By Satyen K. Bordoloi
Film: "Udaan"; Director: Vikramaditya Motwane; Cast: Rajat Barmecha, Ronit Roy, Aayan Boradia, Ram Kapoor; Rating: ****
In 1959 in France, a teenage boy ran away from a juvenile home. That moment in "400 Blows" was symbolic for French cinema, as with it they left the baggage of cliché behind and embraced a new, youthful vibrancy that would change cinema of the World.
Fifty years later, Hindi cinema finds itself just at that moment of epiphany with this year's, perhaps even this decade's best Hindi film, in "Udaan". Will Hindi cinema hold on to the wings of this film and take flight?
Rohan is just another 'average' kid, rebellious and dreamer. After being expelled from boarding school, he has to live with his authoritarian, oppressive father in the steel town of Jamshedpur. It is obvious that the apple has fallen as far from the tree as it is possible.
The father runs a small steel plant and wants his son to be an engineer and enjoys defeating him in running, while the son sits on railway tracks, under a tree, by the bed of a river, composing poetry. Senior Singh cannot digest the fact that his son dreams of being a writer. So he makes his rules clear to both Rohan and his young step-brother Arjun.
Rohan rebels in his own little ways, but has to concede to his fathers demands. When he comes to know that the reason for his step-brother's hospitalisation is because of a beating from his father, he seethes with rage, but can do nothing.
Yet, in the end you cannot hold a rebellious spirit down and Rohan breaks free from his shackles.
"Udaan" will not only resonate with those who had a troubled childhood, but with anyone who has faced oppression, or ever nurtured dreams. The film is an analogy of life and of a nation's social ethos.
Another film that came out earlier this year "Leaving Home", a documentary about the band Indian Ocean, resonated with the same middle-class aspiration that "Udaan" dabbles with. There too the band members detail how they had had to fight their own parents and the system to become artists.
The cast gives a stellar performance.
Rajat Barmecha as Rohan is a precious find, while Ronit Roy as his father reminds you of another super-villain of world cinema, nurse Ratched in "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest". Looking at his maturely restrained performance, you wonder what he is doing wasting time overacting for television.
Yet, the winner is director Vikramaditya Motwane. Like Francois Truffaut with "400 Blows", his is also a delectable, beautiful debut. And like Truffaut himself, he too had been a rebel with the film being a veiled biography.
Hence, in the end, when Rohan outruns his father, you cannot help but celebrate, and like "400 Blows" did, you only wish Bollywood too comes out of the shackles of its own clichés and open its arms to directors like Motwane.
If nothing, the fact that even after seven months Bollywood has not had a single hit in 2010 should be sign enough for them to adopt the much needed newness.
Perhaps it is too much to expect. But then, all the best things in the world exist because of these individual rebellions, from people who have run away from conventions to create their own dreans.
"Udaan" is both a celebration and a triumph of that spirit rebellious.
Bollywood.com Rating: 3.5