I genuinely feel that VAASTAV is Mahesh Manjrekar's most accomplished work to date [I am counting Hindi movies, not the Marathi films he made]. He made scores of movies subsequently. I liked some [ASTITVA, VIRRUDH]. I detested some. In my individualistic opinion, Manjrekar's creative skills were on a decline post VAASTAV, though there was a ray of hope once in a while. His new film, CITY OF GOLD, is not VAASTAV, but it almost reaches there.
CITY OF GOLD is as stark and real as a gash or an open wound. Of course, I am no one to comment on whether CITY OF GOLD is a true and complete representation of the mill workers' plight, but as a moviegoer, this film worked for me at several levels.
CITY OF GOLD talks of a family in particular and has several layers, numerous characters and various stories to tell. I was reminded of VAASTAV in a couple of sequences [Karan Patel's track specifically], but I am not complaining. In fact, I liked it!
CITY OF GOLD has several watchable moments and also the grip, so essential for a film that's about to tell you a story that you aren't aware of. But there's a flip side too. The story seems stretched. Ideally, the film should've ended the moment Karan Patel is shot dead and the subsequent portions could've been narrated in a matter of seconds, without delving into details.
Yet, when you weigh the pros and cons, I'd say, the positives overweigh the minuses in this case. This Gold may not be 24 karat, but is 22 karat nonetheless.
Today, there is hardly anyone who hasn't visited the swanky shopping malls, nightclubs, lounge bars, clubs and other such lifestyle destinations that have sprung up across Mumbai. However, very few know that buried deep below lies the dark, dirty and painful reality of thousands of mill workers, who once worked the cotton mills in this very same area.
Rising and toiling to the wail of the mill sirens each and every day, seven days a week, these workers embodied the true unbridled zeal and unflagging spirit of the city and played a pivotal role in the evolution of Mumbai as the modern-day business capital of India. And then it suddenly was as if they never existed. Following the mill workers' strike in the mid-80s, these mills began closing down rapidly and the mill workers mysteriously disappeared.
Let me forewarn you that CITY OF GOLD is not for the faint-hearted. The relationships, the violence, the language depicted in the film may shake you intermittently from your comfort zone. And it is these sequences, honestly, that are the mainstay of the enterprise. There's no denying that Manjrekar leaves an indelible impression in several sequences.
The film is embellished with a superior cast and each actor, irrespective of the length of the role, appears straight out of life. Seema Biswas, Siddharth Jadhav [as Speed Breaker], Veena Jamkar [as Manju], Shashank Shende [as Anna], Sachin Khedekar, Vinay Apte, Ganesh Yadav, Satish Kaushik, Kashmira Shah, Sameer Dharmadhikari and Vineet Singh [as Mohan] put their best foot forward. Each one is memorable in his/her role. But the show stopper is Karan Patel undoubtedly. It's a sensational performance, which will make people sit up and notice this supremely talented actor.
On the whole, CITY OF GOLD is a heart-wrenching and violent journey that has the stamp of a gifted storyteller, Mahesh Manjrekar. Recommended!