LoveLIFF

Newton Review LIFF 2017

In director Amit Masurkar’s second feature, we land into the ever so old tussle between idealism and reality. Set in the backdrop of the world’s largest democratic election in India, with an extremely volatile political air, we see our protagonist Newton Kumar (Rajkummar Rao) trying to make sense of the senselessness, find peace in the chaos, resisting the oppression, and eventually submitting to it. Or did he? I don’t remember having met a person like Newton, the idealist who believes in doing things by the book, no matter what the circumstances be. In fact, Newton is an abberation in the times we live in. Newton is honest, to the point of being proud about it and showing it off, as his senior states.

Masurkar’s second feature couldn’t have been more different to his urban comedy debut (Sulemaani Keeda) about struggling filmmakers in the land of Bollywood. With Newton, Masurkar doesn’t limit his narrative to telling the obvious right from the obvious wrong. We see the world of Newton in the span of the very few days leading to election day. And then as he experiences through the people he meets – the army officer (Pankaj Tripathi), the tribal subordinate female chief (Anjali Patil), his associate clerk (Raghubir Yadav) and juniors, the junior Army officer, his own parents, and the burnt world of the tribals. Newton is embodied by Rao in a performance that doesn’t have dramatic lines to express, but you can smell the frustration of the straitjacketed administration that handicaps what would seem like his obvious dutiful behaviour.

There is a particular scene in Newton which beautifully captures the theme of Newton to me. When Newton is lessoned about the harsh reality of how insignificant an election is to the daily lives of the tribals in the village by his junior clerk, an aspiring writer who has submitted to the routine of a cozy government job, he asks Malko – are you also as Niraashavaadi (pessimistic) as them? She simply replies – No, I am Aadivaasi (tribal). Newton maybe idealistic and wants to carry out his duty, but he is also ignorant of the bigger picture. His willingness to go through any means to achieve his duty goal is short sighted. There is hardly anyone of the 76 tribal people eligible to vote who has a clue of the elections – the candidates representing them, or what they promise to be on their agenda. People are busy making ends meet, worrying about basic necessities of life. And when they are not doing that, they are worried about their homes not being burned down by either the army, or the Naxals. Where does the round idea of democracy fit in this irregularly shaped hole?

As Newton fast descends into a more insane and far fetched tale, we do not lose the sense of realism however. And it is Rajkummar Rao’s grounded performance that makes it so. Now here is a movie that is not simply about an obnoxious idealist that you might not completely agree or identify with. It is also a tale of the far from perfect world we live in – a world fragmented by political interests and corruption, where Newton is not an ideal employee, but almost an absurd lunatic. He is one who needs to be kept silenced and consoled by trophies of punctuation awards. The movie however is not mean spirited about any of its characters. Masurkar narrates the film in a tone balanced between drama and suspense, often juggling it with absolute ease, and there are some humorous moments as well. But the laughs often come at the cost of how harsh the truth is.

@9e3k

Director: Amit Masurkar
Starring: Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Tripathy, Anjali Patil
Run time: 106 mins | Recommended Certificate: 12A
Language: Hindi with English Subtitles | Year: 2017 | Country: India

An award-winner at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2017, this delightful black comedy stars one of India’s top young character actors, Rajkummar Rao, as Newton, an everyday clerk who is selected for election duty in the conflict-ridden Indian state of Chhattisgarh. As local police and Maoists harass the locals and the voting process spirals out of control, the morally driven Newton becomes a reluctant hero in his zest to save the day.
24 JUNE | 18.10 | BFI SOUTHBANK
25 JUNE | 17.00 | CINEWORLD WEMBLEY

Check out more of Sujoy‘s work at OneKnighStand and Bollypop!

For more about the London Indian Film Festival head over to their website or twitter feed!

Let us know what you thought of the review in the comment section below and do continue to check out Upodcast for more coverage of the LIFF!

Ep 224: LIFF 2017 Preview – What To Watch?

