Cast: Vinay Pathak, Amruta Subhash, Tanishtha Chatterjee
Director: Ruchika Oberoi
Ruchika Oberoi’s multiple award-winning film is a tale of people who have become islands in themselves. They live, exist and operate within a city, yet their world is absolutely cut off from the hustle and bustle around them. They keep walking in search of one soft voice, one touching emotion, one driving sentiment, but the silos are too tough to break out from.
Island City is weirdly funny, sarcastic and tragic. You have met these people in real world, maybe you are one of them. A collection of three stories, it puts on display the paradoxes of a metropolitan life. Oberoi has set it in Mumbai, but it could be any megapolis.
The fun committee
Suyash Chaturvedi (Vinay Pathak) is a robot-like worker in a multinational. He wakes up, eats, goes to job, comes back, sleeps, and then repeats the whole process the next day. Mindlessly competitive with the rest of the lot, he looks depressed and purposeless.
A newly formed committee suggests Suyash’s company to allow the better performing workers a day of absolute fun in order to de-stress them. Suyash tries to avoid it, but is forced to have ‘fun’. After all, you have to give your best to an MNC.
It’s bizarre to see his boss threatening Chaturvedi to ‘enjoy’ even when he wants to return to work. From being treated royally at a spa to licking a candy on a joyride, he appears like a dog chasing his own tail.
An ill tampered patriarch is in the hospital, and his family thinks that buying a new television may bring some joy to their dull lives. Soon they get hooked to a show called Purushhottam about a virtuous son, husband and brother. But, things may go back to their old set-up when the tyrannical man returns home.
Amruta Subhash, who brilliantly played Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s sister in Raman Raghav 2.0, makes this story an emotional roller-coaster. The ethereal presence of a popular TV character around her makes it even more interesting, but you soon start feeling bad for her. However, you are yet to see the worst which happens in the third story.
The pink letter
Jignesh (Chandan Roy Sanyal) is a foul mouthed mechanic who wants to marry Aarti (Tanishtha Chatterjee), a factory worker, because ‘sundar ladki dhoondne ka time kis ke paas hai’ (who has the time to search for a beautiful girl).
One day, Aarti receives a letter which talks about her soul and hidden desires. The sensible writer wins her over, and she recalls the art of smiling. She writes back and many letters are exchanged through an unknown PO Box. But Aarti doesn’t know what she has signed up for. This may change her life and thought process forever.
All three stories are about dominant men, violence on the soul and the anxiety of being trapped. These characters are not in love with their situations, but the willingness to break the glass ceiling needs an external force. It doesn’t happen on its own. Conditioned to accept things as they are, all three protagonists sleepwalk through their mundane lives.
Every section has a shocking end and that’s cherry on the cake.
Oberoi has woven the story in an intriguing manner where you laugh over the absurdities, but also sympathize with the actors. A lonely urban life is the recurring theme, but Island City comments on other topics such as the MNC work culture, women’s emancipation, stress management as well.
Watch: Trailer of Island City
The most effective story is the last one featuring Tanishtha. When it comes to acting, it’s a battle among equals with Amruta Subhash a shade better than the others.
Island City is well paced, nuanced and to the point. Watch it for the sake of good cinema.