Udaharanam Sujatha (2017) Malayalam Movie Review – Veeyen

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‘Udaharanam Sujatha’ is an agreeable tale, the logic and realism of which, could forever be questioned. And yet this is the kind of genial material with which upbeat and buoyant films as these are made, and dreams – both mine and yours – are spun.

Phantom Praveen’s ‘Udaharanam Sujatha’ is an amiable, light hearted charmer of a film that resourcefully packs in vibrant emotions and spunky humour in a mother-daughter tale that is irresistibly moving.  Inspired by the critically acclaimed ‘Nil Battey Sannata’ (2016, Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari), ‘Udaharanam Sujatha’ is a fine film that gets its translation mostly right.

‘Nil Battey Sannata’s Chanda drapes on a haphazard looking sari and gets set for the day, as ‘Udaharanam Sujatha’ opens. They name her Sujatha, and the single parent lives in a tiny apartment in Trivandrum, along with her daughter Athira (Anaswara Rajan) who has just passed on to the tenth grade. Sujatha has grave concerns about her daughter’s ongoing battle with Mathematics. Much to Athira’s dismay, Sujatha pays heed to her employer’s (Nedumudi Venu) suggestion and decides to join school again so that she could lend a hand to her daughter to wade through the Math Marshlands.

Athira is perhaps a wee bit dissimilar to any other girl set lose on a cinematic stage, and the very subtle statements that are left behind, hold much more import than they outwardly flaunt. She, along with a cluster of girls, play football, and later on take the streets by storm as she joins a group of young girls to fly kites. The self esteem and sense of accomplishment that these almost exclusively male sports bring in suggest an equity with regard to gender, in the least obtrusive manner ever.

Phantom Praveen’s film is a delightful tribute to the capital city of the state, as Sujatha staggers along the streets of Trivandrum, her hometown, lost in a swamp of thoughts. Hurrying past the joggers of Kawdiar, she rushes to work, dodging the pet dogs away, and waits in anticipation for the coconut to break into a perfect half before the crusher stone at the Pazhavangadi temple. The long line of brightly lit shops on the MG Road is as familiar to her as the back of her palm, while the neon lamp lit narrow alleys of Chenkalchoola intimate her that another long day is finally drawing to a close.

There is a slight tinge of incredulity that creeps into the story when Chanda decides to join her daughter’s school, which ‘Nil Battey Sannata’ resourcefully overcomes through a highly insightful tone that is progressively maintained. ‘Udaharanam Sujatha’ attempts to do the same, and even throws in a magazine article that shows the real life story of three middle aged housewives who had dropped out of school, deciding to pursue their studies all over again.

Cinematically though, ‘Udaharanam Sujatha’ feels and drops a few notches further down the lofty spot occupied by ‘Nil Battey Sannata’. The dialogues for one, are sometimes lost in translation and the bright and untarnished spirit that had made Chanda and Apu’s tale so adorable seems to have been blanched a bit, when the mother and daughter shift their base to Trivandrum. There are the song interludes that appear in quick succession and which fade out as swiftly as well, that should ideally have been kept at bay.

Swara Bhaskar’s finely drawn feat in ‘Nil Battey Sannata’ is a tough mark to cross, and yet Manju Warrier’s portrayal of Sujatha is an exquisite performance that overwhelms you, as the actor peels layer  after layer off her countenance, divulging unsullied facets of her persona each time she does. The astounding facility with which she moves towards profundity strikes you as almost surreal, and she carries the tremendous emotional haul of the character on her shoulders with such perfect balance, easily rendering it one of the finest performances from a woman actor in recent times.  And yet, this is strangely an act that is marred at times by the flawed dubbing that involuntarily switches between a Thiruvananthapuram accent and one that definitely isn’t a South Kerala drawl, and some garish makeup that serves no particular purpose other than to make her appear a bit too ill at ease.

Anaswara Rajan establishes that she is a natural, and stands strong despite being pitted against an actor of Maju Warrier’s stature in almost all her scenes. Commendable performances from ever dependable actors as Nedumudi Venu and Mamta Mohandas are around, while Joju George does a very neat replication of the seemingly unsurpassable Pankaj Tripathi act, in a remarkable style of his own.

‘Udaharanam Sujatha’ is an agreeable tale, the logic and realism of which, could forever be questioned. And yet this is the kind of genial material with which upbeat and buoyant films as these are made, and dreams – both mine and yours – are spun.

Verdict: Above Average