Updated: Jul 24, 2020
Alert: Hang on! This is a detailed analysis, you might want to watch the film first.
Every filmmaker wants his every frame to be perfect and being a debut film it just adds to the pressure. But it needs sheer honesty and pouring your heart out on the screen to achieve this feat. Precisely that’s what makes Udaan, the most personal and powerful work of Vikramaditya Motwane till date in my perspective. But where does the journey begin... It all begins with a masterful screenplay.
Simply put Udaan is a coming of age drama of 17-year old Rohan getting out of the dark shadows of his oppressive and abusive father, Bhairav and embarking on his true journey on his own. But if we go deeper into the story and explore the intricacies of the storytelling it will mean so much more. So get ready to take a stroll down the memory lane and rediscover the beauty of this film.
We will dissect the story using the five-plot point structure. Simultaneously, we will look at what is going on in Rohan’s mind at each of this plot point and how his decisions move the story forward. Interestingly, Rohan being a writer himself gives a poetic response to what is going on in his mind at every important juncture of the story.
The story begins in the corridors of a boarding school, one night in Shimla. We see four 17-year old sneaking out from the hostel after lights out to watch a B-Grade film at a shady theatre nearby. But to their misfortune, they are caught by ‘Mucchad’, the warden and are expelled from the school. The quietest one amongst these four is Rohan. In the first fifteen minutes, we are introduced to different facets of his character. He is a mix of a wilful rebel who gets into trouble just for the thrill of it and a mature than his age kid, who expresses himself through words. To add to this, we come to know that his bond with his friends is very strong maybe because he has not seen his father in the last eight years.
Rohan’s dismissal from school acts as an inciting incident for the story. An inciting incident is often the first plot point of the story which is defined as an event that thrusts the protagonist into a new world where the main action of the story occurs. At this juncture, Rohan narrates the poem ‘Choti Choti Chitraayi Yaadein’ to express the mix of emotions going inside him.
The new world is a world in Jamshedpur run by Bhairav Singh, Rohan’s father. At first glance itself, Bhairav seems like a man intoxicated by his patriarchy. From addressing him as ‘Sir’ to racing with Rohan in the morning after the routine workout session, we are made clear of Bhairav’s intention that he needs a robotic version of himself in Rohan. This propels us to the main conflict of the story, Rohan dreams of taking up literature and being a writer whereas Bhairav wants him to be an engineer and work with him in the factory. The dialogue between Rohan and Bhairav is minimal (almost functional). Though they live in the same house, they are so distant to one another that the first and only physical embrace of love comes from his Uncle Jimmy, who convinces Rohan to give his father a chance and later he can do whatever he wants.
It is also revealed to Rohan after coming from Shimla that he has a 6-year old half-brother Arjun. Arjun seems to be an introverted child who is caught in between the oppressive father and a rebel elder brother. We can also infer that while the relationship between Rohan and Bhairav acts as the main plot of the story; the relationship between Rohan and Arjun acts as the subplot of the film.
Rohan tries to fit in in this monotonous world, but the rebel within him resists it. The rebel in him never leaves him totally, this is apparent by the scenes when he keeps Bhairav waiting every morning in his car. Also, after attending college for a few days, he starts bunking classes. There are two conflicts at interplay here, the external conflict between Rohan and Bhairav and the internal conflict of Rohan within himself.
He eventually finds refuge in the night, when he takes Bhairav’s car to a club nearby where people hounded by the mundane of their days drown themselves in alcohol at night. Here Rohan befriends a few of his college seniors especially Apu. Apu is a character you will find mostly in small-town India, whose worldview is created by Angry Young Man films and they consider themselves heroes, but underneath this superficial garb, there is a frustrated man whose dreams are destroyed. Apu presents a haunting image of what can Rohan become if he stays back in his current world. For a bit, we see that Rohan is getting used to this dual world- where the day begins with losing to his father in the race and day ends with going round and round in the car after getting sloshed, as if there is no way out. This can be also considered the second plot point in Rohan’s journey, where in his mind, it is a point of no return.
He speaks his mind through the lines- ‘Harr Baal Ki Khaal...’ where he is expressing the image of the tyrannical Bhairav Singh as he sees it.
