Starring: Ajay Devgan,
Abhishek Bachchan, Vivek Oberoi, Esha Deol, Rani Mukherjee, Kareena Kapoor, Om
Written & Directed by Mani Rathnam
Abhishek Bachchan blossoms into a formidably engaging actor in
this eagerly-waited work of popular art.
is that rarity which can be watched both as an entertainer and a vehicle
for projecting socio-political ideas.
The easiest thing in the world
is to sneer at someone who attempts to be unconventional through conventional
routes. In that sense master-creator Mani Rathnam and Michael Mukherjee, his
protagonist in his latest film, share the same predicament.
Devgan's fascinating character who wants to bring about a change in the social
order, Mani Rathnam's cinema signifies tremendous leaps in the way we perceive
popular entertainment in this country.
A riveting blend of social
message and entertainment is what sets
apart. Like Rathnam's first Hindi film
, Yuva is an extremely restless
film about young characters who are on the look-out for a relevance to their
While Michael wants to use student power to change the
festering fortunes of Indian politics, the loutish Lallan (Abhishek Bachchan)
just wants a decent life for his wife (Rani Mukherjee) and himself, and never
mind if it's through indecent means.
The third and most
blithe-spirited protagonist Arjun (Vivek Oberoi) is a commitment-phobic
self-seeking wannabe whose plans of making millions in the US go phut when he
mets the mesmerising girl next door Meerav (Kareena Kapoor).
protagonist extends a fidgety power into the narrative. Among the many absorbing
facets to Mani Rathnam's storytelling, is the way he uses time passages in the
lives of the various characters and the delightfully inventive modes of plotting
whereby different perceptions are projected simultaneously into the various
characters' line of vision. These are proof of a mind that creates cinema
through literary devices.
You can almost read between the lines that
Mani Rathnam crosses from one protagonist's life into another. The effect is of
seawaves lapping against the shore and receding to leave behind tempting tides
The 3-tiered plot creates a sense of louring lyricism in the plot.
Every character fits in the Kolkatan milieu without stretching to cohere in the
larger picture. Yet, the existence of the binding cosmic force that keeps Mani's
world and the world beyond his creation looms large over the
The gangster Lallan and his volatile blow-hot-blow-cold
relationship with his wife Shashi echoes Manoj Bajpai and Shefali Chhaya's
tempestuous rapport in Ram Gopal Varma's
But beyond that echo
of familiarity is an aching originality contouring every frame, nurturing the
characters through a remarkable process of self discovery.
, whose narrative couldn't really
hold the audiences,
keeps us glued
to the goings-on till the very end, not because it tells a remarkably original
story but because characters whom we've probably encountered in numerous other
flicks come alive here as curvaceously complete characters, full of little
gestures and understated personality traits that we may miss at
Yuva is like a visit to a strange and warm tropical island. At
first the sights and sounds may appear too familiar for excitement. But every
shrub and every rock hides a new experience. It's that subterranean experience
brings to the surface in
pelting layers of insightful narration.
Rathnam goes from one level
of characterisation to another, weaving in and out of three lives without
creating autonomous self-contained world for each protagonist. The men who tower
over the plot are also the tools in the hands of destiny. This simultaneity
between chance and deliberation is sustained throughout.
More than a
film about ideas (so well conceived and executed you wonder why didn't any other
filmmaker think of it!) Yuva is a walloping entertainer.
impossible to forget the three protagonists and their mesh of karmic adventures.
The romantic side to the political parable about a student leader, a hit-man and
a drifter is brought out so sharply in so little space, you wonder if economy of
expression is Mani's mainstay as a master raconteur.
As in all his
earlier masterpieces, including the dark and moody
, Mani Rathnam
stuns us with his aesthetic and creative motivations.
cannot take our eyes off a single frame without losing out on a strand of
whispering relevance, or perhaps something far more valuable would slip out of
our hands if we blink. We really don't know, but we want to.
intangible essence of life bathes
in a dusky light, creating an atmosphere of absolute enchantment. To
speak on the technical skills that have gone into Rathnam's new mega-entertainer
would be going into obvious areas of praise.
But yes, Ravi K
Chandran's cinematography and Sabu Cyril's art work create a separate look for
each of the protagonist's story.
And now for the performances, so
crucial to this character-driven film that any wrong major or minor casting
could have ruined the symphony of surcharged emotions that hover over the frames
in perched delicacy.
Every performance is unputdownable, concrete yet ambivalent.
Footage-wise Ajay Devgan leads the cast, bringing a certain maturity and
mellowness in a narrative idiom where tempers and passions run perpetually high.
Vivek as the jaunty dude is bright and dead-on. He happily
complements and buffers Devgan's idealism and Abhishek's
But the film belongs to Abhishek Bachchan. As the
impetuous hit-man who loves his wife to death, Abhishek's eyes and smile rattle
us with their sincerity. His Lallan is obnoxious and violent, and yet never
anything but a child of an obnoxious and violent social order. This films marks
the coming of age of the actor.
In spite of limited footage, the
three girls succeed in making a lasting impact. Kareena's role is specially fey
and insubstantial. She turns these character traits to her own advantage to
create a girl who's at once enigmatic and all-there, a bit like the film itself
which is both mysterious and voluptuous.
A R Rahman's music comes
alive on screen creating lashing licks of luscious beats for the characters to
chew on. The stunts by Vikram Dharma involving the skidding Kolkata traffic on
the Howrah bridge are heart-in-the-mouth stuff.
A word on Mani
Rathnam's love-making sequences. Why do all the three protagonists pick up their
women in an identical way to embrace them tightly? Is this the director's way of
telling us that when it comes to matters of the heart and sex, all men are the
Or are we imagining too much in a casual embrace?