When it comes to Bollywood I usually watch a grand total of anywhere between 1 and 2 movies in a year. For the year 2010 the first movie I watched is Udaan. Simply put classifying Udaan as a Bollywood movie just because it is in Hindi seems wrong in the first place; it seems so far removed from typical Bollywood fare. Udaan is the story of a young boy Rohan expelled from boarding school and his consequent return to his home town, to an authoritarian father he is seeing after 8 years. He finds another surprise in a little step brother from another of his father’s failed marriages. The movie revolves primarily around the gradual development of the relationships between Rohan and his brother and that between him and his father. Rohan who has always aspired to be a writer is forced to study Engineering and work part time at his father’s factory. Perhaps my own desire to be a more prolific writer caused me to have a deeper affinity towards his character.
Characters in a movie of course mean nothing without a fine cast of actors to portray them. Rajat Barmecha who plays Rohan makes an impressive big screen debut. He manages to pull off an extensive range of emotions from teenage angst, rebellion, anger, frustration, and downright helplessness to conviction with a genuineness you would probably expect only from a more experienced actor. Whatever direction he heads down towards in the future he will surely be remembered for the depth he managed to bring to this simple tale. The child actor playing his little brother also does a fine job. Particularly noteworthy is Ram Kapoor who plays Rohan’s uncle a person who serves as a foil to his father. Though some may find the character of Rohan’s father to be too one dimensional in his dictatorial attitude it doesn’t matter that much in the end as the movie is about the trials and tribulations of a young boy and he is the one you will remember in the end.
The music in the movie is uniformly brilliant right from the main theme that perfectly punctuates the more poignant moments of the film to the uplifting cheery songs that suffuse the more upbeat scenes in the movie. The lyrics to the songs that I managed to understand I thoroughly enjoyed. The movie does make use of some pretty high level Hindi (for me at least) so those of you well versed in Hindi might get a lot more out of the dialogs and songs than I did.
In the end Udaan works not because of a deeply involving story but because it sticks to it’s simple premise and shows us in minute detail the interactions between it’s primary characters. This is helped by some rather interesting choices with the camera. Udaan is not a film for the impatient. Several scenes see the camera linger on Rohan in almost near silence for several moments. These are moments I personally enjoyed greatly as they allowed you to delve into the mind of the young boy for just those few moments. Silence in a movie has never spoken so much to me before.
Ultimately the movie is about the theme of liberation and breaking free of metaphorical shackles. A scene that we have seen of the boy running away from his father from the trailer comes together wonderfully thanks to a perfect blend of cinematography, the actor’s emotions and the exceptional music. It is one of the finest sequences in the movie and those who come to love the movie will remember it as a deeply affecting moment and a culmination of everything the movie was about.
If there is any hope of Bollywood breaking free of it’s shackles we need a lot less Dabangg and a little more Udaan.