I honestly feel that this review might be coming just a tad bit too late in the day. I can’t help but admit that I have a job to keep and a host of other errands to run which sometimes overshadows my passion for watching films and writing. That is the only reason which made me overlook this film and its only after it came out in home video that I finally watched it. Hansal Mehta and Rajkumar Rao had earlier collaborated on the scintillatingly good Shahid which was in many ways the director gifting a career making role to an actor. Citylights is the actor acknowledging that good turn with a sensational essay which elevates the director’s cause this time around.
The film narrates the story of Deepak(Rajkumar Rao) who was a driver in the army and had owned a garment shop, but with piling debt and little to give him solace from his agony, he decides to come down to Mumbai. Once here he is conned for a house and practically left with no place to live with his ever supportive wife (Patralekha) and daughter. His wife is forced to work in a Beer Bar. As fate would have it, luck smiles on him when he is inducted into a private security force responsible for the transportation of money and other valuables. It is here that he comes in contact with Vishnu (Manav Kaul), his superior officer.
Vishnu introduces him to the Mumbai that he had wished for and also extends some favors on him including ensuring that he is selected into the agency. However, all his actions are not exactly without purpose. As the film progresses, his true motive behind the favors is revealed as in Vishnu’s greed, Deepak, for once, gets his first chance at earning enough to take his family out of their sordid existence and ensuring that they are in want for nothing in the days to come. Will he pull it off? What price will he have to pay? What will his wife have to say about it? These are just some of the questions which drives the narrative of this film.
Citylights is a gripping drama which unfolds in a manner which will leave you heartbroken. There remains confusion about how to feel about it once the screening is done. While I couldn’t help but feel great about Deepak’s family finally getting a truckload of money and finding their happiness, I just couldn’t fathom the sorry state that Deepak ends up with. To me he was the pinnacle of the film and him ending up the way, he does was just heartbreaking. However I also couldn’t think of any other way the film could have ended. There was no way, Deepak could have rescued his family from their plight without pitting himself against the odds and that’s exactly what he did. With every scene the film grows more and more tense. At a juncture it nearly turns into a menacing thriller which is also serving as a potent human drama.
Rajkumar Rao scores his biggest home-run after Shahid with this film. He is truly remarkable in a role which demanded not only a lot of control but some organic expressions. Watch him breeze through the scenes from him landing up in Mumbai and loosing everything in a whisker to his scenes with his wife where he is shown in pain for his own and his wife’s dignity and finally the scenes that he shares with Vishnu wherein he finds the means to an end. Rao has outdone himself and has practically transformed himself into Deepak.
One cannot take away the credit of the director for creating a superb product with very little budget. From what I have read in the reviews, Citylights took a slow start but with positive word of mouth, picked up to end with a humongous 36 crores business. For a film made for about 7 crores, that is considerable amount of money. Easily from the praise that I have already showered on it, I cannot see ‘that’ not being the case with others too. The praises however couldn’t have been better placed. Another huge plus is the films musical score which wonderfully elevates the mood and feel of the film. The story of the film flows effortlessly through at least two songs taking the narrative further and yet leaving a soothing effect to the ear and heart.
Overall, Citylights is a monumental success. The future of Bollywood rests on this kind of cinema. This is a film which works for its potent drama, believable characters, superb performances and beautiful music. Don’t miss this one.