At first glance, Citylights comes across as a run-of-the-mill helpless villagers caught in the big bad world kind-of-a-film, which it still might be. But, there is something about the performances that hooks you in those two minutes. The couple's desperation comes across rather crudely and therein lies the ironical and rugged charm.
It is surely a depressing tale. Now even if it has a happy ending after all, the process of getting there doesn't look too easy for both the characters and the audience. On the other hand, the situations seem very typical, guy is insulted, slapped around and resorts to something he had never thought himself capable of and the woman is insulted, humiliated and resorts to selling her flesh and thus soul.
I just hope that like the trailer, the movie is able to take us beyond the "no great shakes" feel that the story and situations give. Through the performances and through some good music and that something little more. That this is a film under the Bhatt banner doesn't help its case too much now, does it?
- meeta, a part of the audience
A couple from deep inside Rajasthan loses all hopes of a livelihood in their village and move to the city of hopes, Mumbai. Given the texture of the film, you know they are going to suffer. A lot. Before they get any respite, if at all. Now, we know where this is going and so have to heavily bank on the details of how this comes about and the performances. One delivers, the other not that much.
There's no better way to put this - the difficulties in the lives of Deepak (Rajkummar Rao) and Rakhee (Patralekha) come to easily. Yes, given their value system they are asked to do pretty horrendous things. But, you don't see their resistance. You don't see them looking for better options before stooping low (by their own standards).
This is where I lost interest in the film, despite liking the pace at which things were playing out. Then I wondered if it was because Deepak and Rakhee were made out to be generalizations of all immigrants into a city. While some times such stereotypes work, at most times the cliché has to work harder to create an impact. And to that end, Citylights was doing nothing. Every once in a while, it becomes the story of this particular person, Deepak. And at those times, it does engage, but quickly it slips back into being this sad story of how people from outside the city are so gullible and the city is out to get them.
I am not going to go into the argument of whether or not all non-city-dwellers are more or less unaware of how the world works and that all city-dwellers are out their to dupe the former. For I believe at some level, we all want to believe that nothing bad will happen to us and when we smarten up it changes to, I'm smarter now, so nothing bad will happen to me. Similarly, all of us will agree to cheat when push comes to shove. The only problem is that you are not convinced that push has come to shove in Deepak and Rakhee's case.
The only thing keeping the film interesting then is the performances. Rajkummar Rao and Manav Kaul are thoroughly engaging, especially Manav Kaul. It might have to do more with his character too. The shade of grey, his frustration and reasons for doing what he does are all interesting. Patralekha on the other hand does well with what she's asked to do. How I wish her character had better depth for it to explore her acting skills.
Then you have the background score and the songs. They both hinder instead of help. Somehow, the film's ambience isn't congruous with the music. The music by itself is pretty mediocre too. They sounded more like they belonged to a Bhatt film while they were in a setting that wanted to be in the Aamir zone.
That I think is the bane. Citylights tries to be two things at the same time for some things that cannot go together. True it keeps the setting real and the performances support that theme. But, other than that, it doesn't engage. Just because a film is morose and grim, it doesn't qualify as one that reaches out to you deep within. It is not good enough to have realistic setting and performances. The story has to make you believe too. That is what Citylights misses.
