Film: 8 AM Metro
Director: Raj R
Cast: Gulshan Devaiah, Saiyami Kher, Umesh Kamat, Nimisha Nair, Rajiv Aneja
Director Raj R’s ‘8 AM Metro’ is a literary adventure in the filmi lanes. Based on ‘Andamaina Jeevitham’, the Telugu novel by Malladi Venkata Krishnamurthy, it evokes many an author and their works, including Kalidasa’s ‘Meghdoot’, the Dutch Lonely Funeral project and Kafka’s letters from the missing doll.
The story follows Iravati (Saiyami Kher), a homemaker, who goes to Hyderabad for two weeks to take care of her pregnant younger sister Riya (Nimisha Nair). Suffering from panic attacks, Iravati finds unlikely company in banker Preetam (Gulshan Devaiah), who happens to take the same Metro at eight in the morning. The duo’s journey slowly transitions from customary Metro rides to filter coffees and love for poets and books.
‘8 AM Metro’ finds its writer, director and producer in Raj R, who offers a very well put together story. Entrenched in the current times as well as encapsulating a certain timelessness, the film holds a strong literary strand. Themes of abandonment, adultery, guilt, hurt and healing show up in different sub-plots. A couple known for lovey-dovey video reels is, in fact, a quarrelsome unhappy duo, informs a house help called BBC, who otherwise prefers to be known by her Facebook handle Chulbuli Imli. The struggles of a software engineer, a Metro regular, are real and relatable. The film also makes a strong case for mental health without being too preachy.
An overall sensitive portrayal thrives on powerful acting. Gulshan Devaiah’s prowess needs no introduction. As Preetam, he is endearing and effective. How he plans an earnest birthday gift for his new friend, makes fun of ordinary things without breaking into much of a smile or bursts into a dance in the rain — he is totally present in the moment, in every frame.
However, the film is largely Iravati’s story. Kher gives a powerful performance as a woman struggling with the ghosts of her past while also trying to move ahead taking along her loved ones. As Devaiah overshadows her by a thin margin, this is not for lack of capability but how her character is put together. She is intense, her expressions almost exaggerated as she sips her filter coffee or finds herself caught in a panic attack. One wonders, however, whether this playing up of female energy is her call or the director’s.
Nimisha Nair as Riya is not just the catalyst in this story but has her own arc that she beautifully delivers. In scenes where she accuses her sister of abandoning her to the one where she accepts the truth or where she covers up for Iravati when her husband, Umesh (Umesh Kamat), shows up unannounced, she leaves a mark. Even the actors who appear for a short while leave an imprint, whether it is Rajiv Aneja as the author of ‘Jigri’, Dheer Charan Srivastav as bookseller Iqbal or Umesh as a busy husband who has forgotten to value family life.
Simple, heartfelt dialogues lend credibility to this narrative. Its background score is there just in the passing, but is a powerful entity. The two songs that play, ‘Woh Khuda’ and ‘Ghoomey’, also register their presence. Cinematography by Sunny Kurapati captures the old and modern Hyderabad beautifully. At close to two hours, the film slips at times but the director is able to bring it back on track. Gulzar’s poems pepper the storyline, lending it heft.
Finally a film that makes you take a pause and think of one’s choices and possibilities and leaves you with a haunting sense of loss and gain. ‘Everything you love is very likely to be lost but in the end, love will return in a different way’ is a message that one holds dear from Kafka’s lost doll story. The film sees a limited release in cinemas.