Srijit Mukherji of Jatishwar or Chotushkone is long lost. His last few ventures like the two Kakababu films, or Zulfiqar or Nirbaak have been disasters; and when I had seen the trailer of his latest film, it did sound equally loud and highly melodramatic. Luckily then, Uma turns out to be better than what the wrapper suggested and yet falls short of becoming a real good film.
Based on a real life story of a Canadian boy Evan Leversage for whom Christmas was celebrated ahead to time since he was running out of life, Uma replicates the story in the context of the biggest celebration and festivity of Kolkata – Durga Pujo because little girl Uma may not live till October and has experiencing Kolkata’s Uma aradhana on the top of her bucket list. The impossible is made possible by a helpless father who would go to any extent to see his daughter smile, a gone-past-prime filmmaker and a failed father who still believes he can create his masterpiece through this assignment and a team of compassionate and determined strangers who want to live this dream for the little girl.
Its a perfect cinematic premise rich in emotions and creativity, and one can expect that a well made film in this context can seriously tug at your heart strings if it works well with feelings without getting melodramatic. But its the overdose of the later that pulls down Uma from becoming one of those stunning experiences. And the melodrama is often on the face, unnecessary, inorganic and sudden. The expressions of sorrow, anger, helplessness and pain feel diluted because they are all delivered with a deafening pitch across scenes and without reason. That the script takes away too many cinematic liberties especially post interval does not help the cause either, and robs the film of much of its soul unfortunately. There is also an attempt to pack in too many things right from multiple broken families, to religious intolerance, to threat induced hooliganism and even an unnecessary revenge segway each with over the top back story or an unnecessary charged up scene! Frankly Mukherji could have benefited lot more if he could have resisted the temptation of over indulgence to keep the proceedings more focused.
All is however not lost. Uma certainly has its moments too and some of them are beautiful. The moments are mainly there because of a few terrific performances that the film can boast of. Now, I always thought that Anjan Dutta is a much better actor than a filmmaker, and with Uma he proves that again and we get to see the seamless Anjan of Juganta or Chalchitra. This could easily be his best performance in a long long time. Little Sara Sengupta definitely makes a mark with her debut, her eyes speak, and she does come across as a natural for the most part. Far more than Jisshu U Sengupta here, who actually struggles in all the emotional scenes and loses out as one of the weakest performers of the ensemble unfortunately! Anirban Bhattacharya does well to catch good attention in his first scene but fails to repeat that for the rest of the film. The show-stealer for me however was Rudranil Ghosh, who was just fascinating in his small role and gets it totally right. I wanted to see him so much more.
The music of the film by Anupam Roy gels in well, and both Jaago jaago Uma and Esho Bandhu create their moments. There is some good city cinematography here both for Kolkata and the Swiss location where they shot, but Mukherji’s fascination for ultra close-ups and weird camera angles especially for the indoor shots are more distracting than dramatic. Some of the scenes are written well especially the ones featuring Dutt or Ghosh, but the screenplay loses a lot of steam especially in the second half and comes out as a half baked product.
There are multiple times during the film where I thought what could Uma have become had it been directed by a more controlled director, one who would focus on creating the impact through more insightful exploration of the intrinsic human emotions rather than extrinsic extravagant drama. It could possibly had gone few steps closer to the masterpiece dream that Dutt was chasing in the film. With Srijit, it remains restricted within the limits of gimmicky names chosen to tell a larger story (whether Uma or Mohitosh Sur or Indranil or Brahmananda or Mariam..), his irresistible lure to pit style over substance whether he is in front of the camera or behind it, and his motivation of playing to the gallery to create a product that sells. And Uma will sell!