Directed by Raj Rachakonda, ‘8 AM Metro’ follows two strangers who meet by chance encounter on a metro and feel a strong connection. Iravati (played by Saiyami Kher), a married woman from Nanded, spends most of her life tending to her family’s needs. Her husband, Umesh (played by Umesh Kamat), stays so busy in his job that he ignores her emotional needs. Like many other Indian housewives, she stays stuck in the rut of familial duties of domestic chores. 

Her sister, Riya (played by Nimisha Nair), stays in Hyderabad with her partner and is about to have a child. Since he has to go outshore for work, she seeks her older sister’s support. Iravati is hesitant, not because of just leaving her family but because of her fear of traveling by train. 

As a child, Iravati had a traumatic incident of being left alone by her father. It scared her to the point that she is apprehensive to travel by one. She also maps the train’s interior through her deer-like eyes, worried about the turmoil that awaits her. 

Nevertheless, she goes through this experience, excruciating for her, to help Riya with her labor. For travel back to her apartment, Riya suggests using the metro since it will save time and money. Iravati walks up to the metro, only to suffer through a panic attack. Luckily, a man saves her from collapsing on the floor. 

Preetam (played by Gulshan Devaiah), married with a wife and a kid, accompanies her during the journey. To ease her pain, he shares that he, too, is new to traveling by the metro. Gradually, they keep bumping into each other and realize how much they both are into poetry. 

Iravati scribbles down her feelings as a way to ease her dissatisfaction with life. On the other hand, Preetam’s love is recent. He started getting immersed in the world of literature and reading almost like a voracious reader. His wife, Mridula (played by Kalpika Ganesh), is also a poet. But he hardly ever read her work. For some reason, he became obsessed with reading, like he had nothing else to do. 

A Still from 8 A.M Metro (2023).

At his job, he gets offered a senior position. His about-to-be ex-manager also offers training to be prepared for it. Preetam seems woefully detached from the designation bump. He is, however, caught up all too well, speaking with Iravati about several things. They both find an outlet to express their deepest thoughts and desires. She opens up about the reason she is scared of trains and the monotony of her life. He speaks about his share of emotional struggles. 

Through their encounters, the film keeps giving a déjà vu to older films, from Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox to Prem Kumar’s 96. Long-winding conversations in a mode of transport to discover they are each other’s potential soulmates – doesn’t that ring a bell? It does, and that’s the central issue behind the film. It works in the realms of imagination and feels largely like an awkward mix of manufactured emotions. 

For a narrative showing two people suffering through mental health issues, the emotions almost never work. The failure has to do largely with the fact of the script’s emphasis on finding poetry in its moments and simultaneously explaining it through the dialogues. While it could have been all sorts of heart-rending and soul-crushing, the journey ends up hitting one inauthentic note after another. Its insistence on proving its poeticism keeps it away from achieving it. 

Saiyami’s character reads out what is essentially Gulzar’s words, which fall flat because of their odd placements in the scenarios. They feel needlessly overt. While the allure in much of the poetry is inherently in the communication of inexplicable emotions, the direct connection to the film’s scenarios makes them seem constantly vapid and superficial. That communication rarely gets translated since it lacks profundity. 

Also, why do we know about the characters only as extensions of their past traumas? Just look at Makoto Shinkai’s Suzume as a recent example. While both its central characters had their emotional struggles, they had rounded personalities. Their trauma did not overlap the entirety of their lives and made them feel constantly stunted. It made them feel more human, even in its fantasy narrative. 

8 A.M. Metro, on the other hand, sadly feels stunted in the idea stage of the scripting. There is, of course, a potential to explore the complexities of marital bonds. They are sadly ridden with cliches and far-fetched emotional logic. 

So, even when the likes of Gulshan Devaiah and Nimisha Nair try to convince us the most of the underlying emotions of their characters through their committed performances, the film fails to resonate due to a lack of poetry and profundity within.

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8 AM Metro (2023) Links: IMDb Wikipedia
8 AM Metro (2023) Cast: Gulshan Devaiah, Saiyami Kher, Nimisha Nair, Kalpika Ganesh, Umesh Kamat

Where to watch 8 A.M. Metro

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