Fails to come of age
Cast: Ajay Devgan, Vivek Oberoi, Abhishek Bachchan, Rani Mukherji, Kareena Kapoor, Esha Deol
Director: Mani Ratnam
MANI RATNAM'S much-awaited Yuva is finally here. It comes with all the style, sparkle and cinematographic beauty Mani Ratnam is known for. It is structured well too, again a Ratnam strong point. Its music is hummable without the lyrics being easy to drool off your lips. Again, a typical Ratnam case, with music by A.R. Rahman and lyrics by Mehboob. It also captures the spirit of Kolkata where the film is set. Not to forget the dialogues, which are, as usual, restrained, and a wonderful contrast to the outrageous fare we are saddled with every week.
So, Ratnam has a good thing going? And success is waiting to embrace him at the next corner following the debacle of Dil Se? Unfortunately, no. Not likely. What it scores in the style department, it loses in the originality stakes.
It is the nth story on student politics and youngsters stepping out to cleanse the system, where all the malaise is symbolised by politicians in all white. We have seen it in too many films to need another view. The fact that it is Ratnam dishing out the fare is only of limited value.
Here Abhishek Bachchan, Vivek Oberoi and Ajay Devgan play the three youth, the first one a product of the system who knows no provocation for violence, who brooks no reason in opposition. The other two guys are the usual idealistic youth they are so fond of coming up with in Bollywood.
The fact that Devgan is on the wrong side of 30 and does not develop his acting skills beyond a scowl here, a studied sullen look there, does not help Ratnam's cause. Vivek, though, is spirited and able to make a convincing transition from a romantic guy - he is with Kareena Kapoor who insists on being a star and not the character, as usual - to a helping hand of Devgan, out to rid the system of its wrongs. But a special word is due to Abhishek. His is the least developed of the three guys, and he does the best job. He packs in a wallop as a tough, mean guy, and looks absolutely credible as the guy who can hit his wife, smash his best friend, and come to blows with his brother. Unfortunately, the film, takes too long to build up, with the director apparently more concerned about giving his heroes equal footage. For a good part, the film moves at a speed that makes Kolkata traffic speed seem desirable. It is only at the end, the very end, that Ratnam comes into his own and is able to craft together some impressive, very impressive actions sequences. Devgan and Bachchan give a good account of themselves.
Just like Rani, who is able to surmount a less-than-friendly cameraman and etch a plausible character of a girl who walks out on her parents for a man who uses fisticuffs for expression.
So, should one watch Yuva? Well, one must, if one swears by Ratnam. There is elegance in every frame, there is beauty of silhouettes too. There is nice music. And great attention to detail, except of course, Esha's character who is shown to be a professor in front of Devgan's student! Should one watch it for unqualified good cinema? No. All the beauty does not add up to much in the final stakes. And Ratnam is not able to make that transition from a just-about-watchable film to a must-watch film.
Too bad people think him capable of a Roja, a Bombay every time he comes calling! Yuva falls well short.
ZIYA US SALAM
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