When Rohan literally runs away from his home as his father Bhairav Singh chases him down the street, the background score has a rhythmic beat and that beat stops for a couple of seconds to indicate the defeat of Bhairav Singh. That small window where the beat stops before the music shifts to the next level has so much of emotions attached to it. Anyone with a creative instinct and had a tough time convincing people around them about their interests would feel liberated seeing that visual. Udaan comes from a place of frustration that a lot of people may have gone through, especially people from the middle-class. It had its theatrical release 10 years ago July 16th, 2010 and it was arguably the best Hindi film of the last decade.
Shammi as the antagonist in Kumbalangi nights had these characteristics of a relatable person in the society who is an advocate of a certain morality that is considered as good. In Udaan, that focus is on parenting. But here, there is almost an equal focus on both Rohan and Bhairav Singh. In a way, the writers Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap are telling the viewer that, it is not easy to rectify someone who is so unwilling to accept that he was a victim of a system that was never questioned. You have to be the one who will break the chain to make it happen and you can’t really expect people to accept your decision.
Everything about Bhairav Singh has a connection with the way a particular set of people think about life and job. On the first morning after Rohan arrived at his home, Bhairav Singh aka Sir asks Rohan to run with him and at the end of the jog, there will be a running race. When Rohan says he doesn’t want competition, Sir dodges his disagreement by saying that nobody asked for his opinion. That jog and the running race are almost like the education pattern of a middle-class student in our country. Nobody asked for their opinion, they did the routine stuff and the final race just because they were told to do so.
Bhairav Singh wanted his son to do engineering and be an engineer, and he rubbishes Rohan’s aspirations to become a writer by saying stuff like writers are pseudo-intellectuals or irresponsible drunkards. He has a very problematic idea about masculinity. He is a man who doesn’t understand the idea of following someone’s passion. The movie does look at Bhairav Singh empathetically for a moment when his brother asks him in a scene towards the end of his issue with keeping people happy. And at that moment we do get an idea of how this has been happening in that family for generations. The car, the watch, boarding school, addressing father as Sir and several other things are in a way carry forwarded from the previous generation.
For me, the beauty of Udaan is in the way it added a lot of smooth layers to a very simple story. It was Motwane’s first film and his co-writer Anurag Kashyap has once said that the story had emotions that were relatable to Kashyap who was also born and brought up in an industrial city. Udaan looks at the conventional family drama idea from a different perspective. Bhairav Singh says all the emotional things a sentimental father says in every movie we see and Rohan is talking like that arrogant son who quarrels with his father. But instead of normalizing the inability of the parent to understand their child as care, Udaan decides to call it out as insensitive.
While most commercial movies approach such moments in a neutral way, Udaan decides to show an antagonist who is never going to admit his mistake. The decision of Rohan to leave the house wasn’t a quick one. It is when he realizes the fact that Bhairav Singh is more attached to certain ideologies and beliefs (the car was a representation of that) than his own son, he decides to leave the house. There is a complete detachment happening here. Rohan leaves the house, demolishes the car, gives back the watch and he also takes up the responsibility of Arjun. All these are showing the viewer that the Bhairav Singh model has to end completely.
We have seen so many movies about the same thought in the past decade. The Madhavan track in 3 idiots, Ayan Mukherji’s Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Imtiaz Ali’s Tamaasha, etc. are all stories of a man following his passion and I feel Tamaasha is the closest to Udaan in terms of the story structure. But it is the placing of the story that makes Udaan extremely moving. What we got to see as montages in Tamaasha is the main element in Udaan. Even though I am a fan of both these films, Udaan kind of has the “life-changing movie” attribute to its credit and the reason for that is perhaps it is the least escapist or glossy film compared to the other movies I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph.
In terms of filmmaking also the movie does an exceptional job of building the mood. The Shimla portions have this icy blue tint and as the movie shifts towards Jamshedpur, the temperature quotient increases. And one can sense the return of the icy blue tone as Rohan becomes more and more confident. In a recent interview with Rajeev Masand, Vikramaditya Motwane revealed the fact that it was Imtiaz Ali who suggested Jamshedpur as the location. Jamshedpur is actually a character in the film. Seeing an aspiring writer like Rohan in a rustic metal jungle gives you a very clear visual clue that he doesn’t belong there. The music of this movie is nothing short of brilliant. The poetry Amitabh Bhattacharya has written here is moving and the gooseflesh you get listening to Azaadiyan is incomparable.
I haven’t seen a lot of Ronit Roy’s performances, but out of the characters I have seen, Bhairav Singh is undeniably a class performance. Nothing is there in the movie that justifies what Bhairav Singh does. But after a point, we get to know the fact that he is the victim of the same brutality he is showing against his kids and he has become a firm believer in that method. Ronit Roy’s performance with subtle variations to the constant angry face of Bhairav Singh helps us in understanding the messed up headspace of that character.
Rajat Barmecha as Rohan perhaps doesn’t have too much stress in playing that character. It is those unblinking stares he gives to his father that stays with you. There is that innocence on his face and a suppressed anger in his behavior and Rajat portrayed it with earnestness. Even though the role has only smaller screen time, the character of the uncle played by Ram Kapoor is a bit disturbing for me. Jimmy is the bridge. He knows why his brother is like that and he can’t abandon him. And at the same time, he knows Rohan and Arjun shouldn’t go through what he and Bhairav went through. The muted conversation between Rohan and Jimmy before the Azaadiyan song is what made Rohan go back and help Arjun.
Bhairav Singh is the representative of a generation that failed to question and obeyed everything. Rohan Singh is the one who decided to take the risk so that a coming generation, Arjun Singh, won’t have to go through the same. It’s been 10 years since this gem released and back then when asked about a sequel to Udaan, Motwane hinted at making a sequel similar to the way Richard Linklater made the before series. Well, it would be interesting to see what a 28-year-old writer Rohan would be doing at a place like Mumbai along with his friends and brother Arjun. I hope Motwane and Kashyap would come up with something as these characters have made a huge impact on a lot of people.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended