There are a very few films that stay on your mind for hours, days and even more after you’ve watched them… Debutant director, Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan is one such film. Its beauty is in its simplicity and honesty that touches your heart. Udaan wins in each and every aspect but the real winner is the story/screenplay (credit shared by Motwane and the film’s producer, Anurag Kashyap). It is a coming-of-age film, a genre rarely touched upon by Indian filmmakers; a couple of good ones I remember are Wake Up Sid (2009) starring Ranbir Kapoor and Saaheb (1985) starring Anil Kapoor. Udaan was also screened at the Cannes Film Festival this year under the Un Certain Regard category, which is how it got noticed in India and am glad it opened well in cinemas this week.
Udaan is the story of a 17-year-old motherless boy, Rohan (Rajat Barmecha), his dreams and aspirations. The film opens in a boarding school in Simla where Rohan has spent 8 years without anyone visiting him. His friends are his family and the initial few scenes of him breaking school rules with his friends involve you instantly in the story as you connect with Rohan and his friend Muninder (Manjot Singh of Oye Lucky Lucky Oye fame). Rohan is made to return to his father, Bhairav Singh (Ronit Roy) in the industrial town of Jamshedpur. Life changes for Rohan from this point onwards as his dreams of becoming a writer are shot down by his authoritarian father who prefers being addressed as Sir. He is forced to attend an engineering college and work in his father’s steel factory. In Jamshedpur, he also meets his younger step-brother, Arjun (Aayan Boradia) whose existence was not known to him earlier. An abusive relationship with his father, hardships at work and distance from his friends do not limit Rohan’s imagination as he struggles to find his way to break free.
Rajat Barmecha makes a brilliant debut in the film as he brings alive the vulnerability, the hatred, the spirit and the dreams of Rohan’s character on-screen. The little kid, Aayan Boradia is also very good and is able to emote well in all his silent sequences. Hats off to Ronit Roy for taking up a complex character like Bhairav, who you end up hating and also feel sorry for. The casting is perfect (Jogi) and so is the setting (production designer – Aditya Kanwar) that suits the mood of the film. The director is able to bring alive the thinking of a frustrated business man from a small town and contrast it well with a free-spirited youngster. The scenes between Rohan and Bhairav are tense and disturbing at times; imagine a drunken father slapping his son and ridiculing him for being a virgin; he says, “Sex kiye ho… nahin! Ladki saala!” (Have you had sex… no! What a wimp). But mind you, Udaan is not depressing; it is anything but that; it is a film about the triumph of spirit.
Technically also, Udaan is perfect with good cinematography (Mahendra J Shetty) that captures the changing moods through the rains and fine editing (Dipika Kalra). Amit Trivedi’s music is also beautiful, not as popular as his Dev D but a really good soundtrack. Sample these motivating lyrics (Amitabh Bhattacharya) that sum up the film… ‘kahaani khatm hai, ya shuruaat hone ko hai…’ (Is the story coming to an end or is it the beginning…) Go watch Udaan, you won’t regret it…
My rating: * * * * ½ Four and a half stars on five
– Shrey Khetarpal