A spoof? A satire? Or just a critical look at the educational system? Whatever Udumban (U) is or isn't, it is definitely not a hero's adventurous trip with a monitor lizard, as the title suggests. Or probably its killer claws are a metaphor for schools that milk parents dry! Of course, you do have the creature featured in a few scenes but it doesn't form the pivot of the story till the climax.

Udumban is more like a mega serial on the big screen mainly because of the pathetic RR. Silent for long stretches, even at crucial junctures, and loud at others, music is a marring factor of Udumban. So is the crude handling of the theme.

The protagonist, Udumban, is a thief. He scales high walls with the help of his monitor lizard, but the loot is only enough to bribe policemen. Vexed, he looks for an alternative profession, when he stumbles upon the fact that running a school is much more lucrative and will not have the Law chasing him. You can fleece parents, he understands, and most importantly he needn't be a literate to own a school or college! But his brother, a professional killer, will not allow him prosper and live in peace … So like Robin Hood he has to steal again for a deserving cause.

Logic-wise Udumban's director S. Balan makes no mistakes. But the slowly-snaking screenplay with its unnecessary song sequences and inept performances are show spoilers. The hero, Dilip Rogger, a superbike racer of international repute, could have chosen a better script for his debut film. His racing skills aren't exploited at any point. And as an actor he just about passes muster.

Sunil, the villainous brother, is a hilarious caricature. A combination of Nambiar and P.S. Veerappa, the film baddies of the 1950s and 60s, his overt expressions, incessant growls, constantly raised eyebrows and rubbing of palms in a menacing fashion are unbelievably comical! And the more serious he gets, the funnier he is. You don't understand whether they are taking a dig at our villains of yore or Sunil's over-act is allowed to touch the nadir purposelessly! Sana and Geethika from Kerala are the heroines. But it is Kambam Meena, as the mother of Udumban, who utilises her opportunity well.

Private schools hoodwinking the Government and circumventing the law to charge exorbitant amounts as fee, the trauma of parents who succumb to the demands because of the sad state of affairs in some of the Government-run schools in the villages that have a single teacher handling Classes I to X form the story of Udumban. Noble thoughts indeed! But isn't neat execution even more important to make the film worth your while? It is in this area that Udumban falls terribly short.

Udumban

Genre: Action?

Director: S. Balan

Cast: Dilip Rogger, Sunil, Sana, Geethika, Kambam Meena

Storyline: A thief decides to start a school because the modus operandi seems only slightly different but is more rewarding.

Bottomline: If the script is frivolous, even a strong subject can come to nought. Udumban is an example.

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Tamil Cinema ReviewsOctober 18, 2011