Uppena - the intrinsic meaning of the word means salt-water. The nature of salt-water is that it keeps you thirsty even after drinking it a lot. Thanks to Chandrabose Garu for explaining this so beautifully.
The director wanted to show that the more you experience pure love, the more you thirst for it. It can be by the male or the female, in this movie it is of the latter. Staying true to the point he wanted to put across, he definitely took a very daring and extreme step in order to convey it. But I guess it is the plot that felt very generic and inspired though the screenplay was beautiful, to say the least.
Aasi, the son of a fisherman and the hero of the fishermen community falls in love with the local politician Rayanam's daughter Bebamma. For the ferocious Rayanam, pride is not very different from his very life. The pride automatically stems from casteism. How this small love story triumph is the plotline in a nutshell? Sounds familiar? I guess this plotline has moved on from familiarity to a cliche long back. Therefore, the focus entirely shifts to brilliance in the screenplay to keep you hooked. The director seems to have succeeded in doing this from the collections and praises that the movie has been getting from all corners.
However, for me, it worked to some extent but not completely. The backdrop of fishermen, the scenic beaches of Uppada, the Godavari slang, Krithi's cuteness, Vaishnav's trepidation, and VJS' screen presence cannot keep the screenplay fresh all along if the situations that they are placed in is common all the time.
What worked for me big time is the characterization of Rayanam, some songs, parts of the score, and the overarching theme of the story. The way Rayanam's blind-rooted casteism is showed is brilliant. Imagine the character going to the extent of making an entire village believe the presence of his daughter when she is actually absent. Take the scenes where he doesn't kill the local government official or doesn't take action against his nephew even when he tries to physically abuse his own daughter because they both are of the same caste. The visualization of Jala Jala paatam song is extremely beautiful and romantic without crossing over to vulgarity.
Some love scenes between Aasi and Bebamma also are very cute but kiddish, that was on purpose I guess. The main twist also worked pretty well to convey the theme of the story, though it was spoiled by memers on social media. Otherwise, it would come off as a real shocker to me in the theatre.
But, the major drawback is that the shades of Rangasthalam in the first half and Sairat in the second half haunt the narrative. You can even ignore Rangasthalam to some extent but the striking similarity to Sairat in the second half is hard to turn a blind eye to. Another major set off for me was that the kiddish Bebamma who is never shown as mature throughout the movie suddenly mouths some heavy gyan dialogues in the climax. The dialogues are very well written, but if they had shown some glimpses of Bebamma's maturity earlier, this would have made sense.
Act 3 of the movie also doesn't really tie up the loose ends. Like what finally happened to the Shipyard that Rayanam wanted to build, did he really accept their love or just ignored it in the end, did he transform, will he get punished, the role of Rayanam's wife also is not very well utilized I feel.
Keeping all the comments aside, it is definitely a bold movie to do especially for debut actors and the director. To make that extreme step in the movie palatable, it is but essential to make the Telugu audience comfortable by giving them what they enjoy without fail like the blockbuster songs, a love story, a cute heroine, a ferocious villain who transforms just with words in the climax and most importantly a Mega Hero (if you know what I mean).
Definitely watch Uppena, but whether in theatres or on OTT is a call that you should take based on not just what I said but also what others said.