Ms.Representation: Uyare's heights of glory

This weekly column is a rumination on how women are portrayed in cinema and this week the author writes about Uyare
Uyare Column Parvathy Asif Ali Tovino Thomas
Uyare Column Parvathy Asif Ali Tovino Thomas

Uyare is a well-told story of ambition and grit, starring Parvathy. Directed by Manu Ashokan and written by Bobby-Sanjay, it is a perfect drama that soars high right off the bat. Uyare shows us the power of ambition. Parvathy as Pallavi is pitch-perfect; as is Evelin, who looks convincing as young Pallavi, her eyes full of dreams. She wants to be a pilot and finds inspiration in the smart, well-spoken pilot, who happens to be a woman too, of a flight she’s on. The pilot allows Pallavi to peek into the cockpit. That the heroine is inspired by a woman to pursue something (other than a man) steadfastly is in itself a rarity in our screens.

Pallavi is bold and confident when it comes to her career, but when it comes to love she is weak-kneed. Parvathy is earnest and believable. So why would someone as amazing as Pallavi even want to be with Govind (Asif Ali)? For this too there is a well-thought back story. When Pallavi describes to her father the circumstances that led to her friendship and eventual relationship with Govind, it is poignant. He has been there for her at her lowest.  And she senses that he needs her at this point in his life. He’s looking for a job but unable to find one. He’s insecure and demanding. She’s more scared of him than she’s in love. Yet, she humours him. This makes Pallavi relatable. Human. Meanwhile her career is taking off, literally, and she is about to make it as a pilot. 

When she has had enough of him, Pallavi finally calls the relationship off. At which point Govind does what a lot of men do in India. He throws acid on her face. The lead-up to this moment is so well-written that even though I knew this was going to happen in this film, when it did, I sat in horror, with my hands on the sides of my cheeks, yelping. I felt it. Both Asif and Parvathy were utterly convincing in their menace and naivety, respectively.

What I love about Uyare is it does not show Pallavi wallowing in self-pity for too long. She does feel bad, but she also feels other emotions. However tempting that prospect might have been, the director simply refuses to dwell on the pity aspect. Instead, the story goes on. As life goes on, and must. Govind must be punished (by law or his own fate). Pallavi must find another career – giving up what she has been dreaming of all her life, because a man decided to ruin her dreams. All of this feels real, because it is the reality of so many women. How many of us, women, have held back from truly being angry, truly showing discomfort and rage because we are scared something might happen to us? Even in the hands of the men we love? This is what made Pallavi’s pain and anger so relatable to me. 

Uyare does not make the mistake of painting people black and white. Yes, Govind does the despicable, but he’s not some outsider-monster. He’s one of us; among us. As are the men who do this in real life. They are someone’s son, someone’s lover... Govind even offers to marry Pallavi after the attack (she turns it down, horrified).

In a movie so serious, there are more than a few laugh-out-loud moments. In Tovino’s Vishal, Pallavi finds a good friend. And an opportunity to show us what she has learned in life. To not take someone’s kindness and empathy for unconditional love. Even before he can tell her he likes her, she says all she’s looking for is a friend. She’s not owned by anyone anymore. She’s her own person. Finally. 

Even after the acid attack, when the makers must have been tempted to turn Pallavi into an icon, who can do no wrong, she loses her temper. It makes her even more likable. Govind shows up on a flight she is working in. She pours a glass of water on his face, and tells him she could have poured hot coffee, but didn’t because she knows what that feels like. She is fired. You could say she frittered away a chance at being someone big and inspirational. But she is not aiming to be anyone’s hero. She does what she has to.

One hopes makers will queue up for Parvathy’s dates now. The actor has said in the past that offers had dried up because of her association with the Women’s Cinema Collective. She has stood (and continues to stand) by an actress who was abducted and attacked in February 2017. All of this also makes Uyare’s success even more precious.

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