The cab runs towards the airport. Himadri takes out an old photograph of his and his ex-wife and shows it to Uma sitting on the backseat. Uma says “sorry”! Himadri bursts into tears. And the director Srijit Mukherji plays his masterstroke with this scene, bringing out the aura of a movie where everyone tries to fulfill others’ wishes.

Uma” runs as part of the 9th edition of the Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival, that runs at 15 cinemas, across London, Birmingham and Manchester, from 21st June to 1st July, with 27 films, including features and short films, in competition. It is the largest South Asian film festival in Europe. Buy your tickets via this website, at respective cinema box offices: http://londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk/

Srijit Mukherji is a passionate story teller. “Hemlock Society”, “Jaatishwar”, “Nirbaak”, “Chatushkone” , “Rajkahini”  –  in every movie Srijit has portrayed a different narrative with a powerful and distinct story line for his audience.  “Uma” is a movie where Srijit upholds the power of love, unity, togetherness and wish – underneath the emotional story of fatherhood. The movie is adopted from the real life events of Evan Leversage, a seven year old boy from St. George, Ontario , Canada – suffering from an inoperable brain tumor, whose wish to see another Christmas prompted his community to organize and celebrate holidays early with a Santa Clause parade, floats, fires and even snow. “Uma” is a story of a young girl suffering from the terminal disease and her father’s strive to organize an early Durga Puja ( Biggest festival of Bengal in India) to fulfill his daughter’s wish.

Uma (Sara Sengupta) is a young girl who stays in Switzerland with her father Himadri ( Jisshu Sengupta) as her mother Menoka (Sayantika Banerjee) left them when she was only two years old. Uma is suffering from cancer and might not survive for long.  But Uma wants to see Durga Pujo in Kolkata for once as she has heard about this greatest festival of Bengal since her childhood. But Durga Pujo is six months away in October and Uma might not survive till that time as her condition is deteriorating with time. And the narrative  revolves around Himadri’s strive to create a fake Durga Pujo in the month of April in Kolkata to fulfill the wish of her dearest daughter – Uma.

Durga Pujo- the festival of love and togetherness upholds the message of unity. The concepts of Barowari Pujo emerges from the world “baro” which means twelve and “yari” stands for friend’ ‘connection. It defines the concept of community pujo. And Srijit Mukherji decides to bring in the emotional aspects of all the characters of his narrative to be a part of the mission to fulfill the dream of Uma ,by recreating Durga Pujo in the summer of April in Kolkata. Himadri mets Brahmananda (Anjun Dutt) , a film director who is living on his past glories , to recreate Durga Pujo for Uma. Brahmananda is emotionally drained as a failed father and rejected by his wife and son.  The veteran director, in his strive to fulfill the dream of Uma, satisfies his own wishes which were never fulfilled before.

There are many other characters in the movie and Srjit places those in the narrative brilliantly, to the point that I thought the glimpses of the past of Brahmananda could have transformed into a full-fledged narrative, so much is the inherent power of the script.  Every character in the movie has a distinct role like their names (extracted from the Hindu Mythology which depicts the creation of Goddess Durga) and has ample opportunity in the narrative to prove so. Rudranil Ghosh as Gobindo and Anirban Bhattacharya as Mohitosh Sur perform brilliantly in the movie.  Jisshu Sengupta has matured with time but I thought he has failed in some scenes to portray the emotions of a desperate father (the scenes with the doctor in Switzerland). Anjun Dutt is a cerebral actor and puts up a superlative performance as Brahmananda.  Srabanti Chatterjee looks glamorous and convincing as Mariyam. Babul Supriyo is a big surprise in the movie and refreshing as Bihari don.

I thought the director kept the narrative in a way that all the characters are instinctive in the movie except Uma- who has a specific wish, which needs to be fulfilled.  And Srijit has allowed Sara Sengupta to portray her role instinctively, which is reflected in her characterization. She portrays the character with immense maturity, perfectly.

The movie has a few chartbuster songs brilliantly tuned by renowned music director Anupam Roy.  All the songs are melodious and blend perfectly with the narrative. Anupam himself is superlative in “Hariye Jawar Gaan”.  Surangana Bandyopadhyay renders “Aaloshyo” beautifully which is one of the best scores of Anupam till date. “Jaago Uma” by Rupankar Bagchi is electrifying and arouses goosebumps.

Srjit Mukherji has to manage the expectations of audiences of different profiles in his every movie. He is always under the pressure to craf out a blockbuster with a meaningful and aesthetically portrayed story line. And he did it brilliantly in Uma- placing every card in perfect  position, which is acceptable for audience of all generations. The movie is full of statements about life, livelihood, love, affection, duty, wish, failure and many other aspects of human life. When Menoka comes back to see Uma , Himadri questions her role in life as she has already failed as a mother and the position is taken away by another person, Mariyam. It signifies our role in this big stage of the theatre called life and the duties we all need to perform to fulfill the expectations of others.  Brahmananda wants to fulfill the wishes of a dying child as he failed to accomplish the tag of a perfect father in life.

And coming back to the last scene inside the cab again- as Himadri burst into tears as he understands that Uma knows from beginning that Mariyam is not her biological mother but accepts her as real mother in the same way as she accepts the “fake” Durga Pujo as a real occasion to fulfill the dreams of her father, who is striving to fulfill Uma’s wishes only.  And the director Srijit Mukherji stimulates our thoughts by making a statement about our  roles in the stage called life, as a father, daughter or a mother – Uma. Take a bow Srijit for crafting out such a masterpiece called “Uma” and Evan must be smiling from heaven, watching your master craftsmanship.

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