(don’t know why the “Life in a …” was tacked on to the original title…)
By way of what is the longest opening credit sequence I think I’ve ever seen, Anurag Basu introduces the various couples and triangles of his Bombay-based film: Shilpa Shetty and KayKay Menon, unhappily married to each other, Konkona Sensharma and Irrfan Khan both seeking The One over Shaadi.com, Sharman Joshi with a crush on Kangana Ranaut, who’s actually involved with KayKay, Shiney Ahuja as the divorced actor drawn to Shilpa, and finally, Dharmendra as a man returned from the US to die, and hoping to rekindle Nafisa Ali’s love for him, 40 years later.
Woven into the opening scenes, as the credits appear, Pritam and his two bandmates sing, placed before us, like characters in the movie. Initially, it was a cute, surprising twist. After the third or fourth appearance (on a motorcycle with a sidecar??) it became rather grating.
Shilpa and KayKay have a lovely apartment, a cute daughter and constant fights, except when their friends are over for numerous dinners, unwittingly co-opted to act as a buffer between spouses. Surprise, surprise, the hardcharging KayKay, manager at a call center, falls into a no-strings affair with the younger, lissome Kangana, while his underling Sharman Joshi pines for her and leases out his flat as a short-stay motel to various married men from work who are conducting affairs. This is illustrated somewhat humorously like an old game of Mousetrap when one man’s wish to reschedule his time slot sets off a series of calls around the office, as couple after couple juggle dates.
Shilpa meets Shiney Ahuja at a bus stop and, stung by KayKay’s neglect, falls for him. The brief first scene where they travel together on a packed train to Andheri, and the aborted love scene later, both crackle with heat and sensuality, all done with near misses and grazes.
A less dark and sad pairing is that of Konkona and Irrfan. She is her usual bright-eyed smart girl self, in this case, just turned 30 and wary she’ll ruin her life by ending up with the wrong man (amen to that), whereas Irrfan is a more practical guy, confident that love will follow after he finds a nice girl with a good figure who likes him back. Konkona gives an earthy, thoughtful performance, and Irrfan’s delivery and manner lend his not-quite-confirmed-bachelor an offbeat quality that sets him apart from other actors in a more typical romantic lead.
The most idealized couple, and sweetest, was the Dharmendra-Nafisa pairing. I adore Anurag Basu for including this story, with the couple reuniting and enjoying love, yes, even physical love, at their age. The 70+ Punjabi hunk (who Jaya Bachchan recently revealed on KWK she thought had “a body like a Greek god”), looking very hip in jeans, with auburn highlights in his thick, wavy hair, was just amazing to behold, given that we don’t see him on screen hardly ever any more. And Nafisa was a perfect complement with her warm smile, cool blue eyes and white hair, and a series of pastel cotton saris.
The entire look of the film is pleasing to the eye. Apartments, even those belonging to up and comers, are like those on Friends, likely way beyond what their occupants’ salaries would really buy in this metropolis, and beautifully appointed to boot.
Everyone’s clothes (save a few missteps by Irrfan’s character, and those khaki safari photographer vests Shiney sports) are quite lovely, though I could have done with a few less pairs of fashion-forward specs on so many characters, and even Pritam. (Next time I watch this movie, I must pay more attention at the end for a special “eyeglass frame” sponsorship”¦)
This Bombay is a cosmetically pretty city, even during the monsoon, and there’s never a hint of brown murky water welling up on the streets, rather, it’s always crystalline and looks not the least bit warm.
The music is ok, though without a real show-stopper among the five or so songs. The repeated reappearance of Pritam and Co. served to break up the suspension of disbelief, or the fourth wall, adding a jarring reminder with each apparition that we are indeed watching a movie and those three guys are doing commentary to us on it.
One bothersome detail: the subtitles are spotty, sometimes with only fragments of sentences appearing onscreen, sometime with long absences. For such a glossy film, just over two hours, and likely intended to appeal to the NRI and possibly also to the foreign audience, that was a glaring neglect of attention to an important detail.
See it or skip it: See it. Metro is an interesting next step in the recent trajectory of urban-focused, mall-and-metroplex Bombay films like Bluffmaster and Taxi No 9211. Also, post-KANK, it treads on interesting relationship territory.
Plus, can you ever get enough of Konkona or Irrfan? (Stay tuned for an upcoming review of Ms. Sensharma’s Amu, and an interview with filmmaker Shonali Bose.)