After a long break, Director Mani Ratnam retuns to hindi cinema with Yuva, a movie starring Abhishek Bacchan, Rani Mukherjee, Ajay Devgan, Esha Deol, Vivek Oberoi and Kareena Kapoor. The film is about three young men (and their sweet hearts, of course) and how their lives get intertwined by a series of events (inspiration at this level obviously drawn from Teen Dewarein, Dil Chahta Hai). Without getting into details about the weak story line here is a review of the various aspects of the film.
The movie scores highly on technicalities (photography, lighting etc.) but has several weak weather-beaten characters, many of whom can simply be “cut and paste” from scores of other films. Given three heroes and three heroines, the obsession with technical finesse, the commitment to masala aspects like song and dance, and fights, Director Mani Ratnam finds little time to explore the characters and their motivations. He appears to be caught up in a constant dilemma between “Message and Masala”. The underlying message is that young people must get involved in politics and help fix the country, while the masala includes 5-6 songs, the troika of heroes and heroines, and a stereotypical villain (portrayed as a politician, of course) and a handful of thugs.
Ajay Devgan plays the role of student leader. Ajay Devgan as a college student? Give me a break! This was a perfect opportunity for the Director to introduce a young newcomer who truly fit the role (like Vivek Oberoi first appeared in Company) rather than going with the star du jour irrespective of whether he fit the role or not. To mobilize an entire student group, win a series of elections and stand up to a bunch of political goondas is no mean task. For a young college student to achieve this requires a deep convictions and strong beliefs, neither of which were ever explored by the director. Ajay Devgan and Esha Deol somehow don’t seem to gel well as a couple (this is a highly personal view). Moreover, why and how they came together is a mystery that was never explained.
Abhishek Bacchan will have to wait beyond Yuva for his elusive hit film. He does a decent job as the tough guy. Unfortunately, we have seen identical tough guys in umpteen hindi films. In other words, the role has nothing new to offer and there is not much Abhishek can do beyond going through the motions. Rani Mukherjee handles her stereotypical “will always support my husband” role with aplomb. One can easily find this character in so many hindi films. So a complete waste of her talents.
Vivek Oberoi as Arjun (seemingly inspired by Amir Khan in Dil Chahta Hai) and Kareena as his sweetheart are the best of the three couples. Kareena in casual dresses with minimal make-up comes across refreshingly different from her roles in other films. Vivek Oberoi does a nice job as the aspiring US immigrant. Anant Nag as Arjun’s dad has a perennial “what am I doing here” expression. Another waste of a good actor.
Om Puri, again a “cut and past” character. I am starting to sound like a stuck record! Even the romantic sequences between each of the three couples are very very similar — aggressive hugging and kissing, hero carries sweetheart, chases her around, they fall and roll over each other etc. Mani Ratnam appears to have lost one of his strong skills — attention to detail (partly visbile in the relationship between Arjun and his younger brother).
Lastly it is a mystery as to why the movie is set in Kolkata. Barring Om Puri’s occasional fake, dismal Bengali accent, there is absolutely nothing in the film that warrants being based in Kolkata. The final stunts sequences in the midst of the traffic on Howrah bridge is completely senseless. A more beleivable (sufficiently different) end to the film might have been one where, Ajay Devgan and Abhishek’s characters are eliminated by violence while Arjun kisses good-bye to his political aspirations and heads off to the US!
Rahman’s music is nothing to write home about. Some of the songs might become interesting after listening to them a few times. Certainly nothing memorable to a first time listener.
In short, this is a “time pass” film. The biggest disappointment of the film is the director himself. In an attempt to blend message with masala, the Director delivers a concoction that won’t put you to sleep, but won’t make you stand up and take notice either. Its sad to see the constant deterioration of Mani Ratnam’s films.