In a short span of four years, Rajkummar Rao has gone from being one of the many actors in Love Sex aur Dhokha to a National Award-winning leading man. Watch his performance in Citylights to understand why.
In the film, he plays Deepak Singh, a Rajasthani immigrant who brings his family from their village to Mumbai in search of a better life. He alters not just his posture and accent but his inner being. He becomes the naïve, bewildered and ultimately, a desperate family man whose generous spirit is slowly crushed by the grinding wheels of an indifferent city. It’s a wonderful performance in a strong film.
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.