City of Gold review: It shines in places

City of Gold review: It shines in places

Source: General

By: Sonia Chopra

Critic's Rating: 3/5

Saturday 24 April 2010

Movie Title

City of Gold review: It shines in places


Mahesh Manjrekar

Star Cast

Vineet Kumar, Sameer Dharmadhikari, Kashmira Shah and Satish Kaushik

The film?s title is sarcastic. For the message, it wishes to inculcate is that while Mumbai is assumed to be city of gold (opportunities), these riches have been paved upon the toils of several mill workers who never got their due.

The setting is a chawl in the `80s (a time when mill shutters were being downed robbing thousands of their livelihood) ? the protagonists are a family supported by a textile mill-worker. The workers haven?t been paid for six months and are being encouraged to retire voluntarily. Without any income, the workers? families are distraught. Tired of false promises by the owners who are keen to sell off the land for a new mall, a family in the chawl commits suicide. Their union leader Rane (Sachin Khedekar) fights for their rights, but can?t battle the attitude of his own people who are ready to quit the fight for a little money.

There are some arresting moments ? you truly feel for the plight of the workers, and are moved when their firebrand leaders climb on top of cabs and rev up the workers. The story of disillusioned young, with an easy access to alcohol, guns and smooth-talking crime lords is also disturbing.

The character you feel for the most is the home?s matriarch Aai (Seema Biswas) who sees each of her children let her down one by one. Post-retirement, the husband too refuses to take any responsibility. It?s left to her to handle the lives of each of her family members, and welcome money into the home, even if got by questionable means. She watches helplessly as one son loses a job over robbery, another gets embroiled in crime, while a third must sell a kidney to keep things afloat.

The realism is often hampered by melodramatic bits: the neighbourhood wife having an extra-marital affair explaining her infidelity, for the benefit of the viewer and the eavesdropping husband outside the door; the women turning to prostitution; criminal gangs running with 14-year-olds drunk on power and alcohol, and so on.

This melodrama has been questioned also by a columnist who quotes PUKAR activist Ajit Abhimeshi.

As per the article, Abhimeshi who has had first-hand experience of working with mill workers, City of Gold chooses to showcase only the sensational bits ? ?Instead of choosing to show how women of mill workers often got together in the most enterprising of ways, the film chooses to focus on those rare cases of prostitution that may have happened. The underworld did seep into the neighbourhood. Unemployment and lack of financial support did have the potential to degrade the most ethical of youngsters. But never to the point that anyone would attack a passerby at night or pick up a fallen vada pav from the pavement. This is clearly a gaze that comes from the outside.?

And truly enough, the film plays on one heart-rending episode after the other, never seamlessly weaving them all. It?s mean to manipulate and shock (a character ends up with a contract to kill his own friend?s father; another character dies most unexpectedly), never really saying much.

Mahesh Manjrekar (Astitiva, Virudh, Vaastav) while taking up the cause of the mill worker doesn?t tell us enough. What we see is stock film portrayal of the city?s underprivileged and their daily struggle for survival. You wish the film had delved deeper with a more hands-on approach and more layered characters. The ending sequence is simply offensive. The Maharashtrian family speaking in Hindi also robs the film of its authenticity; one is certain the Marathi version (Lalbaugh-Parel) is more effective. Performance by the cast is a huge bonus.

One can call the film somewhat gripping, but hardly one that explores the mill worker?s tribulations with an honest heart.

Verdict: 2.5 stars

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