- meeta, a part of the audience
Thumbs up, by Anna MM Vetticad , annavetticadgoes2themovies : ...That being said, long after the music has faded and the credits have rolled past, it’s hard to shake off the wretched despondency that Citylights leaves in its wake.... full review
Thumbs up, by Taran Adarsh, Bollywood Hungama : ...On the whole, CITYLIGHTS is one of the most captivating movie experiences of late. An expertly-crafted heartbreaker, this tragic tale has a riveting plot, power-packed narrative, soulful music and arresting performances to haunt you much after the screening has concluded. A must watch! ... full review
Thumbs up, by Tushar Joshi, Bollywood Life : ...CityLights is deep, dark and extremely depressing. But Mehta deserve full marks for going all the way and giving us a glimpse of the city’s dark underbelly where dreams are often shattered and broken... full review
Thumbs up, Daily Bhaskar : ...CityLights is not a commercial film at all. It’s not a film which you would like to watch with your family to lighten up your mood. CityLights will make you think, cry and will stay with you even after the climax. Indian audience has so far maintained a distance from this genre of cinema. CityLights might change the trend.... full review
Thumbs up, by Kusumita Das, Deccan Chronicle : ...Raju Singh’s haunting background score and Jeet Ganguli’s music are almost like characters in the story. Citylights follows the graph of impoverishment, exploitation and the eventual rebellion. The film is as breathless as its protagonists, but there is a certain poetry in its treatment that leaves a mark. Given its premise, some might say it’s old wine in a new bottle. But this bottle’s certainly a keeper.... full review
Thumbs up, by Mohar Basu, koimoi : ...Citylights might have its flaws but is overall a film that must be watched. A befitting commentary on social exploitation, the film’s humane touch and the expressive treatment catapults it to a different league. But mostly I find it hard to not sing praises of Raj Kumar Rao whose superlative work gives the film it’s mettle. I ordinarily was going to go with a 3 but for Raj Kumar’s brilliance I am giving this one a 3.5/5. Industry has found an heir to Irrfan Khan and when it comes from a fan, understand that he is a keeper.... full review
Thumbs up, by Aakash Barvalia, MoviezADDA : ...Dum? Well, there is a massive dum for all those who love realistic heart touching films. Right from its direction, performances, dialogues, music and production level, 'CityLights' scores high in every field. The movie might not appeal to the masala film loving audience as this one is dark, gritty and disturbing. In short, 'CityLights' is a human tale set in inhumane times... full review
Thumbs up, by Rahul Desai, Mumbai Mirror : ...Rightly so, the primary screenplay credit is attributed to Sean Ellis. He would agree that Mehta's unyielding portrait is an impassioned recreation of his vision. Moreover, Citylights' frighteningly carnivorous undertow singularly restores Mumbai's reputation as India's most absolute cinematic city. ... full review
Thumbs up, by Suparn Verma, Rediff : ...A hard, unrelenting film that doesn’t give in to over sentimentality, Citylights is just like the city of Mumbai. It beats you down and when you are broken, takes you in its arms and loves you. ... full review
Thumbs up, by Srijana Mitra Das, Times of India : ...The second half thus gently meanders, shots becoming slightly repetitive and slow, making you agree when Vishnu tells Deepak in exasperated humour, "Aap itni dheemi gati ke film hain!" But the end gathers itself, providing a twist that both dazzles and covers darkness.... full review
So-So, by Rachit Gupta, Filmfare : ...The film though has no such promise. It’s a barren canvas of Mumbai’s underbelly and poverty and corruption. Things we’ve seen a thousand times before. Only this time they’re show in softer focus, more artful lighting. That’s the thing about lights. They can create a wonderful optical illusion. But it only lasts till you get up close and realise there’s nothing there.... full review
So-So, by Johnson Thomas, Free Press Journal : ...Performances are all first rate. Rajkumar Rao, fresh from his National Award winning turn in ‘Shahid’ plays true even if the character he assays is poorly constructed. Patralekha looks pretty and shows off her mettle to good effect. But it’s Manav Kaul who actually steals the show. Unaffected and confident, he makes full use of his unusual looks to give the character he assays a striking intonation.... full review
So-So, by Anupama Chopra, Hindustan Times : ...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. ... full review
