This week's choice for "Movie of the Week" is one of a recent string of "topical" films to come out of Bollywood - "Udaan". Much like "Taare Zameen Par" and "3 Idiots", this film touches on India's problematic traditional notions of education and intelligence and the effects it has on younger generations. In this case, the story recounts the troubles of an artistically-minded young man named Rohan, who must endure the wrath of an oppressive father who wants him to become an engineer. Despite his knack and talent for writing, his father strictly forbids the pursuit of such a career.
As I mention "Taare Zameen Par" and "3 Idiots", it's important to note that although this film tackles important big social issues, it has much smaller ambitions. Those 2 films have much more robust storytelling (and are much richer films as a result), while "Udaan" is strikingly minimalist in comparison. It's a simple character study without much narrative drive, but it makes up for those flaws with a strong sense of tone and mood. This is achieved through some beautiful cinematography as well as a superb score from Amit Trivedi, a composer who continues to impress me. I actually admired this delicate focus on the lead character even if the plot is lacking.
The only issue I had with the film was the characterization of the father. Although well-acted, the character is frustratingly extreme. I'm fully aware of the existence of such stern parents, but I also believe there needs to be some grey area. As he's portrayed here however, it's all black and white. He's just an evil man, written like a caricature of a villain. Ronit Roy (who plays the father) is still impressive in the role and so is the rest of the cast. They all delivered accomplished, nuanced performances.
In the end, I wanted more from the story, but it's got enough positive attributes for me to still recommend it. It may not overtly "say" much, but its theme comes across clearly. It's a promising start for the directing career of Vikramaditya Motwane.