Milind Deora…Sachin Pilot…Rahul Gandhi…Omar Abdullah…Jyotiraditya Scindia…these are just some of the young faces that the Indian Parliament is going to play host to, when it goes into session after the recent General Elections. They might as well come to the Central Hall in jeans and tees, contrasting with and yet not mocking the khaki of yore. In fact, they complement it, bring a fresh whiff of air, a riot of color to the dull proceedings of parliament (well, not always dull)...at least that is what Mani Ratnam wants us to believe, and let me tell you, Mr. Ratnam, I, for one, do believe you.
Yuva is a sincere effort at telling a sincere story in a sincere format. The director has decided that he wants to show something to his audience in a certain way and contrary to the norm in the Indian movie industry, has succeeded in not making a mess of it. In fact, he has done a creditable job by actually making what he started out to make. If this effort of his does not appeal to a section of the audience, it is not the director who is at fault and it can only be said that the perception of all people, regarding something so widely discussed and analyzed as a Mani Ratnam movie, can never be the same.
Like Saathiya, Yuva starts with an incident, goes back to show the build-up towards the incident, and then again moves forward to bring the story to its logical conclusion. The difference from Saathiya is that unlike Saathiya, there are three different characters central to the incident and to the events that follow and the build-up part of the story has to be branched out in three parts to do full justice to all the three characters.
Lallan (Abhishek Bachchan) has come to Kolkata from a small place called Chandauli in the state of Uttar Pradesh (this place is near Varanasi, and I have been there a number of times during my college days). He follows the lead of his elder brother who is a goon in the service of a corrupt politician (Om Puri) and becomes an odd-job man who works on contract. Lallan has a wife in Shashi (Rani Mukherjee) who always comes back to him, despite beatings, threats, and Lallan’s continued dangerous and illegal living style. Lallan is told to beat up and threaten the students who have dared to contest Panchayat elections against the party of Dada (Om Puri). He is finally asked to kill the leader of the student political awakening after the students come down to his brother’s house and beat up the goons there.
The story then moves on to Michael Mukherjee (Ajay Devgan) who is a brilliant student (has even received a scholarship to work under a Nobel laureate in US) but who, like his father, wants to work for his country. He leads the students to villages where they persuade the people to defeat the candidates of Dada’s party and elect their own people instead in the Panchayat elections. Michael is assisted in his endeavors by his childhood sweetheart (played by Esha Deol) who teaches French in college when she is not roaming about with Michael to the villages of Bengal. When Michael looks set to become too dangerous a foe by even beating up Gopal, Lallan’s brother and Dada’s chief goon, Dada orders Lallan to bump off Michael once and for all.
After the intermission, we are introduced to Arjun (Vivek Oberoi), who plays a character that most of us would be able to identify with. Arjun has no confusion in his mind. He is selfish, he is fun, and he is a playboy. He flirts with girls, enjoys discos and plans to leave to US for higher studies. He finally finds his match in Meera (Kareena Kapoor) who is equally carefree and charismatic. He starts to really love her but she finally decides to say good bye to him to get married to the groom of her parents’ choice. All this, but not before one final try by Arjun to woo Meera back on the Howrah bridge where he witnesses Lallan shoot Michael.
This is where the three threads of the story meet and move ahead. In a well concluded end, Arjun gets convinced by Michael and enters politics (even gets back Meera in the bargain, who sees Arjun on TV, and comes back to him, all impressed with his heroics). Four students, including Michael and Arjun stand for the bye-elections. The police, in the meanwhile, is hot on Lallan’s scent after the attempted murder of Michael. Lallan joins forces with Dada and kidnaps all other candidates except Michael and holds them to ransom. The students are finally able to escape Lallan but not before Lallan starts following Arjun on the second Hooghly bridge in a deadly chase. In the middle of the chase, Arjun manages to grab the mobile phone of a passer-by and calls Michael to the rendezvous for the climax of the movie.
And what a super climax it turns out to be, one of the best and most wonderfully executed scenes in the Hindi movie history. Though a little high on gore, the scene proves Ratnam’s technical wizardry beyond any doubt. In no way inferior to any scene from any Hollywood flick, this scene sees the three central characters battle it out on the high traffic bridge. With vehicles zooming past as the fight scene unfolds, frame by frame, it sure is a treat to watch.
Acting wise, Abhishek Bachchan is superb. He had to come to terms with his brooding personality and his flair for roles like these, sooner or later. Mani Ratnam has surely portrayed the best of Abhishek to the audience and I would say, later than sooner. Rani Mukherjee is a class act, as expected from an actress of her caliblre. Ajay Devgan is as usual, good and despite being typecast as the brooding, silent and yet angry executioner, he carries his role well. However, it certainly would have helped if Ratnam had chosen to show Devgan as a fiery young professor than a young student, because if anything, Devgan sure looks above 30 years. Esha Deol, for a change, looks cute and naughty. In fact, I was surprised by the way she has performed and managed to look good too. Vivek and Kareena are good because they have not over played their parts and have stayed within their roles, giving a good performance. Om Puri is also good in his role of the corrupt politician (certainly not challenging enough for an actor of his caliber). I personally felt that Ratnam could have made much better use of this actor.
Over all, the film appeals not just to the classes but equally so to the masses. The final scene when the four elected candidates make way to the Legislature in denim jeans and shirts is really encouraging and promising. The timing of the movie’s release could not have been better. The movie portrays the entry of youth into the political arena, youth who are well-educated, qualified, have opportunities to study abroad, earn money and yet those who can do much more than merely crib about the nation’s bad state. With the face of Indian politics actually changing, and the young people (even if they are here because of their surnames) actually changing the color of the Parliament, Yuva is a welcome movie and a very realistic indicator of the times…