Udaharanam Sujatha, directed by Phantom Praveen, is the tale of a single mother’s efforts to ensure that her only daughter, a 15-year-old, studies well, gains a good job, and doesn’t end up as a domestic help like her. The film, a remake of Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s Nil Battey Sannata/Amma Kanakku, is essentially a feel-good movie that trudges a careful middle path to never get too complicated or dark.
Sujatha (Manju Warrier), a domestic help, takes up multiple jobs, and saves every penny carefully, so that her daughter, Aathira, can go to school regularly. However, Aathira has eyes only for her movie idol, Dulquer Salmaan. She refuses to study, despite her mother’s constant egging. Sujatha is crushed when the girl tells her that no matter how well she studies, she can only end up as a domestic help because ‘children always take after their parents.’ With the help of an employer, a well-revered veteran writer, Sujatha gains entry into the school where Aathira studies, and joins her class, so that she can keep an eye on her and draw her interest to studies.
Udaharanam Sujatha isn’t as corny as a Vineeth Sreenivasan drama, but works like one of those good old television films produced by the Doordarshan that promises people that their life would fall in place if they worked hard and believed in the government.
What saves the film from being reduced to a mere moral tale is its eye for detail. It is well shot by Madhu Neelakantan whose camera captures the fascinating mess of colours that Sujatha’s city is. The social milieu of the characters is flawlessly established. The one-bedroom house of Sujatha on the wall of which Aathira has pasted Dulquer Salmaan’s pictures, her relationship with her neighbours and relatives in Chenkalchoola slum of Trivandrum, Aathira’s friends at school, and the young boy who juggles school and his job as a mechanic at a vehicle workshop – the film paints a vivid picture of life on the margins.
The film, inadvertently, looks down upon those working in the blue-collar sector when a character, an IAS officer, says, “I worked towards becoming an IAS officer because I didn’t want to be a domestic help.” This elitism that it displays is insensitive – something that makes every heart-tugging feel-good moment that we had been watching till then look like a farce.
In Sphadikam, one of the biggest commercial hits in Mohanlal’s career, he was the only son of a tutor of mathematics. His father, Chacko, believed that a student was only as worthy as his score in maths exams. He despised his son, Thomas, for the boy was bad at studies, and was into artistic things that didn’t require algebraic equations. Sphadikam took into account the fact that life is one complex tapestry. Chacko’s favourite student, a geek whom Thomas envied so much, dies in the prime of adulthood. Thomas, a maverick inventor, ends up as a goon. This complexity of life is terribly absent in Udaharanam Sujatha. Do we always end up where we want to in life, despite having done everything we could?
Manju Warrier is excellent in the role. Even better is Anaswara Rajan who plays the immature and headstrong Aathira. Look at her perform in the scene where she first screams and then pleads with her mother to not join the school. The young actress is a natural talent. Joju Joseph often becomes a caricature, but his cheerful presence adds to the film’s charm.
Udaharanam Sujatha is not path-breaking cinematic work, or a story that tugs your heart forever.
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