman Joshi and Shiney Ahuja are ok, the latter needing a more fleshed out characterization while Kangna Ranaut is curiously flat and listless. Dharmendra is badly miscast and Nafisa Ali gives yet another stilted Nafisa Ali performance.
On the technical side, since the filmmaker wants to stay with his characters, there is a great deal of use of the tele lens and attempt to go for close ups. But it stays at that, just an effort, as sometimes this leads to some extremely awkward framing and compositions. The music by Pritam goes well with the film but the integration of the band in every song to not just sing the songs but act as sutradhars as well palls after the first attempt andappears unintentionally funny in the more emotional bits and irritating in the lighter bits and seems totally unnnecessary as it adds nothing to the film. The film appears to be curiously low in aspect of Production Design. What was that set where Dhamendra and Nafisa Ali get intimate???
All in all, Life in a ... Metro had the potential to be much much better.