|Directed by||Bucchi Babu Sana|
|Produced by||Naveen Yerneni|
Y. Ravi Shankar
|Written by||Bucchi Babu Sana|
|Starring||Panja Vaisshnav Tej|
|Music by||Devi Sri Prasad|
|Edited by||Naveen Nooli|
|Box office||est. ₹83–100 crore|
Uppena (transl. High tide) is a 2021 Indian Telugu-language romantic drama film written and directed by debutant Bucchi Babu Sana. The film is produced by Sukumar in collaboration with Naveen Yerneni and Y. Ravi Shankar, under their respective banners Sukumar Writings and Mythri Movie Makers. The film features debutants Panja Vaisshnav Tej and Krithi Shetty in the lead roles, with Vijay Sethupathi playing a prominent role. Set in Kakinada of 2002, the plot follows Aasi (Tej), a fisherman who falls in love with Bebamma (Shetty). Her father Raayanam (Sethupathi) is an influential zamindar, who fiercely protects his daughter to safeguard his family's honour.
After a launch ceremony on January 2019, the makers commenced the principal shoot in May 2019, with film being shot in Kakinada, Hyderabad, Puri, Kolkata and Gangtok and wrapped up in January 2020. The music is composed by Devi Sri Prasad, with cinematography and editing by Shamdat and Naveen Nooli respectively. The film was originally slated to release on 2 April 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film released theatrically on 12 February 2021.
Set in 2002 in the village of Uppada, Raayanam is an influential zamindar who goes to any extent to safeguard his family's honour. His daughter Sangeetha, fondly called Bebamma is a college student whom he fiercely protects. Raayanam plans to build a shipping yard in his village by razing fishermen's houses on the coast. Aasi is the son of one such fisherman Jalayya, and is a low-caste Christian. He falls head over heels for Bebamma. Bebamma also begins to like Aasi after watching him fight in the bazaar. Aasi follows Bebamma daily en route to her college on the bus. One day, the bus breaks down and the driver asks Aasi to drop the Bebamma, the only passenger of the bus, at college. Later, the couple begins to meet daily at the beach and soon fall in love with each other.
Meanwhile, the breeding season of the fish arrives and no one is allowed to venture into the sea for over a month-and-a-half. Bebamma, however, asks Aasi to take her into the sea, which he obliges. As the boat runs out of fuel, they get stuck in the sea. On the same night, Raayanam orders to raze the houses on the coast but he is worried that his daughter hasn’t returned home. Raayanam secretly meets Jalayya and asks him to find his missing daughter, in exchange, his house will be spared. Aasi and Bebamma spend the night together on the boat intimately. Jalayya finds them the next morning and admonishes Aasi. He returns Bebamma to her father but lies that she was found alone on the boat.
Raayanam, however, is determined to find Bebamma’s partner. He finds a shirt in Bebamma’s wardrobe by which he tracks him down as Aasi. Raayanam’s men attack Aasi and his father at the village mela, and Jalayya dies in the strife. The following day, Bebamma runs away from her house and asks Aasi to elope with her. He reluctantly agrees, and they board a train to Odisha escaping Raayanam’s men. From there, the couple travels to Kolkata, and later to Gangtok. Aasi picks up odd jobs and keeps Bebamma in a hostel until they move in together.
Several months pass by. Raayanam has promised his sister that her son shall be married to Bebamma within six months. All the days when Bebamma is away, Raayanam and his men pretend as if she was there to save his family's honour. Nearly six months after they elope, Aasi promises to marry Bebamma and takes her to a railway station. There, Raayanam’s men kidnap Bebamma and bring her back to her father. Bebamma confesses to Raayanam that she had sex with Aasi that night on the boat and pleads to let her go. But Raayanam doesn’t budge saying he would never let his daughter marry a lower caste, which he considers a dishonour. He says it was Aasi who disclosed their location to him. Raayanam also reveals that he physically emasculated Aasi by chopping off his penis and murdering his father the night before they eloped. Raayanam believes she would not go back to Aasi because he has lost his manhood. However, Bebamma loves Aasi as a person, regardless of what he did to him. She says neither Raayanam nor Aasi is the one who can judge the manhood of a person. Bebamma adds that manhood is not related to any organ but to a man's personality. Raayanam is moved and lets her go. Bebamma and Aasi reunite.
