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CITYLIGHTS - As an individual film it works partially but as a remake, remains a weak adaptation of the powerful original. (Review By Bobby Sing)
30 May, 2014 | Movie Reviews / 2014 Releases / Inspired Movies (Alphabetical) / C

After MURDER 3, here is another official remake from Vishesh Films, of a widely acclaimed gem titled METRO MANILA directed by Sean Ellis (made in Tagalog language) in the year 2013. And the end result is almost the same as I felt while watching MURDER 3, wherein also the original film remained far better and a must watch classic indeed, as compared to its weak Indian adaptation focusing more on the commercial elements. Still looking at the positive side, its good that the Bhatts are now into buying the rights (following the right procedure), instead of just borrowing the content in the name of inspiration.
So as the film is an adapted version, therefore we need to analyze it from two distinctive viewpoints as below:

As an individual film
Watching it as a new Hindi film with some fine tracks already popular before the release, this has a mixed bag to offer, impressing the viewer only in parts. Surprisingly beginning with a sensual scene itself, it clearly gives you the message that this is not an ‘Art House’ kind of drama, but has got every essential ingredient of a Hindi film following the routine. So we have good well written songs, long emotional sequences, tense revolting scenes featuring the underdog and bedroom insertions too as usual. In other words, so what if the theme is supposed to be a sensitive one talking about poverty and the cruel life of a metro city? We can still put in some sex, song and drama to make it a commercial venture since it’s a Bhatt’s production and they are known for all these features only since long.
CITYLIGHTS begins calmly focusing on the couple’s poor state of living in the village and their decision to move to the city for a better future. The energy first comes in with the sequence of them being robbed on the very first day and then it all goes back to the same slow mood (of the beginning) as per the theme. The pace returns with the dance-bar scene and when the male protagonist manages to find a job in a security firm along with a great song. So till intermission it manages to impress the viewer only partially and one expects for something explosive to come in the next half.
However sadly the post intermission film disappoints mostly due to its various downers such as a few deliberately added songs, a long avoidable (but well-acted) dramatic scene, a heist scheme mystery revealed too early, the missing logic in the proceedings, a lifeless background score, all seen before feel and a muddled unexciting climax with many sudden twists ruining the overall impact of its exceptional performances. As a result even a 126 minutes duration seems to be too long and makes you feel as if you are watching an over stretched slow film with many routine elements.
To put it straight, CITYLIGHTS have few outstanding performances, two great songs and a fine story base to play with. But what annoys you is the over-polished presentation of the subject wherein neither the poverty makes you feel for the couple nor the city comes out as a cruel part of the film like a major character. Plus the whole ‘secret plan’ game played in the final hour falls flat, without making any major impact on the viewer, which was supposed to be main highlight of the film in the climax.
Director Hansal Mehta made a masterpiece SHAHID (2013) when he didn’t care about anything else and just followed his script, vision and dream. But when he tries to make a theme based commercial movie having a wide release, he again stumbles like DIL PE MAT LE YAAR (2000), with many uneven highs & lows in a project which could have been another potential trendsetter for sure.
Musically it would have been better if the director had used only one brilliant song “Soney Do” repeatedly in the film to make a larger impact. Though “Muskaranke Ki Vajah” is equally good but the song doesn’t give you the expected emotional high when it gets played on the screen. The background music also could have added a lot with something innovative and DOP is not able to give the much desired dark feel to the subject as required.
Performances being the major merit of CITYLIGHTS, its really sad that the narration couldn’t provide them the much needed support to shine brighter. After winning the National Award for his SHAHID, Rajkumar Rao once again delivers a stunning act getting deep into the skin of his character as always and he is just 4 years old in the trade, unbelievably. Patralekhaa doesn’t get much scope in the later part of the film, but she does leave a solid impression in her very first film boldly. The child artist remains the neglected one throughout but plays it well in her limited scenes and Manav Kaul makes a terrific entry as the supervisor (though he does tend to go over the top at times). The supporting cast adds a decent value to the key scenes, like the owner of the firm loving silly jokes and Sadia Siddique does it well as Manav’s wife.
In all, CITYLIGHTS manages to impress only partially and could have achieved a much higher status en-cashing the strong build up given by its good songs and the performers. But you can still watch it for the fabulous acts and a decent theme talking about the harsh poverty resulting in a crime in 8 out of the 10 cases in our society.
As an official remake
Watching the film as the official remake of METRO MANILA directed by Sean Ellis, CITYLIGHTS is not able to give you the same feeling of empathy, suffering, love, drama and thrill, since it strangely makes many major changes in the treatment, which in fact was the real soul of the foreign film till its final scene. To give you the details, the major elements they have messed with, are its depiction of the metro city Mumbai - which doesn’t become an essential character of the film as Manila becomes in the original, Background music - which has been beautifully done in the foreign gem with a minimum arrangement and exceptional use of sounds. And lastly the actual revelation of the truth, which all happens in the final 10 minutes of the film only, unlike the Indian version where everything is revealed much earlier, ruining the magical end.
Plus on a personal note, I couldn’t understand why they deleted the most touching and emotional aspect of METRO MANILA, wherein the 8-9 years old daughter constantly complains about her toothache, but the couple doesn’t have any money to take her to the dentist.
In my opinion that was the most valuable insertion in the original, cause there is nothing more painful in this world when you are not able to take your suffering kid to the doctor due to no money in the pockets…………. and your daughter is sitting in front of you with her hand on the cheek and moist eyes………… saying nothing!!!
The makers of CITYLIGHTS weirdly missed or willfully deleted this most touching sub-plot of the film and that was nothing short of a creative crime as I strongly felt.
Yet the other truth remains that with the limited budget the film has been made in and due to the music already making into the top charts, the Bhatts once again have proved that their golden formula of a remake-music-sex and performances put together in one package always gets them some returns, despite the average show of their films at the box office.
So in case you like its basic theme then essentially watch the original at the earliest and do yourself a favour.
Rating : 2.5 / 5 (with a special praise for song “Soney Do Khwaab Boney Do”)