So-So, by Rajeev Masand, IBN Live : ...Where 'Citylights' succeeds is in telling the story of ordinary people living below the poverty line people we seldom cast a second glance at people who sometimes have to resort to desperate measures just so they can keep their children alive. It's a good film, but not without its flaws. I'm going with two-and-a-half out of five. ... full review
So-So, by Shubhra Gupta, indian express : ...Mehta does well with generating dread and creating a couple of surprising curves, which almost overcomes some of the plot’s uneven arcs. The songs nearly ruined the film for me, but ‘Citylights’ gives us pause. And an actor who makes us believe, all the way.... full review
So-So, by Namrata Joshi, Outlook India : ...The climax involving a key left me with some niggling questions. The songs in the background detract from the narrative too. Given the pace and mood of the film, the use of Raju Singh’s background score alone would have been far more effective. But these minor issues are settled by strong performances, even in the minor roles. Rajkumar proves that when it comes to acting, less could well be more. He communicates as much with his subdued, diffident body language—the way he sits on his haunches—as he does with his face. You can’t help not feel for him. Manav, as his senior, has a more flamboyant, show-stealing character, the kind who makes evil look incredibly attractive. The two are in stark contrast—innocent and gullible as against street-smart and manipulative—yet in perfect sync with each other. It’s interesting to see that instead of any visible upmanship, the two actors complement each other and help bring out the other’s traits. So far, they make the best couple in Bollywood this year.... full review
So-So, by Sonia Chopra, Sify Movies : ...The film doesn’t quite work to its full potential. You might want to sample it for the story, formidable performances and few arresting moments. ... full review
Thumbs down, by Baradwaj Rangan, Blogical Conclusion, The New Sunday Express : ...This isn’t to say CityLights is a bad movie. It’s one of those new-generation Hindi films that’s so well staged and performed that there is, every now and then, a bit that sticks to your mind – like the way Rao squats, hunching his shoulders and drawing his body in, like a person in a cold country huddled in front of a campfire, or the way Patralekha, who looks like Divya Dutta’s younger sister, performs in that dance bar.... full review
Thumbs down, by Deepa Gahlot, cinemaah : ...What Mumbai really needs is a film that celebrates its spirit—the entrepreneurship of the immigrants that transforms lives and spaces. Moaning and griping about city life won’t change reality.... full review
Thumbs down, by Mihir Fadnavis, FirstPost : ...When there are so many factors going against a movie, you expect the story to compensate things. Sadly it’s paper thin, and crumbles under the weight of the film’s mediocrity. You might argue that it’s unfair to compare CityLights to Metro Manila, and that this film was made only for those who aren’t familiar with the original film, but those people do deserve better, more polished material.... full review
Thumbs down, by Joginder Tuteja, Movie Talkies : ...As for the film, it may have just worked better had it maintained a thrilling pace right through and stuck to that genre. Instead it gets into a dramatic space and also turns depressing at many junctions. So much so that at the end of the film one wonders if anyone gained anything afterall... full review
Thumbs down, by Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV : ...CityLights isn’t a feel-good entertainer. It is a film that shocks, provokes and seeks to prick our collective complacency and apathy. That obviously adds up to infinitely more value than the price of a multiplex ticke... full review
WhatsMyRashi: Painful but yet so powerful! #CityLights Great performance by RajKumar Rao. #mustwatch #onetime
WakeUpVikku: Loved #CityLights
VIRATMyLuv: "@rtik24: @viratmyluv bttr u go for citylights a must watch.."I will watch citylights if I get time...good reviews
vedangvaze: Citylight is an amazing movie. A must watch.
vaidehisachin: #CityLights one of the best movie of recent times....just worth
UrRoshi: Magical n tremendous performances by Rajkumar and Chitralekha in Citylights. Its a must watch! #CityLights #bollywood #movies
TheAngstyGujju: Okay.. So all you people that missed #CityLights yesterday due to various reasons, go and watch it today.
taubaTOFsingh: #Citylights reaffirmed by belief that there's enormous amount of poetry in poverty. #MustWatch @raj_kumar31 @mehtahansal @MaheshNBhatt
Tarunika_S: CityLights is a must watch :) Awesome movie.
Soooper_Bakar: Must. Watch. #Citylights
sonia_26: Brilliant acting by all.Loved the treatment f d subject.Got glimpses of #dilpematleyaar by d same director.Overall a nice watch #Citylights
SomyaSaxena: #Citylights is not As great as Shahid. But it's definitely worth a watch for outstanding real performances and great direction.
