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On 10 years of CityLights, here's a look at Hansal Mehta and Rajkummar Rao's trailblazing films

Their cinematic triumphs, which had a lasting influence on Indian cinema, marked the decade of excellence in Hansal Mehta and Rajkummar Rao's partnership.

On 10 years of CityLights, here's a look at Hansal Mehta and Rajkummar Rao's trailblazing films
Hansal Mehta and Rajkummar Rao; Rajkummar Rao and Patralekhaa in a still from CityLights

Last Updated: 05.46 PM, May 30, 2024


Releasing CityLights ten years ago was a watershed moment in the partnership of Hansal Mehta and Rajkummar Rao; the film's critics unanimously praised the duo. Their collaboration's powerful narratives and insightful social criticism have become a trademark of contemporary films. Their cinematic forays have tackled varied and frequently controversial stories, beginning with the biographical drama Shahid (2012), for which Mehta and Rao received national acclaim. Their works, which range from the riveting urban fight of CityLights (2014) to the moving and contentious story of Aligarh (2015) and the brutal depiction of terrorism in Omerta (2017), have perpetually challenged cinematic conventions. Once again demonstrating their adaptability and working synergy, they dabbled in sports comedy with Chhalaang (2020).

The work of Hansal Mehta and Rajkummar Rao has left an indelible mark on Indian cinema, shaping generations to come.

Hansal Mehta films starring Rajkummar Rao

Shahid (Prime Video [on rent])


Sameer Gautam Singh wrote the biographical drama Shahid, and Hansal Mehta directed it in 2012. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Baljinder Kaur, and Prabhleen Sandhu serve as supporting characters, while Rajkummar Rao portrays the slain human rights activist and lawyer Shahid Azmi. The 61st National Film Awards recognised Rao as the best actor and Mehta as the best director.

This film narrates the assassination of Shahid Azmi, a human rights activist and lawyer. Shahid chronicles the remarkable life story of a young man who, amidst escalating communal violence in India, transitioned from attempting to join the terrorist cause to facing wrongful imprisonment under a severe anti-terrorism statute and ultimately transformed into a criminal lawyer. His journey is both inspiring and tragic. This is a moving account of a Muslim boy from a poor background who overcomes tremendous odds to become a symbol of the power of the human spirit.


The 2014 drama film CityLights, helmed by Hansal Mehta, featured Rajkummar Rao and Patralekha as the main characters. British filmmakers made the original film, Metro Manila (2013), which received a BAFTA nomination. An impoverished Rajasthani farmer travels to Mumbai in quest of work.

Rajkumar Rao plays the role of Deepak Singh, a family man from a Rajasthani village who lives with his wife (Patralekhaa) and daughter in the film CityLights. He intends to go to Mumbai because of his difficulties. Without a solid strategy, his wife is afraid to relocate to Mumbai. At last, they reached a consensus and proceeded. Some individuals who claim to be able to assist them in purchasing a modest house deceive them shortly after they arrive. When they abandon the Rs. 10,000 they were carrying, they lose significant support. Deepak is a driver for the security department. Deepak's superior sees through his innocence and does a number of favours for him in an effort to win his confidence so that he can steal from the security bureau. Although Deepak is adamant against stealing, the senior uses blackmail threats to control him. Deepak consents to the risky plan to steal the box's keys, which leads to another robbery and the senior's death. After dying in an attempt to grab the agency's keys, he manages to pass them on to Rakhi, and the film concludes with him passing them on.

Aligarh (JioCinema and ZEE5 [OTTplay Premium])

Hansal Mehta and Apurva Asrani directed the 2015 biographical drama Aligarh. Rajkummar Rao and Manoj Bajpayee are the main actors. Ramchandra Siras (Bajpayee), a Marathi professor and dean of the Classical Modern Indian Languages Faculty at the illustrious Aligarh Muslim University, is the protagonist of this true story set in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh. Moral considerations justify his suspension. He loses another position, reading and chairing the department of modern Indian languages. A film crew from a nearby TV station initially coerces the professor into entering his residence, where they record him engaging in sexual relations with a male rickshaw puller. After suspending Siras from his position, the university ordered him to leave his dorm. An empathetic journalist (Rao) gets in touch with him and sues him. Even though the court upholds Siras' right to be free from suspension, he passes away before he can return to his job.

Omerta (JioCinema; Prime Video; ZEE5 [OTTplay Premium])

Rajkumar Rao portrays Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a Pakistani-born British terrorist, in Hansal Mehta's 2017 biographical criminal drama film Omerta. The film explores the plan to assassinate Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002 and the 1994 kidnappings of Westerners in India, which led to Omar's capture and incarceration.

Chhalaang (Prime Video)

Hansal Mehta directed the 2020 sports black comedy film Chhalaang. Rajkummar Rao, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, and Nushrratt Bharuccha are the main actors in the film. The story of Montu (Rao), a physical education teacher in a school that receives partial funding from the government, whose purpose it is to teach physical education, is both humorous and inspiring in Chhalaang. In the face of danger to everyone and everything he loves, especially his beloved Neelu (Bharuccha), Montu must do something he's never done before: educate. While he goes on his adventure, the film's comedy tone subtly discusses the need for sports education in the classroom.

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