(For friends interested in reading my piece on METRO MANILA, its available at the link below: )

METRO MANILA (2013 - Philippines) and the mystic master OSHO's quote on the rich. (Articles on Cinema By Bobby Sing)

Cheers!

Tags : Citylights Review by Bobby Sing, Citylights Film Review by Bobby Sing, Citylights and Metro Manila, Bobby Sing Bollywood Reviews, New Bollywood Movies Reviews, New Bollywood Movies Released, New Hindi Films Reviews, New Hindi Movies Reviews, New Hindi Movies Released, New Bollywood Reviews, Bobby Talks Cinema Review, Reviews By Bobby Sing, New Hindi Films Reviews at bobbytalkscinema.com, Inspired Films, Official Hindi Remakes of English Films, Offical Remakes of World Cinema Films.
30 May 2014 / Comments ( 4 )
A Desai
Oh no! Can't believe that they skipped the whole toothache part. It was the most touching element.
Bobby Sing

Yeah A. Desai,
I was also shocked to see this and really couldn't believe that Bhatts who are known to understand human emotions so well, skipped that entire emotional sub plot deliberately.

That was actually quite shocking too.
Cheers!

Zeeshan

Dear Bobby,

I'm a big admirer of your writings but this time don't agree with you. Apart from a remake it's a great movie and shows the signs of returning of Mahesh Bhatt to the cinema for which he is known. In a recent interview of Mr. Bhatt said that already made many money spinners and know it's the time to make some meaningful cinema.

I liked the way how it is adapted in Indian circumstances as like Shanghai (which also a great movie).

Though the original one is great but this one also very heart touching. Please don't compare both just see this as individual then it will seem a great movie.

I also didn't compare both and enjoyed this movie.

Regards

Bobby Sing

Dear Zeeshan,
Its fine if you dont agree this time brother, but I think you didnt read the review properly as it has been clearly divided in two parts.

One as an individual film and One as the Remake.

So even if one sees this film as an individual attempt, then also it didnt touch me anywhere other than the performances and two songs. The characters are not able to make that emotional connect for which Mr. Mahesh Bhatt is known for. 

And by the way, if Mr. Bhatt was really making some meaningful cinema then why there were all unwanted songs in the film along with the unwanted bedroom scenes. In fact a film based on poverty starting with a gigling sex scene remained the one thing which put me off completely.

So please see that the review is in two parts, especially for friends who have not seen or not willing to see the original.
But then its our personal viewpoints which can differ sometimes and that only truly keeps the interest alive.

(Plus if you do wish to know the views of many other film-makers on the film then do check out the comments below the post of CITYLIGHTS at my wall at Facebook too.)

So its all fine if this time my views didnt satisfy you.
But Keep visiting and writing in.
Cheers!

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