It is no secret now that Uma is based on the real life story of Evan Leversage, a terminally ill Canadian boy whose wish to see another Christmas prompted his townspeople to bring the festivities forward by months. In the film, Uma is a terminally-ill Bengali girl, who lives with her father in Switzerland. Having heard tales of the grandeur of Durga Pujo in Kolkata, she has been yearning to visit the city of her roots to immerse herself in the autumnal festive fervour.
Having ignored this wish for years, Uma’s father finally gives in to her wish when he learns she only has two more months to survive. But Durga Pujo is a festival held in October. And Uma may not survive beyond May or June. So, her father moves mountains so that her dying wish can be fulfilled. Uma is the story of this journey, where a father, determined to gift his daughter all the happiness in the world, battles all odds to create ‘Durga Pujo’ in April.
Rituparno Ghosh had adapted a western novel into a Bengali setting so well in ‘Shubho Mahurat’ that I had decided it was the ultimate benchmark of internalisation of a concept into our culture. Srijit Mukherjee not only matches that standard, but outdoes his ‘Sir’ with élan. Imagining Christmas as Durga Pujo is just the tip of the iceberg. The beauty of his intricate detailing lies in the names of the characters. Uma’s parents are named Himadri and Menoka. The director who takes charge of creating the grand Pujo illusion is named Brahmananda. His art director is Bishwakarma, the person responsible for crowds is Lokeshwari and the light management is the forte of Arka Ray.
Then there is Himadri’s friend Barun, who creates artificial rain in one scene. His wife is aptly named Neera. There is a ‘guest’ actor who plays an errant officer of CESC, responsible for electricity. No prizes for guessing, his name is Indro. Then there is Gajanan, who’s penned an entire ‘Mahabharat’ for the script and Gobindo, who takes care of all arrangements. The icing on the cake – the anti-hero, Hindu fundamentalist who tries to foil the preparations is named Mahitosh Sur. Only a brilliant mind could fit in the entire Hindu mythology associated with Durga Pujo, into the 2018 setting.
Srijit Da’s detailing is even more enunciated in the introductory scene of Brahmananda. On the walls of his home hang posters of films he directed – Nirbashito (signifying the exile he is in), Meghe Dhaka Tara (the unrequited talent) and Autograph (which was a film about an eclipsed film star trying to make a mark). In fact, this film belongs as much to Brahmananda, as it does to Uma and her father. Anjan Dutt outdoes his performance in Nirbaak and Chitrangada to make us realise what a talent Bengali directors have wasted all these years.
Sara Sengupta mesmerises in her debut performance. She has the quirky persona of her mother and the gravitas of her father. A new star is born. Her chemistry with her (on and off-screen) father Jisshu, makes you yearn to go give your parents a big hug, and say ‘thank you’.
Uma has an ensemble cast that packs a powerful performance throughout. Rudrnail Ghosh, Ambarish Bhattacharya, Abhijit Guha, Neel Mukherjee are all clogs of the giant wheel – the ten hands of Maa Durga, who make anything happen, just for the smile on Uma’s face. And despite the personal dislike for Babul Supriyo, the politician, I have no qualms admitting that he shines as the Bihari goonda, who has a change of heart ultimately (specially so, because his only record of acting is in a terrible remake of Uttam Kumar’s last film).
Anirban Bhattacharya deserves credit for his stern, hate-filled, bigoted act that melts in a moment of emotional transformation into a loving father-figure. Just like Mahisasur had surrendered himself to Durga, just before the Goddess slayed the buffalo demon. Srabanti, who plays Mariam, an actor roped in to play mother to Uma, when she returns to Kolkata, is her usual best. Uma’s real mother, played by Sayantika, struck a chord in the few scenes she appeared.
Supporting the cast in equal measure were the songs composed by Anupam Roy and the background score by Neel Dutt. Shoumik Haldar’s photography needs no separate mention. There are scenes in Switzerland, where you automatically shout ‘wow’ or ‘jiyoh’ and want the scene to freeze so you can keep staring at the visuals.