The London Indian Film Festival (LIFF), regarded as Europe’s largest Indian film festival returns for its 8th edition to London and Birmingham and we are joined by Josh Hurtado from Screen Anarchy to help us navigate through broad choice of movies.

On this episode, we pick out the movies that excite us or intrigue us.

For the entire program, dates and tickets head over to www.londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk

 

You can listen/stream/download the episode below.

Subscribe to our feed and leave us a review!

For The Love of a Man Review LIFF 2016

The devotion some fans have towards their favourite superstars can be witnessed on a daily basis on many a Twitter thread but as this insightful film shows, the dedication some Rajnikanth fans have for him not only dictates the course of their lives but also has the potential to influence the world’s largest democracy, commanding a loyalty and devotion that an average public figure can only dream of.

Divided into three chapters with an introduction and epilogue, we see three different perspectives – one of a businessman/aspiring politician, a lookalike (who cheekily confesses he is actually a Kamal Hassan fan) and a family man who thinks nothing of mortgaging his wife’s jewellery to pay for a fan event whilst his wife struggles to make ends meet and care for her family. All are united by Rajnikanth who plays a central part in their lives; whilst the superfans seek to emulate and do what they think their idol would want them to do, the lookalike finds Rajnikanth may hold the key to his own dreams being realised.

The authorial voice is objective throughout, ensuring it never judges and tries to present a balanced viewpoint; explaining how Rajnikanth reinvented the hero for Tamil cinema from aristocratic model citizens to the working class man who had empathy and charisma, the creation of the superstar stemmed from a political movement that wanted to move people away from religion as their primary source of inspiration and in the process created a behemoth.

At the same time, Rajnikanth fans form an impressive community that look out for one another and pay back to society; organising food for underprivileged children, raising money and installing water tanks in villages as well as regularly convening to think up marketing for upcoming Rajnikanth films and ensuring the films always make their money back, showing a philanthropic side to the world.

For The Love Of A Man reminded me a lot of Being Salman Khan, a documentary which looks at Salman fans who are similarly obsessed with their idol. Both are sympathetic and try hard to show how these fandoms are an outlet for groups of men who feel this is a platform to express their masculinity on and truly is a fascinating world that is not what it appears to be on first glance. Moving and compelling in turn, For The Love Of A Man is worth a watch, whether you are a fan of Rajnikanth or not.


Bhushan Kumar is a film obsessed amateur fashionista who lives in London.

You can read more from him at www.bogeyno2.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter: @bogeyno2

For more about the London Indian Film Festival head over to their website or twitter feed!

Let us know what you thought of the review in the comment section below and do continue to check out Upodcast for more coverage of the LIFF!

Song of Lahore Review LIFF 2016

Before we even start talking about Song of Lahore, do yourself a favour. Go and watch the following video.

This was the video that started it all. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Andy Schocken’s Song of Lahore is a documentary that chronicles the surprising journey of an ensemble of classically trained Pakistani musicians – from the troubled streets of Lahore, to the their moving performance at Jazz at Lincoln Center, New York. It is moving, touching, and even educational as we the audience join the musicians of Sachal Studios as they embark on their quest for excellence.

For the first 20 odd minutes, I admittedly found myself struggling to find a focus in the material. Too many individuals were introduced into the narrative, without any context to explain to me why I should care about them. But before I could even begin to prematurely dismiss any story, I was hooked in by the sincerity in their music. It is by means of these different individual tales coming together cohesively in a flourishing moving music piece that the “Song of Lahore” blossoms into its own melody. Like the jazz music the documentary is centered on, Song of Lahore is about the unwavering spirit of these Lahore musicians coming together against all odds of oppression, religious fascism, and even tyranny that almost killed their existence.

