Cast: Parvathy, Siddique, Asif Ali, Tovino Thomas
Director: Manu Ashokan
It’s no coincidence that most of Uyare’s best moments happen while we’re flying. The first time Pallavi decides to become a pilot, the first time she flies on her own, a chance meeting that changes her life; from the birth of a dream to her rebirth, Pallavi’s most significant incidents occur while she’s in the air. Like the scene where Pallavi (played by a wonderful Parvathy) decides to post a selfie on Facebook. Often looked down upon as the bane of the millennial generation, the selfie finally gets a scene where it’s more than just teenage banality. An acid attack survivor, Pallavi finally gains the courage to remove the veil she uses to cover her scar. She smiles, for the first time in really long, swipes open her camera and clicks a picture. There’s a bit of nervousness and a pinch of glee as she goes about posting the picture. A moment of relief and that’s all she gets before she’s brought down to the ground of reality. A baby starts crying and her mother complains that its because she’s afraid of Pallavi. The veil has to come back on and Pallavi is asked to shift seats to stop the baby from crying. As she finds a new seat and settles down, we overhear the hostess telling the worried mother, “Sorry for the inconvenience.”
An inconvenience…that’s pretty much what a girl like Pallavi gets reduced to by the man in her life. For Govind (an excellent Asif Ali), Pallavi’s pilot training course is just an obstacle that comes in the way when he’s all set to take her along as he gets a job in Riyadh. When she performs on stage wearing what she wants to, Govind is inconvenienced for not being told in advance. And when she celebrates her diploma by going out for dinner, her male friends become another inconvenience. Govind is what you’d call a “Shammi”, an incomplete man so blinded by patriarchy that he doesn’t have the balls to see that his woman is better than him. In a chilling scene, again on the air, see how he tries to manipulate her into pardoning him for his sin. He doesn’t want her forgiveness, he doesn’t want her love. All he wants is his career. The same exact thing he stole from her.
Pallavi explains to her father that Govind was once a good man, a companionate soul who supported her when there was nobody. When its time for the two to separate temporarily, we only see him crying. Which is why he feels all the more real compared to the dozens of misogynistic possessive lovers we’ve seen on screen before. Because Govind, after life’s many failures, is someone who needs his woman to be weak, only for him to feel strong again. Which is also why he resorts to pouring acid on her, assuming that a woman’s spirit is merely skin deep.
Notice Pallavi in the scene where she looks at the mirror after the attack. She breaks down, she’s torn and she wants to look away but her biggest worry is NOT that she has lost her good looks…it’s if she can fly again.
Flying as a metaphor for women breaking away from the shackles of patriarchy isn’t something we haven’t seen before; even Rani Padmini attempted similar poetics but what sets Uyare apart is how it’s intrinsically woven into the screenplay without feeling forced. But there are other niggles that make it a lesser film. For one, it uses an interesting flashback format to fill us on Pallavi’s journey. A plane needs emergency landing and we’re taken to an air traffic (the writers of this film also wrote Traffic) control room. One of these officers passionately defend Pallavi’s ability to fly a plane and that’s how we learn about her. But this format is quickly forgotten leaving us confused as to how we’re learning about her now.
Tovino’s character too is problematic. He’s done a great job but I couldn’t see beyond the character’s “white saviour” archetype. Even in a film about a woman and her empowerment, why does she also have to take up the responsibility of converting a boy into a man? When did a film about a woman overcoming symbolic and literal scars also become about a spoilt rich kid finding a pair? But this is just turbulence in a smooth flight that takes us safely to its destination.