How to move forward from this point? At this point, for a moment, the inner rebel in Rohan again takes over his outer persona completely and despite being ready on time he sits on the stairs and it invokes a reaction from Bhairav Singh who angrily leaves without his sons. What makes this moment even more powerful is it leads to the development of subplot too. Since Bhairav leaves both Arjun and Rohan, they walk together to Arjun’s school but Rohan resists from holding hands. The two brothers knowingly or unknowingly are getting closer to one another. In the next few scenes, the odds against Rohan get higher both internally and externally. Bhairav not only physically abuses Rohan multiple times but humiliates him mentally by challenging his masculinity (a humiliation in the context of the patriarchal world of the film). It is also painful to see Rohan getting closer to the image of Apu, getting involved in physical fights without any particular reason and enjoying it in the state of intoxication. This happens near the midpoint of the film, wherein he calls up Maninder (the school friend) in Mumbai and tells him he is okay as if he is reassuring himself.
Just before the end of the first half, we see a montage of Rohan writing in his notebook at different places in Jamshedpur. It feels like a fresh of breath air. He has been oppressed in many ways by Bhairav but he still cannot restrict Rohan from expressing his thought to himself. Through all the conflicts, writing is one thing that has helped him survive. But just when we thought they were finally having a moment, in the picnic scene, after listening to his poem- ‘Jo lehron ke aage nazar dekh paati...’, their relationship further goes downhill as despite being visibly amazed by the lines, Bhairav humiliates him and asks him to give up writing. At the midpoint, we see Rohan and Bhairav further apart than ever before in the story.
The second half begins with Bhairav’s meeting in the factory juxtaposed with Rohan going to college after maybe a few days. While Rohan reads ‘failed’ written against his name on the notice board at the college, Bhairav’s meeting gets interrupted by a call from Arjun’s school and he ends up losing the contract.
The scene that follows is a great example of how to hide and reveal important details in a scene. It begins with Arjun being rushed to a hospital. At first, Bhairav lies about the cause of Arjun’s injury. We as audience certainly sense that something is fishy. The subplot, Arjun and Rohan’s relationship takes over the story in this sequence. We see them bonding adorably for the first time in the hospital scenes. Rohan brings his comic book and the ‘Superman’ figurine for Arjun. Arjun asks him about his mother and tells him about his friends. Rohan narrates his poem- ‘Chandu Ki Cycle’. A poem of hope and perseverance and of building a life on one’s terms. At this moment Arjun reveals to Rohan that he was beaten by Bhairav by a belt. The end of this sequence which can be also called the fourth plot point is the highest point in the relationship of two brothers and the lowest point in the father-son relationship. This sets us up for the final act.
Having gone through all these conflicts, we start noticing a change in Rohan’s character. This time he stands up to the abuse of Bhairav when he questions him about failing in the exam. There is a visible power reversal between them, where Rohan dominates the conversation. He is unafraid to question him back about what happened to Arjun and despite being assaulted still dares to look in Bhairav’s eye.
Now completely in tyrant mode, Bhairav Singh decides to send Arjun to boarding school, Rohan to work in factory full time and marry again for HIMSELF. Since physical intimidation does not work on Rohan this time, he attacks where it hurts the most- Bhairav burns Rohan’s diary. This leads to Rohan’s inner self comes out in his most aggressive form till now in the climax of the film. In a fit of rage- he destroys Bhairav’s car- a constant symbol of both oppression and rebel in the film. It is almost a cathartic moment for Rohan, who now decides to leave Bhairav’s world and never come back again.
This time when Bhairav tries to stop him, Rohan punches him (100 sunaar ki, ek lohar ki types) and outruns his father for the first time in the most important race of his life. However, this is a huge victory for Rohan, but it is an external one. The real victory for his inner self comes when he decides to take Arjun with him. While taking his little brother away, he leaves a letter for Bhairav which reads, ‘Arjun ko future chahiye, jo main usse dunga aur har haal main dunga’... The letter denotes what is going on in the mind of a completely new Rohan. Rohan, who has not only embraced his inner self but also taken upon the responsibility to provide a better life for his little brother. He embarks on a new journey hand in hand with Arjun.
Watch Udaan written by Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap if you have not. If you have, then this is the time to re-watch it. Also, never be afraid to say what you want to be!!
*Poems and Stories in Udaan are written by Satyanshu Singh and Devanshu Singh.
Deconstructing the experiences of growing up as a male by Ravneet Kaur - http://literophile.org/?p=742
Five Plot Point Structure by The Script Lab- https://youtu.be/m2-E7pENfKE
Fan Poster by Bob and Bobby aka Saswata and Susruta Mukherjee- InstagramUdaanPoster
Blog cover Doodle by Neha Dongare- InstagramDoodle Doodle