Lahore has been one of the cultural landmarks of Pakistan, housing great musicians, artists, writers, poets and painters for thousands of years, until the late 70’s when Pakistan’s political atmosphere drastically shifted to become one of an Islamic republic. Since then, most art, particularly music, has been considered sinful. As a result, Pakistan’s once rich culture of art has diminished, as artists struggle to even make ends meet, and have resorted to doing other jobs. And yet, as Song of Lahore reminds us, the art hasn’t completely died – it has simply changed from being people’s careers to becoming a passionate hobby among those who are still trying hard to pass on their knowledge to the new generation, and even attracting new audiences by fusing traditional sounds with modern ones. Sachal Studios decides to drum up attention by posting a Youtube video playing Dave Brubeck’s Take Five with Pakistani instrumentation. The clip goes viral, and gives them the chance to perform in New York alongside Wynton Marsalis. Thus, the Sachal Jazz Ensemble is born.

Originally content to remain obscure bearers of the Pakistani musical heritage, this opportunity brings the Sachal Jazz Ensemble to gain worldwide attention and truly hit its stride. It is Sachal’s chance to finally find the recognition they’ve missed out on, and also shows how a love of music transcends any barrier. It is heart-warming to see these men who are clearly past their prime, with their withered faces and grey hair, and still smiling wide with a passion so infectiously inspiring. And at the same time it is heartbreaking to think of how they have been deprived of what could have been. Born into a family of musical geniuses, and in a broken nation that looks down upon art, it has not just deprived these musicians from their future; it has deprived their nation of endless possibilities and the world of music greats. As neighbouring India almost takes cultural freedom for granted and takes pride in its geniuses – be it Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pt. Ravi Shankar, Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, or even A.R. Rahman, Pakistan has only lost this opportunity to nurture its talented sons and daughters. As the Sachal gang walk down Times Square and enjoys street performers, one of them comments – “They are poor musicians, just like us”. It hit me hard.

And then we see them singing “Country Roads, Take Me Home” with New York’s infamous Naked Cowboy. And it instantly brought a smile on my face, and surprised me how musical unity can come through in the most unpredictable of places.

The final performance at the Lincoln Center acts as the culmination of all their struggles and their pure and unadulterated love for music. Even with all the tension of rehearsals and adapting a new genre of music, the performance is sensationally tremendous, impactful, and echoes with applause. But I found it a little too short, as I was left wanting for more (I was quite relieved to find out that some of the performances are available online on Youtube). The performance provokes tears of both pride and relief. I was left dazzled by these courageous seniors, and the melody stuck in my head. I felt spiritually refreshed and joyous, and with eyes full of tears. The optimism is consistent in Song of Lahore‘s overall tone and interest in perseverance. I cannot recommend this enough.

Song of Lahore will stir you to the core.

A Song of Lahore is part a double bill by South Asia’s only double Oscar winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. Based in Karachi, her documentaries capture key social issues and great moments of contemporary Pakistani culture.

18 JULY | 18:30 | PICTUREHOUSE CENTRAL

Check out more of Sujoy‘s work at OneKnighStand and Bollypop!

For more about the London Indian Film Festival head over to their website or twitter feed!

Let us know what you thought of the review in the comment section below and do continue to check out Upodcast for more coverage of the LIFF!

AN EVENING WITH SHARMILA TAGORE LIFF 2016 Q+A

“Are my answers too long?” Sharmila Tagore asks halfway through her answer to the first question about her esteemed lineage (her great grandfather was responsible for bringing Cubism to India whilst her grandfather was the poet laureate Rabindranath Tagore). The truth is one could listen to Sharmila talking all night; eloquent, polished and engaging, whether it was recounting her time in regional cinema or as one of the reigning superstars at a time when art house and commercial cinema were two different worlds, this Q&A was full of amazing anecdotes and stories that as director Sangeeta Datta put it “evoked lost worlds“.

