Director: Vikramaditya Motwane
Cast: Rajat Barmecha, Ronit Roy, Aayan Boradia, Ram Kapoor
It's hard not to be moved by the coming-of-age journey at the heart of director Vikramaditya Motwane's Udaan.
It's an inherently sincere and deeply affecting story of 17-year-old Rohan (played by newcomer Rajat Barmecha) who's thrown out of boarding school and packed off home to Jamshedpur, his first visit in eight years. Confronting his over-bearing, uncaring father is only the first of many challenges for this motherless teenager, who also discovers he has a six-year-old half-brother he had no knowledge of until now.
Stuck in this industrial city with no friends at all, forced to pursue a degree in engineering instead of being allowed to blossom into the writer he wishes to become, Rohan's claustrophobia is palpable. His father's violent outbursts and the frustration of sharing his room with a brother he has no affection for, adds to his intense desperation.
Intuitively written and lovingly crafted, Udaan is packed with moments that will resonate with every viewer because they mirror real experiences: whether it's those scenes of griping against the world while throwing back tequila with new-found buddies, or sneaking out of boarding school to watch an adult film in a local cinema.
Udaan comes across as an intensely personal film; a coming-of-age story without the choreographed songs or road-trips; the anti-Wake Up Sid if you like. There is angst you can identify with, and Barmecha conveys an intense loneliness that you can almost feel.
The film's dialogues by Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane are sharp and mesh in well with the scenes. Mahendra Shetty's luscious photography is one of Udaan's greatest strengths; and even actors in bit roles -- like Oye Lucky Lucky Oye's Manjot Singh -- leave a lasting impression. There is a distinctly 'unfilmi' feel about the performances, and while Barmecha anchors the film with a sensitive, heartfelt turn that is possibly among the best you've seen recently, credit must also be given to Ronit Roy who stars as Rohan's despotic dad Bhairav. Investing in his character a damaged quality that protects it from ever turning into a caricature, Roy delivers a performance that is arresting.
If the harshness in Udaan comes from Rohan's tyrant father, its softness comes from his mostly silent half-sibling Arjun, played by the excellent Aayan Boradia who conveys volumes through his eyes. To be fair, the film is as much the story of two pairs of brothers, as it is Rohan's coming-of-age journey. Ram Kapoor stars as Jimmy, the affable brother of Bhairav who represents the only silver lining in Rohan's life. And who better than the gleefully rotund Kapoor to pull off this part?
At close to 2 hours and 20 minutes, Udaan is long, not least because Motwane unfolds his narrative at a leisurely pace that at times makes the plot feel repetitive. Amit Trivedi comes up with a score that is a musical entity within itself; yet laced against the film the songs speak for the characters without ever intruding or distracting from the plot.
With Udaan, Vikramaditya Motwane makes a terrific directing debut, offering up a film whose images will linger in your head long after you've left your seat. The film reaches out because it's sincere. It tells Rohan's story in the only way it could have been told -- without the commercial trappings that might have made it an easier watch. And yet you're overwhelmingly happy that it isn't compromised cinema.
I'm going with four out of five and a recommendation not to miss Udaan. It's one of the best films this year, and one you will carry in your heart for years.
Rating: 4 / 5
Winners: Abhijeet Kamble from Pune and Vishal Nair from Mumbai.