A platonic friendship threatens to catch fire in the smoldering drama 8 AM Metro by director Raj Rachakonda. Iravati (Saiyami Kher) is a wife and mother who writes poetry in her spare hours. She gets a call from her little sister Riya (Nimisha Nair), who’s in a hospital in Hyderabad. Nine months into her pregnancy, Riya’s experiencing bleeding. Iravati wants to visit but is terrified as she would need to travel alone, as her husband is tied down with work. It turns out she has a phobia from being accidentally left alone on a train by her father when she was a little girl. Riya lets her know Hydrabad’s metro is clean, safe, and cheap.
Waiting on the platform, Iravati breathes hard and breaks out in a cold sweat. Preetam (Gulshan Devaiah) notices her turmoil and offers her water. Talking to Preetam calms her down, but Iravati ensures he sees the wedding ring on her toe. Preetam lets her know he is happily married as well and offers to accompany her. She’s grateful as the conversation distracted her long enough to survive the ride. Later, Iravati and Preetam discover they commute at the same time. Raf finds out Iravati writes poetry, which he reads in his spare time. They start a friendship that allows them intellectual stimulation while also helping relieve social anxiety. However, their innocent interactions threaten to generate friction that could ignite feelings for each other and burn down their families.
8 AM Metro is like that old-school bubble gum that is deceptively plain on the outside but juicy in the center. The screenplay by Rachakonda and Shruti Bhatnagar firsts presents a normal family life with all its mundane routines. Then the story confounds us with why she’s afraid of riding by herself until the devastating flashback. This was when I got hooked. The constant soap operas in the hospital room reinforce the sustained tension over whether this friendship will burst into attraction. It comes back to the question posed in Saturday Night Fever about whether men and women can be just friends.
“…their innocent interactions threaten to generate friction that could ignite feelings for each other…”
It is easy to see how positive being pals is for Iravati and Preetam, especially since not everybody is into the poetry scene. However, the audience also notices the private emotional connections made keep getting firmer. Also, we see how much they both look forward to the time they get to spend together. The skepticism of platonic relationships viewers bring in with them fuels the momentum throughout the proceedings. Even when nothing is going on, we are watching every smile and glance for signs of a love avalanche.
The cylinders that keep firing here are the performances from the two leads. It’s remarkable how much Kher emotes from her amazing eyes alone. Her glances write poetry in the air. Devaiah is perfect with his gentle manners. He is as menacing as a golden retriever. The visual vocabulary of the film by Sunny Kurapati is mostly close-ups to catch all of the facial details at work.
These sequences are ventilated by gorgeous location shots of Hyderabad, including some stupendous Indian architectural flourishes. Also, we have some splendid montages that float across pop songs courtesy of Sony Music India. In these sequences, we see the romance pending like an incoming storm, with the pressure building. In this way, 8 AM Metro gives you the same tingle as Dirty Dancing, except it’s on public transportation. The location is a plus, as many more people have access to public transit than 1960s summer resorts in the Catskills.
What enriches this film’s frothy concoction is its strong intellectual underpinnings. The questions raised about how social media has increased public persona versus private interactions carry a lot of weight. 8 AM Metro is a train worth catching, as getting there is all the fun.
"…a train worth catching..."