A large portion of the Q&A centred on Sharmila’s work with Satyajit Ray; after a clip from Apun Sansar (The World Of Apu) was shown (which also saw Sharmila rightly questioning why a subtitled version was not shown for all the non-Bengali speakers), she described in detail the direction she had been given and also quoted key dialogues, commenting how economical the words used were but their impact was devastating when delivered under Ray’s direction. A clip from her next film Devi was equally fascinating, especially when Sharmila pointed out they had been shown out of order and presented the context herself. Sharmila

However, it was her work in Hindi cinema in the 70’s that seemed to really get the audience interested – what it was like to work with Rajesh Khanna (did you know Roop Tera Mastana was shot in one take as they only had a few hours to shoot it in), Shammi Kapoor (unpredictable; he would do one thing in rehearsal and then improvise in the actual take) and how Deewana Hua Badal from Kashmir Ki Kali was the first song Sharmila lip synched to and found it challenging as Hindi was not her first language but living in Bombay helped her learn fast.

Then came questions from the audience which Sharmila took on with aplomb – praising Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, Kangana Ranaut and Vidya Balan when asked about current heroines whilst also reiterating she herself had taken roles where her characters had “agency till the end“. She also spoke about her recent visit to the Lahore Literary Festival as well as her time on the Censor Board, telling how she tried and failed to rebrand it as the CFBC rather than just the “censor board” as well as (in what was the line of the night) “politics divide but Hindi films unite“.

Finishing on the notion that “films are a wonderful profession” and how she had managed to juggle motherhood and work at a time when it was not the norm, one audience member commented how Sharmila was like a representative for women now as much as she was at the height of her star power. With an incredible body of work behind her, felicitated with Festival Icon Award as well as being invited to be a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, it will be interesting to see what Sharmila does next.

 

Bhushan Kumar is a film obsessed amateur fashionista who lives in London.

You can read more from him at www.bogeyno2.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter: @bogeyno2

For more about the London Indian Film Festival head over to their website or twitter feed!

Cinemawala Review LIFF 2016

It does sound ironic that the film industry across the world has chosen digital media over film as its preferred future, even though it’s named after it. Much has been already said about this deviation, and only a select few filmmakers in the world continue their struggle to keep the torch burning. Digital media makes it easier for films to be released in more screens simultaneously, with a cleaner print and an almost flawless archiving process. It also has single-handedly spelt the doom for the art of film projection and the traditional single screen cinema which takes pride in that “larger than life” quality of the big screen. It is the struggle of letting go of this attachment to the glorious past that Kaushik Ganguly’s Cinemawala tries to explore. It brilliantly juxtaposes this struggle with the strained relationship between a father and his son. The parallel drawn between the two – the older generation set in their own ways and strict moral code, and the successor who just wants validation and success by all means, is brought to life by some brilliant performances.

 

The father of the Das family – Pranabendu Das, played exceptionally well by veteran Bengali actor Paran Banerjee, runs his family fish whole seller business with his only son Prokash (Parambrata Chatterjee, Kahaani). He also owns a failed single screen cinema, Kamalini, named after his separated wife. His cinema has seen better days, and along with his old confidante Hari, he dwells in the glorious days of the past – the days of Uttam Kumar, the days of CINEMA as it was meant to be. Prokash on the other hand, is the opportunist son, who reluctantly helps his father with the family business, but is more keen on making a quick buck by selling pirated DVDs. While Das senior’s life revolves around movies of the past, he realises that his son has a similar obsession, albeit an illegal way to be a “Cinema wala”.


There is a certain quality of ache and loneliness in Ganguly’s framing of the character of Pranabendu. And Paran Bandopadhyay just slips into this character effortlessly. His eyes and droopy face portray a defeated old man, who is struggling to give up what he holds so dear. His embarrassment from his own blood is painful to watch, and his love for cinema is inspiring. Parambrata plays the greedy son Prokash quite well, and at times can be quite slimy. Prokash’s wife played by Sohini Sarkar supports the two leads seamlessly. And there is even some comic relief. But my favourite character, surprisingly is Hori – played by Arun Guhathakurta. His loyal demeanour towards Pranab from the start reel makes one feel very attached to him. I won’t go into spoilers – but there is a scene where Pranab has sell of his big projection machines. Hori is cleaning it before the new owners come to pick it up, and he asks Pranab if he can spend some time with it alone. He has been in that projection room since he was 23, and to me it felt like Hori considered these machines to be his daughters, and now it’s time for their ‘bidaai’. It is a heartbreaking scene and I am sure there won’t be a single dry eye at the cinema when you watch it.

