UMRIKA | REVIEW

UMRIKA is a pastiche of many genres from comedy to coming of age to romance to domestic violence to Indian rural but at its core it is a time appropriate movie with a dark vein about immigration and people smuggling. As per the below poster The Hollywood Reporter calls it “A feel good movie between Slumdog Millionaire and The Lunchbox,” I think we saw different movies, because yes, it has feel good moments and Slumdog elements but the ending is so powerful and thought provoking and while the world struggles with a refugee crisis at this moment, the film ends with the lead actor being people smuggled, looking silently into the eyes of a young boy, it made me ache, I could not sleep and I have not been able to write this review for days because it fails to conclude and it left me with questions and unease. UMRIKA is out this Thursday 10th from the peeps at Vendetta Films, it needs to be seen, the cinemas in Australia screening it are listed at the bottom of the article. It is rated M and runs for an even 100mins.

 

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UMRIKA | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MOVIE POSTER IMAGE

 

FROM JASON KING

The first thing that made me want to see this movie was the two leads, Suraj Sharma (LIFE OF PI) and Tony Revolori (the best bellhop this side of Budapest and also in recent film DOPE). Both sensational actors in two of my favourite movies. I was desperate to see Sharma again, could he replicate his acting skills from Pi? And as for Revolori, you have gotta love his quirky comedy. Now, I was sold on them, but would this movie be any good?

The first thing you will notice about this movie, the cinematography from Petra Korner (MY SOUL TO TAKE, THE INFORMERS) is just stunning, the opening in the rural regions of India was just beautiful to look at, the film at this stage has a rural theme, something I have never seen in an Indian movie, it also had heart and comedy and I was thinking this is where we would remain.

 

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UMRIKA | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | UMRIKA MOVIE IMAGE

 

UMRIKA starts with Ramakant (Sharma)’s older brother leaving for America, the village dialect pronounces it “Umrika,” and we have the film title :). The village is remote, it is lonely and it is isolated, for me this would be the perfect place. Ramakant is saddened by the leaving of his brother and the entire village is amazed that one of their own is going to the all encompassing Western world of possibility. Letters come regularly and it is like weekend movies, the entire village gathers around to read of the travels of their villager and it gives them hope and entertainment. America might as well be another planet, the cultural differences they learn through the letters and photographs are just stunning, humorous and warming. Seeing the villagers think sausages are barbecued carrots and then try to replicate was brilliant.

But the letters stop coming and this breaks the mother’s heart, she wallows into depression in fear her son is dead. But then the letters start again, and happiness again reigns, but a while later, when Ramakant has grown into a young man, his father passes away and he falls into being the leader of the family, it is here he discovers a huge secret the father and the “uncle” postman have been keeping for years. This angers Ramakant and sets him on a journey to find his brother.

 

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UMRIKA | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | RAMAKANT (SURAJ SHARMA) AND LALU (TONY REVOLORI)

 

From here the film becomes a coming of age journey into the unknown story as Ramakant carries a heavy burden into different places while he searches. He stays in Mumbai with a man who used to live in his village, and who uncannily looks like an Indian and much taller version of Peter Dinklage, it kept freaking me out :). It is here that the film becomes an increasingly darker drama as Ramakant uncovers the movements of his brother. Lalu (Revolori) eventually just shows up for comic relief and friendship and then we find Ramakant’s brother, Udai (Prateik Brabbar), a person we like much less than we have wanted to up to this stage. He is a fraud that has shamed the entire family and now Ramakant believes he needs to set the honour of the family right.

 

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UMRIKA | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | RAMAKANT (SURAJ SHARMA) DELIVERING SWEETS

 

The things that really work in the movie are firstly our two leads. Suraj Sharma is a sublime actor, he has skills and range and is much more than LIFE OF PI, he will start getting some big U.S. offers following this and HELLO, he has grown into one gorgeous young man. He can easily carry lead roles and you can see how much he takes his acting seriously, he just has the “it” thing. Looking forward to his next works. Then there is Tony Revolori, sadly his character is way less important and after Ramakant leaves the village you would assume, following their farewell this would be the end but he just pops up in Mumbai as more of a comic relief character, I was OK with it because I just love Revolori, and the epic thing about his performance, he literally learned Hindi for his part. He is actually Guatemalan but picked up the language and was passable for the movie.

 

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UMRIKA | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | RAMAKANT (SURAJ SHARMA) AND HIS LOVE INTEREST RADHIKA (SAURASENI MAITRA)

 

The film also works in its admiration for America, the movie is set in the 70s and 80s and there are some great cultural references that are hilarious and some touching, seeing the characters see TEMPLE OF DOOM in the cinema gave me nostalgic chills and the description of Thanksgiving was brilliant. The other cool part I loved, all shot in Super 16mm for time authenticity and effect, it looked superb.

But some things let the film down, I never knew where it was going, this is not a bad thing but the genre of the film was undetermined, and I liked all of the genres in the film and wanted more of each of them explored.

It was subtle but the effects of the modern world start eating into Ramakant as soon as he arrives in Mumbai, desperate to find his brother he steals another’s bike to become a deliverer of sweets, I was disappointed in Ramakant for this but it has a deeper meaning, it is the start of his assimilation into Western world, his character starts becoming unravelled and desperate. It was sad, also was it set in the 70s and 80s to distance to set itself away from the increased dislike of the U.S. in the current climate? It isn’t all loved up of recent times.

And the two other things that I disliked about the movie, the brother, he was so disappointing as a sibling that I just wanted Ramakant to go home, but he is so honourable and overhears the shame Udai could bring to the family and insists to himself he must go to America and se the honour right.

 

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UMRIKA | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | RAMAKANT (SURAJ SHARMA) IN A PROMO IMAGE FOR THE MOVIE

 

Now the ending; the film takes a very dark turn that speaks volumes of the current refugee/ boat people climate but at the same time, it confused me and director, Prashant Nair, did it on purpose, he leaves the ending unexplained, and this breaks my heart. But it also turns the film on yet another course and I failed to understand the part of the brother at the end. The end of the movie will haunt me for ages and at the same time something makes me think it just wasn’t necessary.

That being said the film is enjoyable thanks to its leads, the cinematography and its unpredictability.

 

CINEMAS SCREENING UMRIKA FROM SEPTEMBER 10TH

Sydney
Palace Norton Street
Dendy Newtown
Orpheum Cinemas
Roseville Cinemas
Hoyts Blacktown
Hoyts Broadway
Hoyts Bankstown
Hoyts Weatherall Park
Hoyts Chatswood

Melbourne
Lido Cinemas
Classic Cinemas
Cameo Cinemas
Palace Brighton Bay
Hoyts Melbourne Central
Hoyts Highpoint
Hoyts Northland
Hoyts Watergardens

Brisbane
Palace Centro
Regal Twin
Hoyts Sunnybank

Perth
Hoyts Carousel

Adelaide
Palace Nova Eastend
Hoyts Tea Tree Plaza

 

3 and a Half Pops

 

 

Jason King is the owner and editor of Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Film Critics Circle of Australia and has been in the Australian movie industry for 25yrs. He loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. All the social media links to the right and up will allow you to abuse, troll or stalk him :).