Mahesh Manjrekar?s City of Gold is a frustratingly inconsistent movie. Some scenes have immense power. There are a few strong performances and at the film?s core, is a well-intentioned rage at the plight of Mumbai?s mill workers.
In the 1980s, a nexus between the mill owners, mafia and politicians effectively shutdown the textile mills robbing thousands of workers and their families of their livelihoods and dignity.
But Manjerakar?s take on this critical era in Mumbai?s history is diluted by uneven writing, excessive melodrama, feeble attempts at comedy and an inane ending, which undermines everything that has gone before.
It feels like the director can?t decide whether he wants to go for hard-hitting realism or over-the-top exaggeration and so he gives us generous helpings of both.
Loosely based on a play by journalist Jayant Pawar, City of Gold, follows the plight of one family during these tumultuous years. When the mill goes on an indefinite strike, the family struggles to make ends meet.
The long-suffering mother, played by Seema Biswas, stoically watches as her family unravels, one child at a time. Their situation is grim and Manjrekar does not sugarcoat the ugliness or desperation of their battles.
Several scenes, including one in which the family discovers that the unmarried daughter is pregnant, hit hard.
The trouble is that the director doesn?t know when to stop. Everything that can go wrong with this family, does. So, its not enough that the daughter must have an abortion, her one brother gets involved in a scam; another remains a disgruntled, unemployed writer and yet another joins the local Mafiosi and becomes a hit-man. And sometime during this, the father suffers a stroke and becomes bed-ridden.
Their troubles mount so high that after a while you are too exhausted to care. Which is a shame.
City of Gold had the potential to be a far better film than it is. Manjrekar elicits fine performances from his largely unknown cast ? Karan Patel as Naru, Veena Jamkar as Manju and Siddharth Jhadav as Speed breaker are especially good.
But the director is unable to find the right narrative tone for this difficult material.
At the end of the film, Anusha Dhandekar playing a middle-class girl who listens to the family?s tragic story and then visits their home, declares: kitni fascinating chawl hai. This sort of artificiality hobbles City of Gold. If you can get past it, see the film for its searing subject and performances.