 

With the cinema industry finding newer ways to distribute movies, battling piracy and illegal downloads, and single screens becoming a thing of the past, what choice does the older generation have than to let go. The swan song of the single screens has not yet been sung, but people continue to be besotted by the swanky new multiplexes. Nostalgia is a dangerous thing. CinemaWala, in a not so subtle way, tries to pose this age old problem of accepting or resisting change. Go watch it, and give this piece of cinema a big hug. Cheers to the Golden Jubilee years!

Starring : Paran Bandopadhyay, Parambrata Chatterjee, Sohini Sarkar & Others
Presented by : Shrikant Mohta & Mahendra Soni.
Produced by : Shree Venkatesh Films
D.O.P : Soumik Halder
Art Direction: Dhananjoy Mondal.
Music & Background Score : Indraadip Dasgupta.
Edit : Subhajit Singha
Story, Screenplay & Direction : Kaushik Ganguly.

CinemaWala, directed by Kaushik Ganguly is playing at the London Indian Film Festival this weekend.

16 JULY | 18:00 | ICA

17 JULY | 18:00 | CINEWORLD WEMBLEY

Check out more of Sujoy‘s work at OneKnighStand and Bollypop!

For more about the London Indian Film Festival head over to their website or twitter feed!

Let us know what you thought of the review in the comment section below and do continue to check out Upodcast for more coverage of the LIFF!

Screen Talk: Mani Ratnam – London Indian Film Festival 2015, BFI Southbank

Mani Ratnam is pretty much how I expected him to be – unpretentious, likeable and a man who doesn’t waste words. When he does speak, there was much to inspire and after the hour and bit talk, I am sure I was not the only who felt charged up to go out and make a film of my own.

With an audience that included Ratnam’s wife Suhasini (an accomplished actress in MalayalamTamilTelugu and Kannada language films) and ace cinematographer Rajiv Menon (who was sat next to me with his wife and Suhasini next to her), the talk was guided by Peter Webber (director of Girl With A Pearl Earring and all set to make his next venture in India) and held at the BFI Southbank which was the perfect place to host this afternoon event as part of the London Indian Film Festival 2015.

When asked about how he became a filmmaker, Ratnam described himself as a “disillusioned management consultant” who was passionate about cinema and wanted to see if he could make a career out of filmmaking. When Webber asked him if anyone had influenced his work, Ratnam mentioned Akira Kurosawa as a favourite but admitted he was generally inspired by anything he had read or seen (as indeed all creatives are).

There was also some good natured ribbing about songs in Indian cinema with Webber saying he admired Ratnam and Indian filmmakers for directing songs in their films. Ratnam explained how directing a song was a “liberating process” and was like making a mini film, with a story arc, choreography and sensibility all of its own. “Songs let you travel emotions in an abstract fashion” said Ratnam before joking that he felt sorry for Western cinema that does not have songs as part of its narrative.

Ratnam also spoke about his working relationship with A R Rehman who has scored the music for many of Ratnam’s films. Naming Bombay as his favourite Rehman soundtrack, Ratnam noted that Rehman was a very special composer who had a unique ability to find his own level in his music as well as achieving what had been asked of him when composing music and that the experience of working with him was a great one.

I was not surprised but interested by Ratnam’s revelation that he doesn’t really understand Hindi in the way he does Tamil. Ratnam went on to explain how he wrote in Tamil, then worked with a Hindi writer to translate the dialogue and then trusted his actors to enact their character properly as Ratnam felt he is unable to control nuances of word in Hindi as well as he would want to and for this reason preferred to work in Tamil.

