Reviewing the Reviews: Most 3 stars for Citylights

02 Jun,2014

By Deepa Gahlot



Directed by: Hansal Mehta

Starring: Rajkummar Rao, Patralekha, others


Hansal Mehta’s Citylights, the official remake of Metro Manila, is one of those films that critics are obliged to praise, because it is sincere, tries to take a stand and tells a story that so many city dwellers would understand, because they also came from outside and struggled to make a home.


Rajkummar Rao and Manav Kaul carry the film on their able shoulders, and fetch the film mostly 3 star ratings, even by critics who expressed some disappointment.


Shubra Gupta of Indian Express wrote, “The result is a grim yarn which moves you intermittently, but whose patchiness is papered over by a fine performance from Rao. It could have been more impactful if the songs, and some amount of improbability, had been kept at bay. The lyrics keep intruding into the narrative, trying to wring sympathy. This takes away from the film, and injects drippiness in a film which needed none : the story, despite its occasional bumps, is enough to make us feel.”


Sanjukta Sharma of Mint commented, “Mehta’s film festers in the story’s limited scope. That is obvious in almost every scene. Songs are tools for emphasis-literal translations of emotions supposed to define a scene, they belt right into the tears and the histrionics of the couple. Like a potboiler, repetition packs the narrative, and the camera seems a dab-the film does not have a distinct visual language, oddly oscillating between glossy B-grade Bollywood and low-light candidness.”


Mihir  Fadnvis of gave it one of the few scathing reviews. “Metro Manila is a neat little drama-thriller that brings a quietly artistic taste of poverty, sacrifice and desperation to a sub-genre that is disinterested in pandering to movie clichés. Hansal Mehta, the director of the terrific and understated Shahid and his star Rajkumar Rao were the perfect choices to remake Metro Manila. Oh boy, what a disappointment. Metro Manila vaulted between sensitivity, action, pacing, character development and social commentary, and thanks to solid direction it all just clicked perfectly. In CityLights all of those elements are placed haphazardly, and the film becomes a mediocre afternoon soap.”


Rajeev Masand titled his review Bright Lights Big Pity and commented (on CNN-IBN): “‘Citylights’, an official remake of the British-Filipino hit ‘Metro Manila’, isn’t a bad film by any measure, but it does feel repetitive and long, even at a running time of less than two hours. Technically too, the film offers no surprises. In the original film, because the protagonist was a fish out of water, the audience discovered the city of Manila and its seedy side along with him and through his eyes. But Mehta shoots Mumbai through the same jaundiced lens as dozens of films in the past.”


Anupama Chopra of Hindustan Times was mildly critical. “Citylights is the official remake of the award-winning Filipino-language film Metro Manila. The moving story about the horrors an immigrant family endures in the big city, translates perfectly to India and director Hansal Mehta stays faithful to the original. He bolsters the powerful narrative with fine performers – Manav Kaul as Vishnu, Deepak’s charming but slippery partner in a private security firm, and debutant Patralekhaa as his wife. But the disjointed and blaring background music doesn’t work. The lovemaking scenes are equally gratuitous. Also, the city of Mumbai remains generic and never becomes a character in itself. Still, Citylights is persuasive. And it will hit you harder if you haven’t seen the original.”


Saibal Chatterjee of raved, “An intense human drama delivered in the form of a riveting thriller, CityLights deals with the oft-repeated theme of rural migration.  Director Hansal Mehta imparts both weight and style to the film. He does so with impressive precision and lightness of touch. CityLights is the story of a couple whose rustic innocence is suffocated by the soul-crushing challenges of living and surviving in a big city. CityLights may not be exceptionally unusual in terms of its storyline, but Mehta’s modulated, deeply felt treatment of the grim narrative material informs the film with a sense of urgency and unfailing relevance.”


Shubha Shetty Saha of mid-day wrote, “However, even though the direction and performances are impressive, the script seems manipulated and contrived at certain points, as if designed to pull the emotional trigger of the audience. Also, there are some glaring loopholes which could have been avoided. Having said that, do watch this film as it narrates the sensitive-yet-disturbing story of how human greed and selfishness can wreck lives. It also shows how unfortunately survival in a big city more often than not comes at the cost of moral values.”


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