Harrowing, awkward, horrendous adolescence—we all know why. For Rohan (Rajat Barmecha), the, teenage hero of Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan, it’s worse. A soft-spoken poet and budding writer, he lives in his thoughts. After being expelled from his boarding school where he spent many years without any contact with his family, he returns to hometown Jamshedpur, to live with his father, a cruel, haughty and emotionally damaged man. Besides Bhairav, the father, he also has to get to know Arjun, his young step-brother, a timid, glum boy. We know that Rohan lost his mother when he was a child and Arjun’s mother left Bhairav.
Udaan is a dark film. A dense energy of rage and resentment hang in this home. The boys suffer mostly in silence. Rohan works at his father’s factory and both the sons are forced to talk to their father, given to neurotic alcoholic fits, with forced reverence. Some scenes of mental and physical brutality are chilling. Rohan’s small rebellions often lead to a bleeding nose.
Udaan made history earlier this year by being the first Indian film in 15 years to be selected in a top competitive category at the Cannes Film Festival. Don’t trust hype, it is not a paragon of great Indian cinema. It is a film where story and realism reign over technical acrobatics—and quintessentially and realistically Indian in content, texture and characterization.
Motwane has also written the script, which is really the star of the film. Dialogues (by co-producer Anurag Kashyap) are powerful, and scenes, cleverly crafted.
Motwane punctuates the suffering with humour—thankfully not the kind meant just for comic relief. Once you warm up to the characters, you will laugh and cry along with them. Despite the gloom, there is a breezy quality to the story, with a predictable narrative arc. Characters are mostly unidimensional; the bad never has any room for the good and vice-versa. The end is simplistic and convenient. Yet, the last scene still produced that sigh-inducing uplift in me, the kind that only simple emotions can elicit.
Performances are stellar. Debut actor Barmecha, in the hands of a good director, is consistently just to the role of a boy who is simultaneously rebellious and weak. Roy brings in nuances of a seasoned actor to an otherwise flat role, pitching his histrionics just right. Ram Kapoor, in the role of a kind uncle, is impressive.
Jamshedpur has a cold, industrial air—the constant bluster of factories is a leitmotif. Motwane’s treatment of the setting and milieu reminded me of some of British director Mike Leigh’s films set in London’s industrial suburbs.
I highly recommend Udaan. It’s for anyone (some children may be disturbed by the brutality) who loves a good story skilfully and passionately told.
Kashmir can make an artist ambitious. The state’s beauty and the burden of its history, its violence and wounds are fodder for powerful drama. Director Rahul Dholakia tries to capitalize on Kashmir’s tangled present in Lamhaa, but overreaches his own limits as writer and director.
The story involves an Indian government’s Intelligence personnel Vikram (Sanjay Dutt) who is in Kashmir to prevent a catastrophe, various Muslim religious groups and their political affiliations with terrorist organizations and Aziza, who is a pawn in the murky battle for Kashmir’s independence. We also meet the half-widows of Kashmir (one of them played by Shernaz Patel) and a messiah of peace who wants to contest elections by embracing both Muslims and the Hindu pandits (Kunal Kapoor).
Most of Lamhaa is a blustering mosaic of chases, gun shots, political rallies and angry outbursts. There is no coherent, single-thread plot line. Every other dialogue has the word “Kashmir” in them; “Kashmir ek bahot bada company hai” is almost an incantation. Performances are loud and laboured.
The makers were perhaps too thrilled and carried away by the enormity of making a film on Kashmir—and sacrificed what could have been a big film.
Tere Bin Laden
In the genre of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron and The President is Coming, writer-director Abhishek Sharma crafts a satirical comedy that will have you rolling in the aisles.
Ali Hassan (Ali Zafar), a reporter in a deadbeat TV channel, is desperate to realize the American dream. In a post-9/11 world, when his visa application is rejected numerous times, he finally sees a one-time opportunity to cross the Atlantic. When he discovers poultry farmer Noora, an Osama bin Laden (Pradhuman Singh) lookalike, Ali hatches an ingenious plan of making a threatening tape, hoping to win himself passage to America. In order to pull off the project convincingly, he enlists the help of a cameraman (Nikhil Ratnaparkhi), an Arab-speaking editor (Chirag Vohra), make-up artist (Sugandha Garg) and a mimic (Raahul Singh). Together they create a tape that rattles the foundations of the Pentagon.
Secret agent Ted (Barry John) is at once dispatched to Pakistan to locate Osama and terminate him. Look out for the Pink Panther-esque performance by Chinmay Mandlekar who plays the Pakistani investigating officer. Via this “investigation”, Sharma touches on several conspiracy theories and makes a tongue-in-cheek comment on American paranoia. Yet he manages to make a point and rounds off the film with a positive thought.
Some of the moments are brilliant: A rooster-crowing contest, the capture of the miserly channel head (played superbly by Piyush Mishra) and the grenade scene which is tightly choreographed and executed. One of the most interesting aspects of the film is that it makes you look at Osama through humour and takes you on an enjoyable journey with a group on no-hopers. Performances by the ensemble cast, the script and Sharma’s direction give Tere Bin Laden its energy and offers a fun addition to the unexplored genre of satire.
Udaan, Lamhaa and Tere Bin Laden released on Friday.