SocialProfessor: Watched #Citylights & a big congrats to whole team for making this film. Another good work by Hansal Mehta & Rajkumar Rao.
siddharth94: Watched #CityLights.it's a very good film.It shows why 'The root of all evil is money.'Look forward to more of such films!@MaheshNBhatt
shwetzonly: #Citylights ~ A must watch!
ShrutiNovavida: Citylights touching story great performance @raj_kumar31 hukum kamaal kar diya ...
Sho96_GGMU: CityLights. A very good movie. Must watch.
shajay786: 4 out of 5 rating to citylight
sarkarjaydeep: Watch #Citylights this weekend. @mehtahansal's empathy for his characters resonates in each frame. @Apurvasrani weaves magical sequences.
SantushDarrne: Please do not miss #CityLights !!!
SankiSanyasi: #citylights tackles the part of india which most of us choose to ignore.was good overall. @raj_kumar31 yet again splendidly lives the part.
Salilacharya: Its a no frill film but wonderfully crafted #citylight a must watch
roopalkabiraj: Saw #Citylights excellent movie. Surely will win a lot of awards this year. Brilliant @jeetmusic @raj_kumar31 very very well made. Sup music
rishika625: The conventional rustic innocence beaten down by the city life. Lovely shots of Bombay. A good film after what seems like ages! #Citylights
RanaAyyub: #Citylights,One of the most beautiful and honest films I have seen in recent times. Watch it ! @MaheshNBhatt , @mehtahansal, Congratulations
PVS0512: Citylights: Strongly recommend. A must watch. Hansal Mehta, hats off to your directorial skills!
psych0ciara: #citylights is an amazing flick, not as good as the original though. Watch it for an astounding performance by #Rajkumarrao @MaheshNBhatt
pradnyesh98: I'm just trying to get a ticket to watch #Citylights..all the theaters r full..no doubt a blockbuster movie!! @aliaa08
payalshahkarwa: #Citylights is a poignant but well made film about a couple struggling to make ends meet in Mumbai. Superb acting. 1 time watch #twivew
ParanoidNutcase: #CityLights made me realize how blessed I am. Life is tough and so is surviving it. Marvelous acting by #RajkummarRao & #Patralekha.
pacinonicole: Saw #Citylight NO Words 4 @ipatralekhaa simply superb She made her Presence felt & How.
P_Bhambri: #Citylights is a poignant tale of love, loss and a lot of prudence. Rajkumar is breathtaking in the film!
Nitya_Prakash: Rajkummar Rao never ceases to impress. CityLights is not just a movie, it is an experience. A masterpiece. Miss... https://www.facebook.com/nitya.trailblazer/posts/10202266189439608
Nishad_M: Brilliant First Half . #CityLights
nihalparashar: "Citylights" is a brilliant film. A fresh wave of wind in Indian Cinema- giving voice to the voiceless population... https://www.facebook.com/nihalparashar/posts/10154242266625093
nandythegreatz: #Citylights is an amazing piece of art! @raj_kumar31 very fine actor as always, but I lost my heart to newbie @Manavkaul19 :) :)
nalinirathnam: Hearing sooooo many good things bout #Citylights. .. must catch it soon...
MsAmrutha: A very good movie to watch. Loved it. wonderful performance. #CityLights
monicaarora257: Citylights is an extremely moving, poignant and real portrayal of the ruthlessness of an urban existence
mageshs1: #checked 'Citylights' 3) Too much of lingering in a single scene 4) Cud 've cut short by another 10 mins..Otherwise BrilliAnt only -2 dot
LiveUmar: Citylights....a film that left me with wet eyes and a sighhhhh
lasthunt: A great movie with soulful music and outstanding performances from @raj_kumar31 & #patralekha. Superb direction @mehtahansal #citylights
kevinthomas13: #Citylights is an awesome movie full on emotions and drama 4/5. @film_fact
KarmalkarAditya: Another Brilliant performance by @raj_kumar31 in #Citylights @ipatralekha u also acted vry nyc.Awesome Movie I watched after a long time.