Webber then took questions from the audience which ranged from what Ratnam does to make a set come alive (“have a good team and work with people better than you”), his inspiration for the strong female roles in his films (all based on the women he has met and his admiration for their amazing strength in character), his favourite director (“Guru Dutt”) and how he offered his first film to his wife but she refused it (“so I married her!” which delighted the audience). All too soon, time was up and Ratnam was presented the London Indian Film Festival icon of cinema award, the first ever recipient of the award to mark the conclusion of the talk.

My favourite anecdote came near the start, where Ratnam talked about how he saw his approach to film as “reinventing what is written on paper”. A simple sentiment that could easily be lost in the process of filmmaking, it struck me that this was exactly what Ratnam has done in each of his films and perhaps is instrumental in making him one of Indian cinema’s greatest filmmakers and a very worthy candidate for a truly fascinating screen talk.

Bhushan Kumar is a Hindi film and fashion obsessed being living and working in London.

Follow Bhushan on Twitter: @bogeyno2

Blog: http://bogeyno2.wordpress.com/

Umrika Review: Opening Night LIFF 2015

The yearly London Indian Film Festival started with the usual festivities and since we don’t take half measures here at Upodcast. We decided to give you 2 different perspectives by our good buddies Bhushan Kumar (@bogeyno2) and Sujoy Singa (@9e3k) on how the screening of Umrika went down.

Umrika

Bhushan:

Directed by: Prashant Nair

Starring:, Suraj Sharma, Tony Revolori, Smita Tambe, Adil Hussain, Pramod Pathak, Rajesh Tailang, Amit Sial, Sauraseni Maitra, Prateik Babbar.

In the Q+A following the screening of Umrika at the London Indian Film Festival (LIFF), director Prashant Nair explained how he wanted Umrika to reflect the character of rural India – as Nair rightly pointed out, when it comes to depicting village life on the silver screen, poverty and hardship are often the facets we see presented in Indian cinema by both mainstream and independent films. So Umrika is definitely unique in consciously trying to explore a rather sombre tale with a touch of lightness and humour.

Set in the 80’s, Ramakant (Sharma) idolises his older brother Udai (Babbar) who has left the village and is living in America (or ‘Umrica’ as it is often pronounced in the sub-continent). At first, Udai does not make contact with his family and the village but when he does start sending letters, Rama is fascinated by the ‘exotic’ American culture that his brother is living in. But as time goes on, it emerges that the postman of the village has been forging the letters to pacify Udai and Rama’s anxious mother. As Rama takes over the letter writing duty, he decides to track down his brother and find out the truth for his own peace of mind.

Umrika touches on so many issues at the same time that it could easily collapse under the weight of its own ambition but Nair multitasks with efficiency, managing the different strands of the story with care and clarity. Whether it is a timeless issue (sibling rivalry) or topical (immigration), Umrika is a film about both these things and a lot more all at once. The emotional core of the film is Udai and Rama’s mother who may not have much screen time but looms large in every frame, driving the story forward and representing a strange paradigm – even though she cannot bear to live without Udai, she seems content to send him miles away to a foreign land by himself and live vicariously through his letters, not realising the effect her behaviour has on Rama.

Performance wise, Sharma shines as Rama, depicting the character’s journey of self-discovery with a confidence and poise that carries the film well. Hussein is suitably menacing as the smuggler whilst Pathak and Tailang play their supporting roles of the father and postman respectively with conviction. The two biggest surprises for me were Revolori, an American actor who plays Rama’s best friend Lalu – whether it was his body language or expressions or dialogue delivery, I had no idea it was an American was playing a rural Indian village boy. The other standout is Tambe as the mother who effortlessly manages to show a gamut of emotions from grief to joy and whose actions and expressions remain in the mind long after the film ends.

