Some of us were lucky enough to catch a screening of Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan. I came back, sat down with my laptop on the writing table, wrote the header for my post – Days Of Being Wild & the Pains of Growing Up. Looked up. The poster of Persepolis, newly framed, was in front of me. I put on the same thinking pose and in my thought bubble went back to the days of that small industrial town where I grew up. Same state, different town. Udaan is set in Jamshedpur.
The post remains unwritten and is saved as a draft with only the header . Cinema that connects strongly, has this effect on me. Either I go silent or feel like pouring my heart out. After Vihir, Udaan is the second film of 2010 that I fell in love with. And the best part is, its uncompromised. Who would cast Ronit Roy, Ram Kapoor and a bunch of new kids to make a film! Producer Anurag Kashyap and Sanjay Singh did. And Vikramaditya delivered. More power to people who dare to make such films! A script which was rejected by almost every producer in Bollylalaland, got made, and made it to Cannes’ official selection. Aur bolo?!
Finally, good friend Fatema Kagalwala came to our rescue. Yes, same Fatema, the girl on the bike (She doesn’t like the description but we feel it sounds cool like the title The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo)! And she drives smoothly even after four pegs! Anyway, back to Udaan. Read on.
There is moment of breaking-free in every teenager’s life. From barriers within or without. And this is a journey that defines the rest of life’s journey. The moment when one takes wing. And flies away to find one’s feet in a world where the present is free from the past and the future a freedom to dream and build.
It is said that the things that we cannot change, in this flux of constantly changing life, are the things that end up changing us the most. But it is also the things we break ourselves to change that end up keeping us together. Rohan finds that out as he sets out to find himself among the pieces of life thrown to him by fate. Thrown out of hostel and college for a breach of (archaic) rules he finds himself in his home with an over-bearing, uncaring, violent father and a step-brother he has no knowledge of. The odds are stacked against him and larger because of his nature.
Rohan is a poet, a sensitive soul…fully well personifed in Rajat Barmecha’s soulful eyes and tender expression. And the poetry he writes is equally touching. He writes of his innermost quests, his need to find his path, his feet in a confusing world of do’s and don’ts that don’t make sense to his simple desires and simple individuality.
Rohan’s dilemma is as special as it is common. A semi-neurotic father with demons of his own to battle clamping down hard on the gentle boy and his harmless dreams forms the core of his life that is now reduced to an empty carton much like the cold, spaceless walls that adorn his house. The only sense of belonging he ever felt is far away in Mumbai, the city of dreams, his bunch of pot-pourri friends that are seemingly very happy and carefree, a life Rohan craves for. A shadow of a loving yet unattainable family in his chachu’s person and marriage gives Rohan the much needed respite from the tyranny and cruelty of his circumstances…
But Udaan needs to be experienced not explained. It’s a simple story, simply told. And like a friend said, a ‘difficult’ simple film to make. As it goes in simple stories what you don’t do is more important than what you do. It is the pitfalls that are avoided that make the subtle milestones achievements. Writers Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap pick and choose moments, shear them of over-emphasis, indulgence and sentimentality and present a coming-of-age story that is as universal as unique.
Of course, there are also moments of glorification that seem out of place…a bit of clichéd representation of conventional thinking…a bit of over-doing of the ‘feel-good’ factor…they make for a few wincing moments…taking away from the absorbing true-ness of the film…somewhere indicating a lack of real depth…but they do not take away from the soul of the film, which is clean and sincere, much like it’s protagonist and his dreams.
The film is Rohan’s story but the other characters complete his picture well. The balance in characterization, a rare treat, is a genuine pleasure to experience, especially the father’s. A brutish tyrant who could have been painted black and explained away, is handled with a touch of grey never justifying his behaviour but by just putting a germ of reason as to why he must have turned out like this. A back story would have killed it. Especially with the diversity of perspective that is brought in by how Rohan looks at him, how his brother looks at him and how the audience looks at him. It clearly makes us take sides but with an understanding. And that understanding is fraught with the knowledge that life is like that. Imperfect and full of tough choices. And it takes the theme (as it may be defined) that either you let your past dictate your present or you dissociate and build a new present for yourself. Beautiful contrasting life choices in the personification of the father-son.
The step-brother (a perfect cute-heart casting) brings out more of this of balancing out of the human-ness of its characters. His fears are matched well with his simple dignity and his silence used perfectly to show his place and role in the scheme of things. His small and limited presence looms large, very telling of the family dynamics and Rohan’s decisions.
Generically, the film is very European in its film-making sensibilities. The use of sound and silence is stark, contrasting. The cinematography captures without drawing attention to itself (the denial of over-weening cine-artistry is actually a pleasure in these times of technology obsessed film-making). The dialogues are conversational, everyday life but never pedestrian. The power of realism rests in every creative choice the director makes to tell his story in the most earthy fashion. And the power of realism shines through a well-told story that speaks from the heart and goes right through the heart. An extremely heart-warming debut by director Vikramaditya Motwane, one that shoots our expectations of his second feature sky-high :-)