- BOTTOM LINE
- Partly Engaging Political Drama
What is the Story about?
City of Dreams is a web series replete with usual elements in political dramas surrounding leadership, betrayal, blood, and revenge. The first sequence opens at Mumbai, nicknamed ‘city of dreams’, shook with the news of a gunman’s attempt to murder the State’s seniormost politician Ameya Rao Gaikwad, who is rendered unconscious after the attack.
At a time when the underworld has lost its control over the city, the incident takes many by shock, including the politicians and cops. While not many are able to point a finger on the perpetrator behind the attack, there’s tension within the regional party on who’ll take over the mantle from an ailing Ameya. Although his son Ashish seems to be an immediate choice for the position, Poornima wins the confidence of Ameya’s closest aide Jiten to lead the party. Here’s a political battle between the siblings that only gets uglier and murkier with time.
Priya Bapat, the actress who grew popular with a role in SRK’s Chak De India, is the show-stealer of City of Dreams. She gets the best-written character of the series and Priya’s understated performance grows on you episode after episode, as she brings forth the frustration of a woman who isn’t given enough due for her political acumen. Siddharth Chandekar, as the problematic, egoistic brother, is no match to his co-star Priya’s abilities. Atul Kulkarni’s electric screen presence as the political bigwig Ameya Rao Gaikwad gives all the intensity his character needed.
The filmmaker provides strong backstories to most of his characters (including the supporting roles) and offers scope aplenty for the actors to prove their worth. Blame it on the old-fashioned screenplay, the characters don’t integrate seamlessly and the impact of the series isn’t as much as it should have been.
City of Dreams is largely underwhelming, to begin with. There’s confusion in the initial episodes as what the series is trying to be, a sibling rivalry tale or a whodunit thriller? The series doesn’t impress in either of the territories until it stages an unexpected revival in the pre-climax episodes. The key here is the strong sub-plots, involving a love story between a prostitute and a loan-broker and another thread about a political party accountant’s extramarital affair. The role of SI Wasim, who plays a disgruntled cop who never gets his due from higher officials, is also impressive. The transformation of Poornima’s character from a reluctant woman to a politically ambitious go-getter is neatly executed.
The sister-brother melodrama isn’t the segment that Kukunoor is particularly comfortable with. The emotional sequences between Poornima and Ashish don’t appear lifelike. The scenes are too moist with emotion and utterly cinematic. Whenever the episodes are about political upmanship, strategies, City of Dreams is incredibly riveting. The series makes a big issue about the gender role in politics and the freedom given to women in conservative households.
Although this issue is genuine enough, the series also equates a modern day-progressive woman as one who uses cuss words, smokes and doesn’t mind having a drink. The forced homosexual dimension to Poornima’s role adds an insult to the injury. The length of the series, spanning over seven hours, is a case of indulgence over necessity. It’s only because of Kukunoor’s credentials that the series is watchable despite its okayish premise. Kukunoor understands the political space well but needed a material that was more contemporary. The title City of Dreams isn’t about Mumbai, it more or less is about the political ambition of its protagonists. The makers also offer a subtle hint about a second season to the series.
Sachin Pilgaonkar in the role of the Maharashtra CM and Eijaz Khan in the shoes of SI Wasim do their part with reasonable finesse, coming up with mysterious yet arresting performances. Amrita Bagchi, as the prostitute, plays her part with utmost poise that’s obvious in her eyes. After a splash in Veere Di Wedding, Vishwas Kini in a contrasting role as a gullible, innocent loan-broker, gives a sincere, heartfelt performance, ringing an element of empathy for his part.
Music and other departments?
Tapas Relia’s music goes way beyond the scope of the situation and distracts the viewer’s focus onto the booming background score instead of the emotions of the characters. The soundtrack had to be really better and the composer could have gone a long way in avoiding the jarringly repetitive theme music in crucial junctures.
The writing by Nagesh Kukunoor and Rohit G Banawlikar doesn’t offer anything new, it only glorifies backstabbing and says revenge is a dish that’s best served cold. The dialogues suit the Maharashtra backdrop well, with a smart splattering of Marathi in between the Hindi lines. The majority of the cast being Marathi actors invest enough emotion into the lines. The cinematography by Aamir Lal is very basic and the editor could have been more instrumental in tying up loose ends and evening out the series’ inconsistent tone.
Establishment of the authentic political backdrop
Nothing new in the story
Jarring background score
Incredibly slow to take off
Will you recommend it?
Yes, but with huge reservations.
Review by Srivathsan Nadadhur
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