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Di, 20. Oktober, 2020
Start English Movie review: Prashant Nair's "Umrika" - a dream, a mystery, a promised...

Movie review: Prashant Nair's "Umrika" – a dream, a mystery, a promised land

(c) Filmbüro Baden-Württemberg / betafilm
(kj) In the mid-1980s the United States of America – widely known as ‘Umrika’ in large parts of India – was more than just a land of opportunities. It was a dream, a mystery, a promised land which grants unprecedented rewards upon those who make it to its shores.

A man embarking on a journey to ‘Umrika’ was not only the pride of his immediate family, but also of the entire community. The imported gifts, albeit at times awkward and rather unusual would along with money transfers contribute to the elevated status of those left behind. A son in America may ignite the envy of the neighbors, but it is the sense of entitlement which overwhelms the community since one of them could reach the bountiful land. A failure triggers an entirely opposite effect and leads to the loss of face and turns the family into a laughing stock of the formerenviers.
The opening film of the 12th Indian film festival in Stuttgart tells us a story of one such journey. And indeed Prashant Nair’s ‘Umrika’ (2015) goes far beyond the familiar pattern of an emigrant narrative. Ramakant (Suraj Sharma) is a young man from Jitvapur, a small village in the North of India. He has been growing up watching his parent’s burst with pride for his elder brother Udai (Prateik Babbar), who had left for the United States long ago. After a brief period of silence, letters start to pour in to Jitvapur with vivid descriptions of the American traditions and lifestyle. These letters become the lifeline for Ramakant’s mother (Smita També) and a source of inspiration for the entire village. After his father’s death, Ramakant firmly decides to find Udai and that is when he discovers that the letters have been forged by his father and uncle for all of those years. For the sake of his mother’s sanity he takes over the communiques and travels to Mumbai to track his brother’s route.
Umrika explores a broad spectrum of notions, myths and stereotypes, not only of the life in the distant land of plenty, but also in the narrower context within India. A stolen glance of a Nepali lady leads to a fit of rage of Ramakant’s mother and a subsequent promise to his father to marry ‘one of our community’. However the ‘new ways’ of a far-away land are being adopted and adored without much contextual consideration: a barbecued carrot in Jitvapur, musing on the functionalities of a commode or the significance of turkey in an American household. The exploration of the perceptions of culture, foreignness and the unknown, of attitudes and coming of age peppered with ample humour and the levity of youth makes sure nobody will leave the hall unaffected.
The second screening of Umrika is on the 19th July at 1 p.m. at Metropol Kino Stuttgart. Don’t miss the chance!

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