Island City: Film Review – Raw, Satirical, Gloomy, Ironic

Verdict: An unhurried and first-hand representation of ordinary citizens with some intriguing stories to say.

Written and directed by Ruchika Oberoi, Island City was screened at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival, where she won the Fedora Prize for the Best Young Director. This along with a few other awards, makes it a pretty impressive feat, considering it was her debut feature. The film follows three short stories – Fun Committee, The Ghost in the Machine, Contact – the director said these are stories she encountered, mixed with her experiences.

Fun Committee
The first story follows the monotonous life of Mr. Chaturvedi (Vinay Pathak) who works at a corporation called Systematic Statistics. Yes, it is just as boring as it sounds. While there is nothing unbelievable about the corporation, it clearly outlines how humans are treated like machines; and how the employees are essentially robots being controlled by the men sitting at the top of the pecking order. The workers are so accustomed to following instructions (even when incorrect) that the climax of the story sees Chaturvedi following the orders blindly, leading to a disastrous outcome. The setting in this one brings about faint feelings of dystopia.

The Ghost in the Machine
The second story is about a family that was affected by the aforementioned outcome. Led by Amruta Subhash, she plays the spouse of a strict husband who is currently in a coma. Meanwhile they buy a TV (which was earlier banned by the stern man) to serve as a distraction to the family, especially children, helping them cope with the situation. The funniest of the lot, this episode heavily features a TV soap (called Purushottam) that the family gets hooked on to. Many of us might be familiar with how unhealthy consumption of those dramatic soaps can actually influence a family and the dynamics between its members. The episode is laden with irony throughout.

The third story is not connected to the previous one. It illustrates the very quiet Aarti (Tannishtha Chatterjee) who works in a newspaper factory. Not too excited about her work and also out of love with her fiancee, she is desolated until an anonymous love letter comes by. As it unfolds, the episode turns out to be a twist of pitiful melancholy.

The film (with its plots) isn't gripping but it is not meant to be – it is meant to be an intriguing depiction of some ordinary lives in this island city. The slow pace of the film intentionally portrays the dull and tedious lives they lead and it is the performances by the cast that perfectly bring out the character's emotions. The well-timed compositions by Sagar Desai only intensify the picture. With an adequate amount of dark humor and often featuring satirical undertones, the film can seem very relatable at times.

Why You Should Watch This Movie:
Watch it for some gritty stories narrated very realistically by all actors, especially the three leads.

Release Date: 2 Sept, 2016
Language: Hindi
Director: Ruchika Oberoi
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Cast & Crew: Vinay Pathak, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Amruta Subhash

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