Uppena Movie Review: A watchable love story with a shattering incident

5 months ago  |  2.6M
Uppena Movie Review: A watchable love story with a shattering incident

Movie: Uppena

Cast: Vaisshnav Tej, Krithi Shetty and Vijay Sethupathi 

Director: Buchi Babu Sana 

Rating: 2.5

In the initial scenes of the film, we are introduced to two aspects of Vijay Sethupathi's mercurial and merciless character. One is that he has been keeping the whole village in the dark for months. His best-kept secret makes him look like a loser even as he gloats about his honour. The other one pertains to how a Mandal Revenue Officer escapes death by citing his caste. This is such a defining portion, more than the scene where a Biology teacher explains to her girl students what real masculinity is all about. 

Aasi (Vaisshnav Tej), a happy-go-lucky fisherman, goes into a trance whenever he sees Babamma aka Sangeetha (Krithi Shetty), the daughter of Rayanna (Sethupathi). You know what is in store in our movies when a poor guy is head over heels in love with a rich girl. The girl reciprocates sooner than later but their dreams get shattered in no time. Does this film have a happy ending? We will not spill the beans. 

'Uppena' pans out like a typical formulaic film in the first half. The heroine is shown mooning over the hero during a fight scene (but this otherwise routine moment comes with an imaginative spin because the creepy guy who gets beaten up inadvertently so deserves to be thrashed). Aasi and Babamma do those done-to-death things that lovers in all village-based dramas do. They share sweet-nothings on the shores of the sea, all while managing to keep themselves away from the sight of their elders. 

The routine proceedings don't let the audience lose hope because of the smartly-done first act. Devi Sri Prasad's soulful songs ('Nee Kallu Neeli Samudram' and 'Ranguladdukunna' in particular) are far better than the characterizations. 

The heroine believes that anger hastens aging and the attempt to build cutesy humour around this is underwhelming. Aasi's scenes with his father (Sai Chand) are generic. Much as the debutant actor comes with an aura of innocence (like when he wonders about how his father must have felt when his late mother smiled at him for the first time), these scenes don't make the audience feel that something heart-touching is playing out.

Sethupathi's character threatens to cause displacement, leaving the fishermen in the village helpless in the face of his crushing force. These scenes could have been milked to deliver a dekko. But the writers are content toying with stock ideas and insipid lines. The scenes involving the antagonist are one-note in the first half. But there is hope in the second half, with Sethupathi's Rayanam indulging in dehumanizing violence. 

Although the core idea that masculinity is not about anatomy is ennobling, the climax is not haunting enough. The film could have explored trauma and angst way better to make 'Uppena' a timeless film. While it is raw, it is not adequately shattering. 

The film subtly shows that caste-based honour crimes leave the women gasping for breath. But what about the brutalized Aasi? What of his unspeakable pain? His agony is a mere footnote. 

While the visuals are mostly superb (thanks to cinematographer Shamdat Sainuddin), the portions leading up to the song 'Jala Jala' look synthetic. 

Uppena cast in an exclusive interview with Pinkvilla: