Friday, July 16, 2010

Review: Udaan

Udaan
Starring: Ronit Roy, Rajat Barmecha, Ram Kapoor, Aayan Boradia
Director: Vikramaditya Motwane
Showing at: E-Square, Inox
Stars: ***



Udaan is easily recogonisable as an Anurag Kashyap-backed project. It has the same desultoriness and teenage angst of a Dev D, there's the anti-establishment sentiment that runs through all his films and of course, dialogues and situations that are provocative. In that sense, the tone of the film and its underlying emotions are not completely new. But as can be expected, the writing is competent, the treatment stays real and the performances are all extremely powerful. While the subject itself has similarities with Taare Zameen Par - creativity getting crushed in a hostile setting and the callousness of adults towards children - the real freshness comes from the dark and rather bold tackling of the father-son relationship. Udaan focusses entirely on it, seeing the father-figure as the foremost symbol of autocracy and rigidity. It perhaps colours him a bit too negatively, but the unfolding of the father's character (Ronit Roy in a once-in-a-lifetime role - brilliant!) stays riveting throughout, and this is what lends the story its freshness.

Rohan (Rajat Barmecha) is expelled from his boarding school along with his friends. He is received by his father (Ronit Roy), who hasn't come to visit him since eight years. Rohan's sense of calm is cruelly disrupted when he reaches Jamshedpur and the noise and fumes fill up the air - the industrial city and its harshness standing in sharp contrast to the soft, wandering mind of the young protagonist.

When Rohan enters his room, he is surprised to see a six year old boy, who his father casually informs is his half-brother. As for the wife, he coldly states, 'jama nahin!' Soon you find the father behaving like Hitler-incarnate. He insists the boys call him 'Sir' . He will hear nothing of Rohan's aspiration of turning writer, and demands that he should finish his engineering and work with him in the mornings. The factory is a dingy place, and Rohan is treated like a common labourer. It's dangerous work too, so one really wonders if fathers would immediately go to that length. You soon learn that the father is fighting his own private demons and is a control-freak and a sadist. How Rohan escapes from his clutches is what the story ends up being.


The film speaks to all those young men who have felt resentment towards their fathers at some stage or the other. However, once Ronit Roy's character becomes too extreme, it loses some of that resonance. Also, director Vikramaditya (Anurag and his gang actually) appear to model their films on European/American templates. The narrative and style (lots of pauses, lingering on images) is certainly derived from there. In some respects, the writing is also directly adapted. The situation of the 'dysfunctional American family' has been replicated in a desi setting, but not all of it rings true in the Indian setting - especially some of the scenes between Rohan and the father, where the latter asks him to smoke in front of him and so on.
Again, scenes that try to establish Rohan's artistic bent of mind fall sort. He gazes at nature and insists people listen to his poetry, but you get no sense of his genius spark. Taare Zameen Par gave you a definite sense of the boy's latent talent.

Yet, Udaan works fine as a metaphor for any oppressive and rigid system. The film wisely decides that its reformation may not be possible, and escape is the only way out. As mentioned, performances are brilliant. Newcomer Rajat Barmecha does very well. Ram Kapoor is as usual top class. Take this flight, you won't regret it.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your review. Just curious, Tara Zameen par was quite moving despite its flaws. Was Udaan similarly moving? As a journalist you interview many directors, especially ones who've made recent coming of age films, have you ever asked them about their focus on upper-middle class or middle class male characters--Tara Zameen par, 3 Idiots, Udaan, Wake Up Sid etc. Is it just a function and extension of industry logic, where 'herocentric' films are expected to run and male-centered narratives expected to attract more audiences thus, whether it is commercial or 'hat ke' cinema', the stories are male-centered? On a side note, it's interesting that in 3 idiots, that it is the male characters who get to choose between the career they desire and one which is imposed upon them, the Kareena Kapoor character gets to decide who she should love and marry...

July 19, 2010 at 7:34 AM  
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