kailashkhatod: i dont know how to react to what i have just experienced.. #Citylights @MaheshNBhatt @raj_kumar31 amazing feeling!
jha_siddhus94: Citylights will touch your soul. Bitter truth of Life. My Rating: 3.5 stars
jenaanindya: U were superb @raj_kumar31 #Citylights Occupied my brain from last nite
jagz_godiyal: Must appreciate @ipatralekhaa 's performance as well, New-Fresh-Yet Power Packed!! #CityLights Do watch this pure cinema!"
itsme_AGT: ..dark, haunting and heart-breaking..shows the other side of the beautiful city..brilliant.. #CityLights
invaderon: #Citylights is the kind of movie Hindi Film Industry can feel proud of, DONT MISS IT.
imvineetks: Thanks 2 @mehtahansal @MaheshNBhatt 4 such a brilliant movie. "Citylight" is MUST WATCH. Good performances by Raj, @ipatralekhaa Manav.
iamnitinrana: Rajkumar rao is best (Y) and Citylights bestest (Y)
iam_akki: Citylights Just Amazing... Great effort by @raj_kumar31
hinaRehan16: #Citylights awesome script awesome music awesome acting overall awesome movie Just loved it @raj_kumar31 u were superb as always.. 5 stars
gsahai20: Just came back from first day last show of #CityLights ... Awesome performance ... Quality cinema after a long time. @MaheshNBhatt
gonsalves_lisha: #CityLights what a masterpiece! @raj_kumar31 sir kudos to you. #cinemaforthesoul #amovieforeverycity
glitzritz: #citylights worth a watch!!!
girishjohar: #CityLights is superb for #RajKrYadav, carries the film very well, felt a little long in 2nd half + very good title track !!
Gamya: #Citylights was brilliant and heartbreaking. Amazing performances and a gripping story.
film_fact: #Citylights contains all emotions of a migrant perfectly.4/5 @film_fact @iamlakshmirai http://twitter.com/film_fact/status/472937236577529856/photo/1
Fever104FM_Kol: #citylight a must watch movie, incredible #rajkumarrao #fbr rate 7.5/10 music also ruling the chart
ErMKRao: Watch @Citylight... It defines Indian Cinema. Love @mehtahansal for a masterpiece. @raj_kumar31 @ipatralekhaa keep up the good job..
EAmritraj: #CityLights shows the darker side of the city... Superb cast, fantastic movie...
Deckle_Edge: #CityLights Exemplary.
dahiya_vishal: Citylights...beautiful film..superb performances ...just wow
curentbollynews: Watch #CityLights for finest performance by Rajkumar and Patralekha
CrestPresscom: Watch #CityLights for its nauseating portrayal of poverty & lost dreams. #Mumbai never stops surprising people. To live here, know life!
crash_Chords: Worth a watch #citylights
Ciniguru: Here #rating of this weekend- 1. #CityLights - ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✩ 2. #Maleficent - ✭ ✭ ✭ ✩ ✩ 3. #KukuMathurKiJhandHoGayi -... https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=598561586909010
chickoo_chirag: #CityLights is a masterpiece by Hansal Mehta! Amazing translation of real to reel. Rajkumar Rao gives yet another stellar performance.
BOLLYWOULD: Must appreciate Patralekha's performance as well, New-Fresh-Yet Power Packed!! #CityLights Do watch this pure cinema!
Bhavinhirpara1: "@aliaa08: #Citylights out today !!! Please please please don't miss this film !!!!"
ar_sleepless: Watched movie #CityLights. An intense human drama with a touch of thriller. Do watch if not a hardcore fan of Srk and Salman.
ankitt_01: #CityLights 4.5/5. One of the best movie after Highway and Queen, this year. Do not miss this.
