A feel-good urban romance that even pulls a few surprises despite occasional stock characters, "Life in a Metro" is a delightful, breezy playfest weaving loves gained and thwarted through the bustling Mumbai city fabric.

A feel-good urban romance that even pulls a few surprises despite occasional stock characters, “Life in a Metro” is a delightful, breezy playfest weaving loves gained and thwarted through the bustling Mumbai city fabric. Though pic’s sources are not exactly original, the popular cast is in top form, delivering believable dialogue with warmth in a handsomely lensed package. Helmer Anurag Basu (“Murder”), jumping ship from usual producer Mahesh Bhatt to Ronnie Screwvala, offers a confident gloss on metrosexual woes. Title delivered big returns for UTV back in mid-May.

Shikha (Shilpa Shetty) and Ranjit (Kay Kay Menon) seem to be the perfect couple, but after nine years, they barely speak to each other, except to raise their voices. Shikha’s younger sis, Shruti (Konkona Sen Sharma), is a 28-year-old virgin, striking out when guys like Monty (Irfan Khan) spend more time staring at her breasts than at her eyes.

Shy but ambitious Rahul (Sharman Joshi) works at a call center, climbing the corporate ladder — in a storyline lifted from “The Apartment” — by lending his house keys to superiors for extracurricular trysts. (There’s a hilarious montage of frantic rescheduling when one appointment change pushes the entire week out of whack.) The old cell-phone-left-on-a-sofa trick reveals that Ranjit, the big boss, is sleeping with Neha (Kangana Ranaut), Shruti’s roommate and the object of Rahul’s longing.

Shruti’s luck seems to turn when Vishy K (Gautam Kapoor), a hot-looking DJ, starts escorting her around town, but her disappointment is severe when she learns he’s having an affair with a male colleague. Meanwhile, Shikha meets Akash (Shiney Ahuja), a sympathetic divorced actor, but the betrayed wife can’t suppress her guilt, despite keeping things platonic.

True love blossoms in the metropolis in the guise of older couple Amol (legendary heartthrob Dharmendra) and Shivani (Nafisa Ali), who reunite when the dying Amol returns to India from America to rekindle their long-lost romance. Storyline is held up as the symbol of love’s course diverted and brought together again.

Pic’s greatest appeal is to city dwellers who imagine kinship with these people, all reassuringly familiar; sole exception is Ranjit, whose one-note nastiness stands out against the more three-dimensional figures around him. Sexual issues are treated frankly, and even the gay element (aside from some very bad music on discovery) is handled in a non-judgmental manner. Basu’s frankly erotic scenes in “Murder” have their match in a beautiful, surprisingly sensual yet ultimately chaste encounter between Shikha and Akash, all red lights and glowing flesh.

Ensemble cast seems completely in its element. Shetty (who shot to international fame in the U.K.’s “Big Brother”) shows an easy charm, but the real stand-out, not for the first time, is Sen Sharma, whose pure likability and winning way with dialogue are just plain resistance-proof.

Musical interludes are provided by a pop-inflected rock band led by composer Pritam, with mood-filling montages (no dancing) integrating well. Same can’t be said for the over-demonstrative background score, but smooth, controlled lensing and pleasing match cuts keep things on a proper keel.

Life In a Metro

India

Production

A UTV Motion Pictures production. Produced by Ronnie Screwvala. Co-producers, Zarina Mehta, Deven Khote, Ronald D'Mello. Directed by Anurag Basu. Screenplay, Basu, Sanjeev Dutta.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Bobby Singh; editor, Akiv Ali; music, Pritam; lyrics, Sayeed Quadri, Amitabh Verma, Sandeep Shrivastava; production designer, Rajat Poddar; associate producers, Ram Mirchandani, Alpana Mishra, Siddharth Roy Kapur; assistant director, Sunil Subramani. Reviewed at Cairo Film Festival (competing), Dec. 7, 2007. Running time: 130 MIN.

With

Shiney Ahuja, Shilpa Shetty, Konkona Sen Sharma, Sharman Joshi, Kay Kay Menon, Kangana Ranaut, Irfan Khan, Dharmendra, Nafisa Ali, Manoj Pahwa, Gautam Kapoor, Vicky Ahuja, Parikshit Desai, Kangana Ranaut. (Hindi dialogue)

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