- Panja Vaisshnav Tej as Aasirvadham "Aasi"
- Krithi Shetty as Sangeetha "Bebbamma"
- Vijay Sethupathi as Kotagiri Sesha Raayanam (Voice dubbed by P. Ravi Shankar)
- Sai Chand as Jalayya, Aasi's father
- Mamilla Shailaja Priya as Raayanam's sister
- Gayatri Jayaraman as Sangeetha's mother
- Mahadevan as Raayanam's father
- Rajeev Kanakala as an MRO
- Naga Mahesh
- Jaya Krishna
- Master Raghavan as Young Aasirvadham "Aasi"
- Ramesh Reddy
- Harish Chandra
- Vijay Kumar
- Pavan Teja
In mid-October 2018, Sukumar decided to back the project of the untitled film, helmed by his assistant Bucchi Babu Sana, in his directorial debut. Mythri Movie Makers, eventually announced their collaboration with Sukumar Writings, the director's home banner, to co-produce the film. The makers roped Panja Vaisshnav Tej, brother of actor Sai Dharam Tej, and also a member of the Allu-Konidela family, to play the lead role, eventually marking his debut in film industry, and Sukumar's regular collaborator Devi Sri Prasad, was roped in to score music for the film.
The film is reportedly set in backdrop of Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh, and deals with the issue of honor killings, with Vaisshnav Tej, essaying the role of a fisherman. On 6 May 2019, the makers revealed the film's title as Uppena. Initially, the makers claimed that the film was tentatively titled Jalari, although the title Uppena was finalised and registered it in the Film Chamber.
In an interview, director Buchi Babu revelaed that, he wrote the story with an empty mind. Then, he decided to bring in Vaishnav Tej as he wanted a newcomer for the film. In March 2019, Vijay Sethupathi was roped in to play the antagonist, in his second Telugu film after Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy. In April 2019, the production house confirmed his inclusion in the film. Sethupathi was reported to play the heroine's father in the film. Initially debutant actress Manisha Raj, was announced as the lead actress during the film's launch event. However, the makers approached another teenage debutant Devika Sanjay (of Njan Prakashan fame), to play the lead role opposite Tej. In May 2019, the makers roped in Mangalore-based Krithi Shetty, to make her debut through this film. In July 2019, sources claimed that Vijay Sethupathi walked out of the project, and the reason was not disclosed. However, the rumours turned out to be false.
The launch event of the film was held on 21 January 2019, at the office of Mythri Movie Makers, with Vaisshnav Tej's relatives, actors Chiranjeevi, Nagendra Babu, Allu Arjun and Sai Dharam Tej gracing the event. Four months, later the principal photography of the film started in 25 May 2019. The film was shot for 30 days in Kakinada. On 21 August 2019, Vijay Sethupathi joined the sets and it was reported that 40 percent of the film was completed. The film's first schedule was shot in Hyderabad, which was completed within late-September 2019, and second schedule took place in October 2019 at Puri, Kolkata and Gangtok. In January 2020, the makers completed the shooting of the film and started post-production work.
Themes and influences
The film showed many social issues that were common in India, like, honor killings, casteism, economic inequality, etc. A reviewer of TeluguCinema described that "Uppena talks about two things in particular – paruvu (casteism/honor) and magatanam (masculinity). At the very beginning of the story, Babyamma’s teacher explains the true meaning of a being man. When the girl students laugh at the picture of a male organ, the lecturer gives a new definition of manliness." Another reviewer from IndiaGlitz stated "The 'magathanam' reference is integral to the story of the film. Many are of the view that the film is going to spark a change in the way masculinity is projected in Telugu movies. A number of Netizens have felt that toxic masculinity will give way to healthy masculinity in our movies now that 'Uppena' is on its way to becoming a blockbuster."
Director Bucchi Babu Sana in an interview to The Indian Express said that "We might not talk about it or put it across in as many words, but casteism is an intrinsic part of our lives. You can see it in the way people interact with others who are from a different caste. The whole idea of Uppena is to drive home the point that love is beyond all these boundaries of casteism and class."
|Soundtrack album by|
|Released||5 February 2021|
|Genre||Feature film soundtrack|
|Producer||Devi Sri Prasad|
|Devi Sri Prasad chronology|
|Singles from Uppena|
Sukumar's regular collaborator Devi Sri Prasad was signed on to compose the film's soundtrack album and background score. A glimpse of the first single "Nee Kannu Neeli Samudram" was unveiled on 1 March 2020, and the full song was released by Aditya Music the following day, on 2 March 2020. The song was +penned by Sri Mani with Hindi lyrics were written by Raqueeb Alam and sung by Javed Ali and Srikanth Chandra. It was well received by the audience, and its lyrical video, which released on the video-sharing platform YouTube, crossed 100 million views as of August 2020. The second single "Dhak Dhak Dhak" was released on 9 March 2020, which was written by Chandrabose and sung by Sarath Santhosh and Hari Priya. On 11 November 2020, Mahesh Babu unveiled the third single "Ranguladhukkuna" through social media platforms. Sung by Yazin Nizar and Hari Priya, it is touted to be a soothing melody number. The fourth song "Jala Jala Jalapaatham Nuvvu" sung by Jaspreet Jasz and Shreya Ghoshal, was released by Vijay Devarakonda on 31 January 2021.
123Telugu.com wrote that "Devi Sri Prasad blends the Aalap style with his mainstream modern music to bring out this soothing as well as a somewhat boisterous melody. Srikanth Chandra's Hindi vocals kick off the song, with Javed Ali taking the baton forward with melodic ease. Shreemani's lyrics are full of life. Yazin Nizar and Haripriya effectively bring out the unconventional mindset of the lovers that the lyrics project in Ranguladdhukunna. Devi Sri Prasad chooses a female singer with an ultra-soft voice for a reason. It matches the looks of Krithi Shetty, the debutante.
|1.||"Nee Kannu Neeli Samudram"||Sri Mani, Raqueeb Alam||Javed Ali, Sreekanth Chandra||5:12|
|2.||"Dhak Dhak Dhak"||Chandrabose||Sarath Santosh, Hari Priya||1:45|
|3.||"Ranguladhukkuna"||Sri Mani||Yazin Nizar, Hari Priya||4:23|
|4.||"Jala Jala Jalapaatham Nuvvu"||Sri Mani||Shreya Ghoshal, Jaspreet Jasz||4:13|
|5.||"Eswara"||Chandrabose||Devi Sri Prasad||3:28|
|6.||"Sandram Lone Neerantha"||Devi Sri Prasad||Sean Roldan||3:58|
|7.||"Ninne Naa Ninne"||Chandrabose||Sameera Bharadwaj||1:28|
|8.||"Silaka Silaka"||Devi Sri Prasad||Kailash Kher||3:26|
Marketing and release
Uppena was originally scheduled for a theatrical release on 2 April 2020, on the occasion of Rama Navami. But the release was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in India. In May 2020, the makers reported that the film will be scheduled for a theatrical release, and refuted rumours of releasing through OTT platforms, although digital rights of the film were sold to Netflix. After theatres began operating with 50% occupancy, the makers announced a release date of 12 February 2021, which falls on the Valentine's Day weekend.
A pre-release event was held on 7 February 2021 for promoting the film in Hyderabad, India. Actor Chiranjeevi is the chief guest of the event. After huge success of the film, success meet was held on 17 February 2021 at Rajahmundry, India. Actor Ram Charan is the chief guest of the event.
Hemanth Kumar in his review for the Firstpost rated the film 2.75/5 and stated: "Uppena [..] explores what it means to love in a world defined by patriarchy and casteism, but it struggles to break free from several cliches." Reviewing the performances, The Times of India's Neeshitha Nyayapati wrote: "The debutants Vaisshnav and Krithi manage to pull off the intricacies of their characters well for the most part [..] Vijay Sethupathi is flawless as a man set in his beliefs and someone who’s used to getting his way."
About the film's music and cinematography, The Hindu critic Sangeetha Devi wrote: "The romance is poetic, with Devi Sri Prasad’s lilting compositions matching the ebb and flow of the waves captured beautifully by Shamdat." Ashwin Ravichandran of The New Indian Express rated 3/5 opined, "We may have seen soft-spoken heroes before in Telugu films, but it is only recently that the very idea of masculinity is being questioned. For an industry that is built upon machismo, Uppena is an important and original film." The News Minute journalist Balakrishna Ganeshan, who rated the film one star out of five, found the film "deeply disturbing." He added that the plot of the film was clichéd and "the director compensates for the boring sequences with a traumatic twist."
On the opening day, the film grossed more than ₹15 crore at the box office, with a distributor share ₹10.42 crore. The film grossed over ₹40 crore in the opening weekend. Uppena surpassed the record of Chirutha (2007) to become the highest-grossing Telugu film for a debut actor.
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