Venkatesh Maha and Satyadev’s film is a heart-warming story of love, hurt, anger and a quest for self respect
Malayalam cinema has a knack of artfully presenting the most ordinary aspects of daily life, without romanticising it. Director Dileesh Pothan’s 2016 film Maheshinte Prathikaram is a fine example, narrating a story that looks deceptively simple and also documenting life in the picturesque Idukki. It seems befitting that director Venkatesh Maha, who took us into the close-to-reality realm of Kancharapalem in his debut film Care of Kancharapalem, picked up this Malayalam film for a remake. Now streaming on Netflix, Uma Maheshwara Ugra Roopasya (UMUR) is a worthwhile remake, soaking in the charm of Araku valley.
Cinematographer Appu Prabhakar, music composer Bijibal and the production design give wings to Maha’s intent of re-creating a heart-warming tale of love, hurt, anger and a quest for self respect. There’s eye-pleasing, calming greenery and we also see the smallest of things that locals in Araku indulge in, and yet it remains raw without being glossed over. Among the many mood uplifting songs, ‘Ningi chutte’ is an instant earworm.
Uma Maheshwara Ugra Roopasya
- Cast: Satyadev, Roopa Koduvayur, Naresh, Raghavan
- Direction: Venkatesh Maha
- Music: Bijibal
Blending into this world is actor Satyadev, drawing from the strength of not yet being burdened by a star image. If you’ve seen the original, it will take a few minutes to shake off the memories of watching Fahadh Faasil. But it doesn’t take long to warm up to Satyadev as Mahesh, or Mahesh-u to be precise.
Mahesh runs the non-descript Komali Photo Studio, and his photography follows a set method of ‘Chin up, shoulder down, eyes open, ready…’ routine. The results are funny but he’s pleased with the images.
The different facets of life in Araku are depicted through the various characters. The bone setter Babji (V K Naresh), his assistant Suhas (Suhas) and Nancharayya (TNR) are Mahesh’s close aides. When the film begins, Mahesh’s father Manohar Rao (K Raghavan) is the odd one out but this character is revealed beautifully, reminding us to take a closer look at people, especially the elderly.
At a glance, UMUR is the story of the non-confrontational Mahesh and what happens when he’s humiliated and has to regain his lost pride. At a deeper level, it’s also about relationships and social dynamics. The actual confrontation is also a byproduct of a domino effect of skirmish that erupts elsewhere.
Mahesh doesn’t hold grudges. Though he’s dumped for a better groom, he respects the girl’s choice and tells her not to feel guilty, for nothing hurts as much as guilt. UMUR’s biggest strength is the writing (original story by Shyam Pushkaran and screenplay by Venkatesh Maha). When Mahesh struggles under the weight of a broken relationship, his father underlines the importance of learning to let go.
Much later, Jyothi (newcomer Roopa Koduvayur) asserts her rights when she talks about having been through a relationship and matter-of-factly tells Mahesh to never rake up her past. Through situations like these, UMUR reveals its profound self behind the simplistic veneer.
As much as I loved the inherently Araku things like the bamboo chicken and star fruit (the incident involving a star fruit vendor and the National Anthem is hilarious; in better times, it would have evoked collective laughter in a theatre), I also loved the deeper layers of social interactions.
The sharp jibe of an 80-year-old who climbs trees to cut jackfruits, and Manohar on the need for emotions in photography, are just some of the many memorable moments.
The comedy drama brims with actors who mostly manage to give off the vibe that they’ve lived in the region. Satyadev’s is a fine performance that takes us through an emotional roller coaster, along with TNR, Naresh, Raghavan and the women Chandana Koppisetti, Roopa Koduvayur and Kushalini Pulapa.
UMUR is a welcome addition to new-age Telugu cinema, offering plenty of humour and moments to savour.
Uma Maheshwara Ugra Roopasya is currently streaming on Netflix