After all that praise, a little note on what I felt I would have done differently. While retaining the character of Indro as the CESC officer, I would have changed his backstory (ektu playing to the gallery hoye gelo na?). Also, the happy ending at Babughat, where Brahmananda meets his estranged wife, was a bit far-fetched. Talking of the grand climax at Babughat, I would have also ended the film right where the camera panned out of the banks, giving us an aerial view of what the city is capable of achieving, if she wishes to. Himadri finding out that Uma knew about her mother, could have come in Nabami itself, making Bijoya sweeter.
Having said that, this was Srijit Da’s film and he envisioned it in a certain way. It is not my business to pass judgments about how he brings up his baby. This is a very personal film and the effort shows in every scene. As I had tweeted earlier, Srijit Da’s dad must be very proud.
What defines a good film? This is a question that has divided the society for long. For some, it is an escape from the motley of practical world. For some, it is a medium of mass movement. For some, it is just a means of making money.
Why do I watch films? Because they help me survive, one day at a time. And, Srijit Mukherjee’s films have always been that elixir that helped me gain a new perspective of the world. Uma, surely is one of the crowning jewels in Srijit Da’s box office offerings so far.
My Rating: Emotions cannot be rated
P.S. – The end credits with Evan’s photos choked me to tears.
DISCLAIMER: ALL IMAGES USED IN THIS POST HAVE THEIR RESPECTIVE COPYRIGHTS
Durga Pujo brings with it several cultural and social appendages that make this autumnal festival so glorious and enthusing. Among the myriad cultural innuendos associated with Pujo, ‘Pujor Release’ tops the list for Bengalis, for sure. And when it comes to Pujo releases, Srijit Mukherjee is a name to reckon with. From Autograph (2010) to Zulfiqar (2016), his films have always added to the splendour and merriment during the festivities.
Pujobarshiki (or special Durga Pujo editions of popular magazines) is also ingrained in our festive culture, just like films. And Pujobarshiki Anandamela always meant embarking on a new adventure trail with Kakababu. When the trailer of ‘Yeti Obhijaan‘ released, it brought a wave of nostalgia with it. The trailer was visually stunning, the story was intriguing and the feel of the trailer was sensational. And the film lives up to the interest the trailer peeked in viewers.
The scale of this film is as grand as the Himalayas. Soumik Halder deserves the biggest credit for capturing the essence of this larger-than-life canvas in the most serene style. He almost humanises the Hills, which is endearing to say the least.The exceptional use of aerial shots, coupled with the vibrant texture of the varied hues of snow lets your imagination run wild. There is a scene where an injured Sherpa makes his way to the camp, sliding on the snow. The gleaming red colour of his blood, juxtaposed against the dry and sombre snow, was a spectacle to behold. The film also stands out for the breathtakingly beautiful use of lights in the underground caves, where the climax of the film unfolds.
One of the reasons why I had not liked Mishawr Rohosyo was the length of the film and unnecessary sub-plots. Yeti Obhijaan steers clear of these shortcomings and in a signature-Srijit style presents an exhilarating thriller that would be palatable for anyone from 8 to 80. The dialogues are witty and sharp. And the riveting background score is sure to give you goosebumps all along.
Prosenjit Chatterjee gets in to the skin of the character and makes it his own. His silent stares, signature limp, and quintessential Bangaliana will keep you on the edge of your seats. As Shantu, Aryan Bhowmick has come a long way from Mishawr Rohosyo. Even the character of Shantu has evolved and matured. In his small role, Jishu Sengupta again gives us a taste of his mettle.
Few years back, when Chander Pahar was adapted for the silver screen, the makers faced a flurry of angry reactions over the depiction of Bunyip. These are characters we have grown up with; we have visualised them in certain fashion in our own imaginations. Any conflict is bound to create a negative impact. In fact, after seeing the posters of Yeti Obhijaan, one question kept lingering in my mind. Will the Yeti go the Bunyip way? Srijit Mukherjee surely deserves a word of praise for his intelligent handling of the ‘myth’.
Overall, Srijit Mukherjee deserves a huge pat on the back, and a packet full of sweets from Balaram Mullick (wink) for setting the bar high yet again. Bengali cinema has never seen an adventure film of this magnitude, and finesse, before. This Durga Pujo, every Bengali must take a ride of nostalgia to the Alps with Yeti Obhijaan.
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars
P.S. I am taking My Alexa Rank to the next level with #MyFriendAlexa with BlogChatter. This is Post #3
DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights