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After being abandoned for eight straight years in boarding school, Rohan returns to the small industrial town of Jamshedpur and finds himself closeted with an authoritarian father and a younger half brother who he didn't even know existed. Forced to work in his father's steel factory and study engineering against his wishes, he strives to forge his own life out of his given circumstances and pursue his dream of being a writer. Written by
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Udaan must be one of the best Hindi films I've ever seen - realistic, simple, engaging, riveting, inspiring and deeply moving. Vikramaditya Motwane's direction deserves the highest of praise, and the script, written by Motwane and the great Anurag Kashyap, is superbly written. The film looks authentic and is easy to relate to and yet it has an impressive larger-than-life quality to it that makes wonders. This poignant story is brought out exceedingly well on-screen, and the depiction of the subject matter is brutally honest, at times disturbing and excruciating and yet totally encouraging. Made with sheer graciousness and sincerity, Udaan perfectly captures the adolescent days of a young teenager named Rohan, and it follows his dreams, desires and growing maturity.
After being in a boarding school for 8 years, Rohan is expelled and is forced to return to Jamshedpur to live with his terribly authoritarian father and a younger half-brother about whose existence he never knew. The story follows Rohan's life with his domineering father, who maltreats him and disapproves of his dreams to become a writer by forcing him to study engineering and work at his steel factory, by treating him like a recruit, by abusing him physically and emotionally, and by scorning his writing skills. But life there actually causes Rohan to mature. His pain inspires him to write and he gradually grows to love his poor and helpless young brother Arjun, who, orphaned from his mother, equally yet quietly bears the brunt of his father's cruelty and is intimidated into silence by his despotism.
Udaan is about chasing your dreams and living your life as fully as possible despite everything. It, in a sense, celebrates the power of the human spirit, showing us that we can fly very high and fulfill our most impossible dreams if we only believe in ourselves and summon up the courage to fight for our happiness. All that is presented through the character of Rohan, which is incredibly well written. He is smart, talented, compassionate and he does not spend time feeling sorry for himself for having a true monster of a father. On the contrary, it gives him the strength to create and write more, never letting his father's attempts to morally abuse him into submission deter him, lose his sense of life or stop writing. That's what makes this movie so spirit lifting.
The narrative style is exemplary. The movie is amazingly realistic and intense and while some may say it is a bit slow in pace, according to me it's thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating and it kept me on the edge of my seat. Not even once does it lose its consistency and integrity. Every scene is brilliantly shot and directed and is important to the film's proceedings. The portrayal of relationships is also aptly done here. Rohan's friendship with his schoolmates is portrayed exceptionally, despite the minimal screen time it's given. You just feel it's always there. Where its technical aspects go, Mahendra Shetty's cinematography is fantastic and so is Dipika Kalra's effective editing. Amit Trivedi's music is absolutely spot on for this movie. The songs bring the film to life and are truly uplifting and fun.
The acting is roundly excellent by one and all. Even the tiniest roles look believable and genuine and they greatly contribute to the film. Rajat Barmecha debuts in this movie in a role that young aspiring actors can only dream of. He is one of the most promising actors of the current breed of fresh talents and although he clearly is going to have a great career, this is probably the role he will be most remembered for. He acts with complete understanding of the character, making it very convincing and relatable by naturally displaying Rohan's anguish, vulnerability and compassion, and later on his coming-of-age, courage and determination to do it his way.
Ronit Roy is excellent as the merciless father. He manages to be as hateful as possible, yet at times he shows sparks of regret and humanity, which may be very few and barely noticeable to some, but are enough to understand that it is his own weakness and struggle that made him act as he did. Ram Kapoor in a relatively small part leaves a mark as the kind uncle of the kids, who is the complete opposite of his hot-blooded brother. The same can be said about Manjot Singh, who makes his second film appearance after a memorable performance in Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!. His ten-minute role here as Rohan's best friend is so likable and well-played that you feel like having watched him there throughout the entire movie.
The film's brightest spot is undoubtedly Aayan Boradia. He is simply outstanding as Arjun and is easily one of the cutest kids in recent movies. This is a strikingly convincing portrayal; he smiles very few times throughout and conveys so much of his loneliness and pain through his innocent eyes and touching silence, without ever overdoing it. His quiet suffering and heartbreakingly accepting attitude of growing without a mother and without the care of a loving parent, on top of that having a merciless and violent father instead, make you really feel for him. It's almost impossible to believe anyone could harm such a poor creature. This is according to me one of the finest performances by a child actor, up there with the unforgettable Jugal Hansraj of Masoom.
Udaan does not work because of what it 'has' but more because of what it 'is', and that's why it's so great. The ending is extraordinary, and it brings forth the long-awaited catharsis. The climactic sprinting scene is a triumph on its own - exhilaratingly exciting and hauntingly memorable. A magnificent song called "Aazaadiyan" perfectly concludes this terrific story, effectively presenting the film's ultimate 'udaan' (flight). Udaan is an ineffable cinematic experience and to put it simply, the best Indian film I've seen in years. Truly one gem of a movie.
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