Umrika DVD Review

DVD Review by Jarred Tito

The Premise
A small village in India is invigorated when one of their own travels to America (aka, UMRIKA) and details his adventures through letters home, sparking community debate and inspiring hope. But when the letters mysteriously stop coming, his younger brother Rama (Suraj Sharma) sets out on a journey to find him. With the help of his best friend Lalu (Tony Revolori), Rama retraces his brother's path to find himself charting one of his own. Set in the mid-1980s, UMRIKA is a funny and meaningful story of the lengths taken to realize one's dreams.

The Review

The film starts with the promise of adventure and travel as Udai, the older brother of Ramakant, leaves the small Indian village of his family's heritage and upbringing to embark on a life changing, one way trip to Umrika (America). I must confess that I was looking forward to a hitch hikers guide to rural India through the eyes of a local villager but was instead shown around a couple of small villages and then Mumbai which felt a little too much like a Bollywood set. That being said, there were aspects of the village that offered a certain amount of grit and authenticity but not nearly as much as films like 'Slum Dog Millionaire' or 'Of This World'. Perhaps it was the budget that didn't allow the travel or perhaps they are saving it for a sequel but either way I did feel that something more was needed to satisfy the need for travel.   
The film begins with Udai, played by Patrick Babbar, leaving his village to set off for the United States where he is planning to make a new life for himself which is what his mother has for many dreamed of. Her father had made the same trip many years before and so she wants the same life for her two sons, but in particular her eldest. However, spirits are soon dampened as all contact from Udai is soon lost which sends the mother into a downward spiral of misery and contempt for everyone including her husband and youngest son. However, when all hope of hearing from Udai seems lost, letters from Umrika begin to strangely appear which send a buzz of joy through Udai's mother and throughout the village. Ramakant, Udai's younger brother is not completely satisfied with letters alone and makes it his life's quest to be reunited with his brother in the 'great and wondrous' land of Umrika, The United States of America. It is at this point that the real story begins to unfold as Ramakant discovers the complexities of how hard that journey is.  

The Verdict
I enjoyed the premise of the film and could completely identify with both brothers and how they would be drawn to the surreal dream world of America and so enjoyed the enthusiasm portrayed within each character. However, I felt the need for a little more teasing out of the story lines along with the development of the characters themselves. On a whole this felt like a story that wanted to be authentic while retaining a little of life's comedy as it did so. But if I'm honest, I felt that it didn't quite achieve either. Perhaps it needed to focus on one genre or the other?
Definitely worth a watch but don't hold out for a repeat of Slum Dog Millionaire.

The Trailer

The Info
DVD Releases: 13th January 2016
Rating: M – Contains violence and offensive language
Duration: 100 minutes 
Genre:  Comedy
Starring: Suraj Sharma, Tony Revolori, Prateik

Director: Prashant Nair (Delhi in a Day)ja