Starring Jisshu Sengupta, Anjan Dutt, Sayantika Bannerjee, Sara Sengupta,Anirban Bhattacharya,Rubdranil Ghosh
Written & Directed by Srijit Mukherjee
Rating:**** ½(4 and a half stars)
Sometimes we need to understand mortality to appreciate life. The versatile and prolific Srijit Mukherjee who has in the past created a new language for Bangla cinema with Autograph, Jatishwar and Begum Jaan this time delivers an unabashedly sentimental weepie in the tradition of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anand and Mili about a terminally ill innately happy sunshine-spreading individual and the effect she has on the people around her.
It is an intrinsically sentimental story ,derived from a real-life incident when a dying child in Ontario had Christmas staged for him well in advance of December.
Here the terminally ill child is a wise little girl Uma(the brilliantly natural Sara Sengupta) brought up by a single parent(Jisshu Sengupta) in Switzerland , for whom Kolkata pre-schedules Dura Puja . Srijit’s reinvention of the original story accommodates some ingenious dynamics of characterization , for instance a down-and-out burnt-out but still raging filmmaker(Anjan Dutt, simply or not-so-simply brilliant) and a Saffron radical (Anirban Bhattacharya, who humanizes the radical without converting him into a schmaltzy saint) and an actress (played ably by Sayantika Bannerjee) who is hired to play Uma’s mother in Kolkata.
It is in the way Kolkata , including a Bihari hoodlum (played by singer-politician Baabul Supriyo) rises to the occasion that the narrative extracts and preserves its heft and juice. While many scenes are written to instigate extreme emotional responses(specially the one where Saffron Radical is defeated by innocence), director Srijit Mukherjee’s trademark temperance during times of tumultuous emotion is never forefeited….At least not to the extent that we feel manipulated by maudlin ism.
Some scenes like the one where the hired mother greets Uma with her rehearsed lines about the geyser being on and the dinner being ready, are so corny and yet so appropriate to the occasion that we end up smiling through our tears.It’s as if Hrishida’s Gol Mal has merged with Shakti Samanta’s Anurag.
I can never come away from a Srijit Mukherjee film without some favourite moments. In Uma it is the sequence where the little girl’s real mother suddenly shows up and father Jisshu Sengupta wrily wonders what role she would like to play since the mother is being played by a hired actress.
While delineating the tormenting tenderness of a situation that cries for laughter, the director makes room for ample irony in the way certain elements react to the unorthodox and unseasonal invocation of a festival that Bengal reveres beyond any.The climax has some special appearances by major Bangla stars pitching in not for affect but to show their solidarity with a script that espouses humanism without getting preachy screechy or manipulative.
The ending where the colony gathers for a tearful send-off to Uma is owned by actor Rudranil Ghosh who will make you weep, if you haven’t already been moved by this heartwarming heartbreaking saga of love tenderness and compassion with some absolutely first-rate acting by Anjan Dutt, Jisshu Sengupta and almost the entire cast.
Please,please do yourself a favour by seeing Uma. And please don’t insult it by labeling it a regional film.