Uppena: Turbulent Tides
Uppena Movie Review
Cast: Vijay Sethupathi, Krithi Shetty, Panja Vaisshnav Tej, Sai Chand.
Music By Devi Sri Prasad
Cinematography by Shamdat Sainudeen
Film Editing by Navin Nooli
Directed by Buchi Babu Sanaa
“Life goes through highs and lows like we are on an eternal
boat of destiny that we are never in control of. “
Many makers tried to replicate this emotion on screen. Right from K. Asif to K.V. Reddy to B.N Reddy to Vendantham Raghavayya to Bhimsingh to Adurthi Subbarao to Bharathiraja to Balachander to Mani Ratnam to K. Vishwanath to Manivannan to P. Vasu to Puri Jagannath to Trivikram Srinivas to Jayanth C Paranji to Selva Raghavan to Bala to Sukumar to Nagraj Manjule to other filmmakers whom you can remember (sorry, can’t remember everyone and I’m not a “KNOW IT ALL” too), every filmmaker tried their hand at telling an eternal romantic tale about an economically/socially backward guy falling in love with high society/class/rich girl. Actually, in 1960’s and 1970’s films, this became such a regular trope that people started making fun of it. Saying that heroines in movies are placed or written to just fall for a guy against their fathers’ to make them villains. ANR in Telugu cinema changed this as his Devadasu persona has become equivalent to Romeo on stage – eternally popular. He came up with different iterations of Devadasu with few changes here and there (watch his PremNagar, Premabhikesham for eg.). Most romantic movies like to replicate the Romeo-Juliet story written by Shakespeare and we are caught in a loop as well, as for every 10 years we get one or other film that tries to use the regular formula and tell its own tale.
However repetitive it feels, we tend to expect some freshness in the same old template, and few times, we got lucky too. In early times, filmmakers concentrated on telling romantic tales of Kings, Queens, and their concubines. Then Bharathiraja brought in class difference angles addressing caste barriers in the society in his film, Seethakokachilaka. Balachander tried to follow typical characters and K. Vishwanath gave it all a musical touch. Trivikram Srinivas, Puri Jagannath, Jayanth C. Paranji decided to add their own commercial USP to their rich girl-poor guy template stories. But the King of Latest Romantic movies, Mani Ratnam failed to use Ocean as a character in his film, Kadal where he tried to give a mythological touch to the template. He failed and many thought the template had grown too old. Nagraj Manjule decided to add honour killing angle to the template and Sairat sang Jing Jing Jingat at the box office.
Now, we have been talking about visionaries only and some failed to repeat the same feat in their later films and some failed to even use it in their “only template romantic” film. There have been many failures and we don’t remember most of them. Still, makers find it easy to try and tell their own ROMEO-JULIET TALE and Bucchi Babu Sana is the latest edition to the list. Sadly, he falls in the “tried and failed” list. As caste differences, economic backwardness, race, honour killing have become too common, he tried to add chopping off the genitals to the list. He tried to give a definition to “MANHOOD” and even tried to make everyone “feel the pain”. Unfortunately, he did not completely believe in telling rather he tried to “make a film”.
When you try to tell a tale that you believe in like what Sukumar did with Arya, the craft enhances the content. But when you try to “make a film”, it shows your craft and storytelling takes a backseat. Even people like Mani Ratnam have fallen prey to this – now regular – problem. In Kadal, the craft of a master filmmaker took over the story of a boy who lives through literal turbulent tides. Hence, the music of AR Rahman failed to make an impact. Bucchi Babu‘s film doesn’t have that problem but he neither has the craft nor the story to match all the “names” we discussed above. All he has is an idea about how a girl reacts to a situation where a boy loses his genitals, because he loves her.
When the story is all about the girl and her father, we want the story to be theirs’. When the story is all about the girl and the boy, we want the story to be theirs’. And when the story is all about the maturity of a girl, we want it to be her’s. Uppena tries to address all points and then ends up being a mishmash of something from one film and something from another. While Devi Sri Prasad gave his hand to keep the boat on sail, the story has hit an iceberg like the Titanic even before it takes off. You don’t feel the “love” of father, “love” of two teenagers, and “maturity”. All we are allowed to see is a story of two kids who are eager to “fall for each other” as they have nothing else to dream about. The maker makes it clear by having the boy “fall in love” with the girl at a very tender age. It seems like the girl wants to just fall in love and the boy wants to love. Then what else Villain will do, be the bad guy who does a thing and create the “problem”.
Had the film been about a story, then it might have not just followed Sairat in the template but it might have come up with engaging characters as well. Dialogues don’t really make the character. It is always what you do vs what you say. Actions always speak louder than words. Again, in this film actions sleep-walk while words are dissolved in loud BGM, pleading us to feel something. Had there been subtitles to what we had to “feel” at certain points maybe we would have felt them properly as the scene just makes it laughable. A gent dies within 10-15 minutes after you chop off his genital and it takes months to recover. In the magical world of Uppena, it takes a few moments. The struggle about accepting such a “situation” by the boy and the all-important girl take a side-track as two “manipulative” monologues and one bad analogy try to save the day in a hurried manner.
Turbulent tides of life always make the surf worth all the effort. They help us learn, earn and master the art of surfing through “cyclones” as well. If your idea of being in love is all about having sex and not about having a heartful conversation then life would become mechanical and melancholy. Writer-Director tried to tell this as a ROMEO-JULIET tale but his JULIET did not get the right balcony and his ROMEO ended up climbing the tree of “MANHOOD” that was “erected by Babaji ki Bhooti” and not by “natural means”. Hence the eternal tale about love vs lust became a tale of “anger which made us older by eons within 2 hours of its runtime“.