Umrika is exactly the kind of film a festival like LIFF should be championing and deserves a thump on the back for bringing such great cinema to the world stage. Thematically, Umrika reminded me of another film festival hit done good, The Lunchbox which also had universal themes and forged an instant and intelligent connection to its audience. Having said that, Umrika marks out Nair as a director to look out for and the film is certainly worth watching a few times to enjoy all the nuances and quirks weaved into the story. Highly recommended.

 

Sujoy:

Director Prashant Nair’s “Umrika” seems to borrow from the many Bollywood movies of the 80’s – of lost brothers, of rural family values, of naive ambitions, the stark darkness of city life, and the yearning for loved ones. Rama (Suraj Sharma) is a young man who lives under the shadow of the elder son of the family, Udai (Prateik Babbar). Udai has gone off to Umrika for work, in search of a more prosperous life. It is Udai’s letters that tell the tale of a land so exotic and mystical. After a period, when the letters stop coming, Rama’s mother becomes depressed, and distances herself from her family. The letters pick up again, but when Rama discovers the secret behind these letters, he has to leave his family behind to unravel the mystery behind the American dream. Revealing anything more than this basic description would mean to delve into spoiler territory. But in my humble opinion, Umrika is not about the build up, or the culmination of its protagonist. It is perhaps about the many journeys that its array of characters take.
It does seem like a very conscious choice on the part of the director to choose name-dropping familiar historical names and events and references to songs and sights of that era. And it did help in making one believe in the world that surrounds these characters.  From Amitabh Bachchan’s infamous accident on the sets of Coolie to national events such as the  Emergency, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assasination, and even the Challenger space shuttle crash, Umrika weaves these historic events seamlessly into the story, hinting at the era and its eccentricities. These were simpler times, and also times when the only image of America are ones that are coloured in shades of brightness and prosperity.
It is however interesting to see how American culture and lifestyle, which is so much taken for granted, is presented from the eyes of a complete outsider – a young villager from India, who has only read about it from newspaper cuttings. What irks me a little however, is that how our protagonist Rama, in an era of no Google or Wikipedia, and with limited education, has been able to dig out so much information about America – from food, to festivals, to even the Cold War.
The cinematography by Petra Koner is absolutely on the money. The bright hues of Jitvapur’s scorching summer have been presented in stark contrast to the decayed blue indoors of the city. Because in the city, the Sun of hope never seems to rise. There’s despair in every move, with everyone filled with greed and deceit. Koner’s camera narrates a tale of its own.
The acting talent here is in top form – Be it Suraj Sharma, who gets to show off his acting chops a bit more after Life of Pi, and does not disappoint at all. He does look like MTV VJ Rannvijay Singh, which made me wonder what if Rannvijay would have played Udai’s role, instead of the mostly forgettable Prateik Babbar. Rama’s friend Lalu, played by Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel) is an unconventional casting choice. And yet, it works. Even though the dubbing can seem a bit jarring at times, Revolori’s relentless loyalty to his chidhood mate is reminiscent of the many onscreen Bollywood bromances.
And like most loved Bollywood movies, this one also has a Maa. And thank God for that. Because, it is the Maa who provides the emotional hook to the story. Smita Tambe has one of the most expressive eyes that you will see onscreen all year (perhaps, second to Ramya Krishnan in Baahubali). Her love for her son, anguish, and sorrow makes up for all the pacing flaws and almost left me gasping for a breath.
With Umrika, Nair attempts to bring in a lot of elements and promises under one roof – the horror tales of illegal immigration, the struggle of life in the rat race of the city, and yet, a beacon of hope that shines bright to keep things moving on. Umrika shines.
Rating: 3 Hot dogs out of 5.

 

Bhushan Kumar is a Hindi film and fashion obsessed being living and working in London.

Follow Bhushan on Twitter: @bogeyno2

Blog: http://bogeyno2.wordpress.com/

Check out more of Sujoy’s work at OneKnighStand and Bollypop!

Follow Sujoy on Twitter: @9e3k