8 A.M. Metro – Review

8 A.M. Metro: Review

8 A.M. Metro: Review. By Joe Muldoon.

Brief Encounter, Before Sunrise – so many of the greatest filmic relationships have blossomed from journeys across the rails. As the best stories begin, a chance encounter on a Hyderabad train platform brings two strangers together: Iravati (Saiyai Kher), who is visiting her pregnant sister in hospital, and Preetam (Gulshan Devaiah), a book collector who comes to Iravati’s aid as she suffers a panic attack and falls into him.

The two awkwardly and slowly begin to converse, and through a series of train journeys and walks, they grow to become friends. Their conversations are intercut with scenes from their own lives, the new acquaintances both having their own relationship troubles, feeling separated from their partners. There is a noticeably poetic undercurrent that flows throughout the length of the film, not dissimilar to that from Jarmusch’s charming slice of life drama Paterson. As Iravati and Preetam come to know each other, they gradually share with each other their life philosophies.

Though they would have perhaps benefitted from a subtler approach, childhood trauma and depression become prominent themes, with Iravati fearing trains due to a traumatic childhood event, and Preetam suffering from a painful bout of depression, the cause of which is initially a mystery. I was reminded slightly of Batra’s The Lunchbox, in that two strangers form emotional bonds, and through the healing power of art and beauty -whether it be a powerful poem or delicious dish- they learn to move towards acceptance and come to terms with their pain.

When bringing strangers together against the backdrop of stifling cityscapes, filmmakers oftentimes seem to feel the urge to force romantic feelings, regardless of feasibility. Here, the urge is refreshingly resisted, and we are treated to a lyrical exploration of the value of platonic connection. The chemistry between Kher and Devaiah appears to be genuine, and their performances are all the better for it – it feels totally plausible to imagine that the pair could meet for the first time and find within one another a kindred spirit.

Director Raj Rachakonda’s sophomore feature-length production, 8 A.M. Metro is a pleasant little addition to the modern Hindi canon, albeit one which sometimes confusingly has the tone and quality of a TV drama. Despite teetering towards the edge of becoming overlong, the diaphanous poeticism that permeates every scene, thought, and word, is enough to keep things interesting. In a word: soothing.

By Joe Muldoon

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