AnjaliKir: -loved #CityLights-hard hitting yet understated. Amazing performances. A good Bollywood film after a while...
AneeshChandoke: Congratulations on yet another outstanding story @mehtahansal and acting that make things look real @raj_kumar31. #CityLights
ameeshatibrewal: #CityLights @raj_kumar31 brilliant performance!! The movie is so well made but so depressing! Amazing translation of real to reel!
akanksha_negi: #Citylights is an eye opener for people who spend money like crazy & dont value it. Life is NOT easy out there. @raj_kumar31 U were superb!
ajaymishrak: #Citylights is honest and beautiful movie about a very relevent subject. Must watch for all.
adeemd: Just watched #CityLights . @raj_kumar31 & @ipatralekhaa are simply outstanding in the fim. @mehtahansal has produced a masterpiece.
_SanjayGupta: “@mehtahansal: Do watch #Citylights today!” MUST WATCH.
_MishraAbhishek: #Citylights-Intense story, a must watch, strongly recommended. Electrifying performance by @raj_kumar31. Versatile & Soulful piece of acting
thatdarkcoffee: Same old Mumbai and its poverty. Overdose of music. But brilliant performances, ace direction and amazing screenplay. #CityLights #Review
sidburman: #CityLights :was okayish..expected more from hansal-rajkumar team
KirrD: I adore,respect n learn a lot frm @raj_kumar31 one actor I really look upto! He was fab in #CityLights but as a story I couldn't appreciate
keshavkamat: Watched #Citylights movie. Not a feel good one. Well made. So so experience
karachikhatmal: Just saw #CityLights. The film could've benefited from tighter editing but absolutely superb acting from the two male leads.
Greyllusionist: #Citylights, a tight film which is not gripping enough. Could have been a little shorter & crisper. @mehtahansal
deepuMadhavan: #cityLights is atmostan average film further saddenin r d high expectations frm d team behind #shahid notworth spoilin ur weekend over
appiefizz: Not sure whether I liked #Citylights or disliked. However the film surely leaves you thinking about it @mehtahansal @raj_kumar31
Vijaydinanathh: watch "Citylights" at your Own risk ..
UnsocialShadow: Really disappointed with #citylights. Wonder why I read so many gushing reviews of the movie...
swapnilk27: Late night show... Slow and depressing movie... 'Sone De' keeps playing on the loop. *entire audience goes off to sleep* #Citylights
shrutideora: The only thing I liked about #Citylights was the fact that they gave due credit to the original film, unlike most of our movies. Well done!
shivom_oza: CityLights felt incomplete. Didn't move me at all. The only part I liked about the film was the twist at the end. Rest, quite tepid. :-I
sauravbhanot: Saw #CityLights and came out feeling rather underwhelmed! The film, though nicely made and well enacted, is rather slow. not worth the hype!
RoaringShukla: #Citylights worst movie I've seen in a long time. No story buildup. A long dreary drag.
ranjankc: "@PWNeha: I'm sorry twitter but Citylights is boring." Then u may like kuku mathur ki jhand ho gayi.
qwerty_ed: #Citylights avoidable. Very weak story.
preci0so: #CityLights - slow, incoherent narration, weak storyline. Only saving grace: controlled and mature acting by Patralekha and Rajkumar Rao!
PiratedSardar: Citylights was such a nice movie in the first half and then bollywood happened.
kpfpl: Don't let #Citylights flop, rush to your nearest theater.
iamuttu: At a Sluggish Pace, #Citylights will test your patience to its core.It was An Extempore Topic of which Writer wrote an essay.1.5/5
GaurangSR: #citylights... Wtf...bowkwaaaas
Doctorgeeta: Totally disappointed with "Citylights". Even after "adopting" Metro Manila, story predictable. Wonder y millions of Ind stories r not used?
DeepaknFahad: Don't waste ur time on #citylights . Its a horrible movie !!!
AmeyValsangkar: #CityLights is a waste of talent.
This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.