Combating Existentialism As Anurag Basu’s Life In A Metro Turns 15

Life In A Metro Turns 15, Anurag Basu, Bollywood
Popular Indian cinema approaches the metropolitan lifestyle through freedom, alienation and displacement, strengthening crises, emotions, society and economy. Anurag Basu’s Life In A Metro narrates disillusionment, extramarital affairs and love. Yet, it’s the city which connects the women and fortifies their feminism in the face of angst and sadness. In some ways, the film remains relevant even today, not just for the music but because of the way it captures the story of these women.

Anurag Basu’s Life In A Metro, released in 2007, was set in Mumbai – a city where industries work the whole day. Sayeed Quadri, Amitabh Verma, Sandeep Srivastava, who composed the lyrics of “Rishtey” in the film convey the dilemmatic notions of living in the country’s largest city, feeling and experiencing closeness. 

Life In A Metro Turns 15

As the film explores the hounded lives of the Mumbai folk, it clarifies how the complexities of modern existence are similar, regardless of age and gender. From being the first movie to deconstruct the Achilles heel of the city, Basu’s choice of characters in the likes of Neha, Shikha, Shruti and Shivani represents love from diffused connotations of sexuality and desire. 

In the movie Life in a Metro, Ranjit in his 30s married to Shikha with a six-year-old son, decided that she should stay back at home and take care of the house and kid. On the contrary, Ranjit would be venturing out on his quest for money and success, forgets his family and enters an adulterous relationship with Neha. Neglected by an indifferent husband, Shikha too gets attracted to Akash, whom she considers as an unconventional-minded person. 

As love blossoms on either side, Neha realizes her disillusionment and folly and Shikha too cultivates moral shame and guilt to cross her personal boundaries and principles. The lyrics of  “Rishtey” symbolically refers to depravity which is pervasive in Wasteland metropolis Mumbai while Rahul devises how he can climb up the ladder of success. Ranjit uses Rahul’s flat to meet Neha but avoids commitment which leads her to attempt suicide and an eventual union with Rahul. When Ranjit returns to Shikha, all the relationships become time-bound, created as circumstances demand. All the internal crises, after all, had a moral sense of response and responsibility.

The Indian Express holds that the expectations the characters had from one another in which all of them wanted to be loved and be in the presence of it, wanting less sorrow – is what binds each character’s story with the mood of the city uplifting the same. 

“City life is a violent stimulus. People in cities instead of reacting emotionally, react primarily in a rational manner, thus creating a mental dilemma because they have to deal with ever shifting contexts and there is more concern for economic ramifications,” say movie buffs. 

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In the movie, communication seems impossible even with cell phones, but traveling through air has brought cities nearer, commercial lifestyle, malls, multiplexes are still sources of entertainment and long distant years have become reduced to months or less to meet one’s ambition. Boredom, isolation and monotony are current trends to escape into the make-believe spaces of entertainment while sex and dreams cause sleeplessness. 

Rahul, the protagonist, silently loves his boss Neha. Neha is a smart woman who has made it up the ranks in a very short time, because her boss Ranjit loves her and is willing to shower her with gifts and opportunities. Her attempt to suicide is a subtle protest that she is better off without his infidelity and misogyny. The filmmaker uses a language which shows how capitalism and its human agents divert from a healthy environment and state of mind. 

So what is the point of watching characters who meet in their ordinary, day-to-day lives in real time? According to critics, it is so because of the fresh concepts in terms of storytelling. In the deafening chaos of the Maximum City lurks a perpetual silence; there is stillness in the fast-moving lives of all the characters in the film. From the character of Konkana screaming her heart out to let go of the trauma, to being unable to fit in the bridal dress, one can weep and laugh at the same time. That’s how Anurag Basu makes it clear that through the movie, he is not teaching from the pulpit.  

Although the movie revolves around displacement and dislocation, Life In A Metro is still refreshing to watch today. Not only does the camaraderie shared by the characters, particularly the women make the movie pleasant, but the storyline of the film is as engaging as some moments of the film were hilarious, touching and deeply sad.

 The views expressed are the author’s own.