Movie Review: Udaan

July 19, 2010
Kaushik Chatterji

Why Jamshedpur? It could have just as easily been any other small town of our country that can boast of being industrialized. Putting this thought in the back of my mind took some doing, but I did succeed in doing so.

At the heart of Udaan there might be the story of Rohan Singh (Rajat Barmecha), a boy who is forced to study engineering (the conservative cliche) even though he aspires to be a writer (the liberal cliche). But before you start thinking 3 Idiots, let me assure you, right at the outset, that the two films have almost nothing in common. While Rajkumar Hirani's blockbuster dealt with a very specific topic and was written and shot in a highly commercial manner, Vikramaditya Motwane's debut directorial feature, on the other hand, is the generic tale of the clash of traditional values and modern aspirations in heartland India that has rarely been given its due, at least as far as mainstream cinema is concerned.

Mainstream this is, let's not have any doubts about that. Very different from the usual and a purely multiplex release, but mainstream nonetheless, a fact that is very evident from the writing that, for instance, exaggerates the character of the father Bhairav Singh (a very excellent Ronit Roy) to demonic proportions while forcing some really cheesy lines upon uncle Jimmy "Chhotu" Singh (an equally brilliant Ram Kapoor). So, while all the locations are as real as they get, they merely act as backdrops; the dialects are paid only passing attention to; the usage of the songs - ridiculously infectious mid-tempo ballads as they are - could have been avoided all together, especially when you look at each of the parts without any background score that, coupled with the raw camerawork in such scenes, have an impact that is more than all the montages put together.

Luckily, unlike almost all the previous films from the Anurag Kashyap camp, none of these is anything more than a minor blip on the radar. You know that this - the strict parent, the friendly uncle, the conflict between hopes and dreams as well as the small private houses, the factories, the railway stations - is all as real as it gets. Plus, when you can't stop raving about the excellent support that Manjot Singh (as Muninder, over the phone beyond the opening credits) and the kid Aayan Boradia (as Arjun, the half-brother) offer, you just know that this film is a winner whose images are going to linger in your head for quite some time to come.Minor bumps notwithstanding, this is a ride which you must hop onto. Sure, the ending might seem to be weak, forced and also unreal, but that shouldn't disappoint - remember that it is, after all, mainstream.

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