New Delhi, 02 Feb 2019 17:00 IST
Uda Aida explores in part the ramifications of giving up one's mother tongue.
In recent times, there have been several films in Hindi cinema that consider the intertwining of education with social mobility, the desire for access and examine the idea of English as the language of the elite. Irrfan Khan and Saba Qamar-starrer Hindi Medium (2017) promptly comes to mind. Ksshitij Chaudhary’s latest film in Punjabi, Uda Aida (2019) explores these themes while contemplating the notion of language as heritage, as well as an inheritance to be passed down through the generations.
A simple rural family in Punjab wishes to give their son Aman, the opportunities that they feel a government school education may not be able to provide. Their anxieties are primarily focused on the English language, which they regard as being a language of access. Despite facing several hurdles, they get their son admission in a World School that is clearly for the elite and well-heeled. But their struggles have only just begun. Aman has to adjust in a different milieu where Punjabi culture and language is cast aside in favour of English. So when Aman teaches the PUBG playing kids Pitthu (a game of seven tiles), the complaints come rolling in.
Uda Aida highlights the lengths to which an obsession with their endeavor transforms the life of the family and explores in part the ramifications of giving up one's mother tongue. The attitude towards language is extended to culture where Western manners and etiquette take precedence over traditional values and Aman learns to shake hands with his grandfather instead of touching his feet.
The underlying question in the film is what constitutes ‘good’ education in a society willing to abandon its own values in an enthusiastic embrace of the West. It also puts a rather simple point across — that the learning of English language does not mean one has to abandon one’s mother tongue. Why not emphasise the learning of both? The film offers a simplistic ending that is predictable and unconvincing, but the issues raised are pertinent nonetheless.
Sadly, while the film’s heart is in the right place, its pace is not. The film takes too long to get to the point, meanders through obscure alleyways to reach its destination. In fact, in certain places the film seems to be a protracted advertisement for the featured World School. A tighter script by Naresh Kathooria would have made a world of a difference.
The vivacious Neeru Bajwa adds charm to whichever film she is a part of and breathes life into her character. Tarsem Jassar, however, needs to work on his acting chops. There are times where he is rather insipid, unable to stir the emotions glaringly evident in the scene. The supporting cast of the comic dream team — Gurpreet Ghuggi, BN Sharma and Karamjit Anmol, adds the humour and keeps things interesting.
On a musical note, the film has the strange distinction of being the first Punjabi film to feature a song about Halloween! How’s that for global cultures?
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