Insensitivity has only one face. Sensitivity has many faces. Karan Razdan, who lately acquired himself a rather embarrassing reputation as a purveyor of sleaze, does a mellow about-turn with this autumnal drama about three aging Indians in London, all bonded by their individual familial isolation.
A familiar story told in films as varied as Gurudev Bhalla's Shararat and Ravi Chopra's Baghban, Umar gets high marks for noble intentions. The familiar pattern of storytelling is splendidly subverted through a scenic relocation.
London and its suburbs are captured with the grace of a ballerina negotiating a nimble step in her post-menopausal year. There's a delicacy, albeit of a conspicuous kind, in the storytelling that goes a long way in infusing the weather-worn wintry tale of old-age woes with some rejuvenating source material.
The sequences are often pitched at your tear glands and that's where the film falters. Kader Khan's rabble-rousing speeches against anti-Islamic prejudice and Jimmy Shergill's emotional outburst in an old folks' home lose their emotional effectuality in their rather obvious sales pitch.
We really don't need to be told that the old need our care... Or do we? Razdan leaves us with a strange sense of been-there-seen-it-all. And yet there's no exasperation at being subjected to the feeling of the familiar.
The narration is evenly paced. The characters, especially three aging protagonists, convey warmth and sincerity. Jimmy's good boy genteel-and-jovial act seems straight out of a fairytale. But you don't mind it. We all need to be reminded of how beautiful life can be if only we care to share our loneliness with the person next door.
Aatish Parmar's cinematography and Shamir Tandon's music lend a mellow ambience to the narration's innocuous progression from pain to redemption.
Though not an illustration of pure cinema, Umar certainly is a vast improvement on the inane comedies, hysterical actioners and cheesy sex flicks that have flooded our cinema.
Here's one from the heart... It has feelings, though not always conveyed with the elegance that would have lifted the tinselly tale of wizened woes to a raga of pain.