Yuva (Mani Ratnam, 2004)
Taking narrative inspiration from Alejandro Inarittu’s acclaimed Amores Perros (at least, that’s what it reminded me of), Yuva begins in the middle, with an accident on the Second Hoogly Bridge in Kolkatta. Three very different lives are about to intersect in a split second – Yuva (“Youth”) is the story of these three men: Lallan (Abhishek Bachchan), Michael (Ajay Devgn) and Arjun (Vivek Oberoi), how they come to be on that bridge, and how their lives change forever after that one chance meeting.
I haven’t seen many Mani Ratnam films, but the ones I HAVE seen so far, I have adored. Yuva is no exception: it’s stylish – adopting and adapting the (at the time of filming) very much in vogue ‘fragmented narrative’ structure to suit mainstream Hindi cinema, A.R. Rahman composes a suitably youthful rap and electronica influenced soundtrack, art director Sabu Cyril chooses a colour palette to match each of the main characters: Lallan is equated with red; Michael with green and Arjun with blue; it doesn’t pull its punches – it’s gritty and violent, and heartbreaking when it veers into dark territory; and there are layers and layers of weighty themes in the narrative. From dirty politics and corruption, to philosophical questions about the mutable nature of the goodness of humanity, you can watch Yuva 100 times and find juicy stuff to ponder.
It might be surprising to those of you who have seen the film that the reason I initially wanted to see it was because I hadn’t ever really seen any Vivek Oberoi movies (is that a weird reason? I can’t tell?). With a solid star cast and an experienced director, there are some fantastic, gutwrenching performances in this film, but if you’ve ever read ANYTHING about Yuva before, you’ll know that the film absolutely belongs to Abhishek Bachchan as Lallan Singh.
Totally the man.
I’ve always been an AB fan, but I CANNOT believe I haven’t seen this film until now. As the violent, conflicted Lallan, on an increasingly tragic path, Abhishek is absolutely, terrifyingly convincing and devastatingly sad.
The reason I finally watched Yuva NOW though, as you’ve probably guessed, is because it’s Deol Dhamaka and Yuva is one of the very few films I own that has Esha Deol in it. I figured it was time to give Esha a chance.
Honestly: I’m as guilty as anyone else of needlessly knocking Esha without having actually given her a fair trial – she has somehow earned something of an unofficial reputation as one of the ‘lesser’ Deols, and I’ve never had much time for her. It’s true that in this film, her role is not particularly big. The women in Yuva exist pretty much as love interests and foils to the men, who are the primary focus; the female characters serve to illustrate the features and flaws of the heroes. Of the three women: Rani Mukherjee as Sashi, Lallan’s feisty, good-hearted, doomed lover;
Kareena Kapoor as Meera, Arjun’s driven, intelligent, opinionated dream girl;
and Esha as Radhika, Michael’s French-speaking, ‘creative with the truth’, argumentative girlfriend,
Esha has by far the smallest role and struggles to make an impact with the miniscule time she has onscreen; knowing she is also in the Tamil version of the film makes me curious to see if her role is any bigger or different (particularly given my fascination with Raavan/Raavanan). But you know what? Having been led to expect that I would cringe every second that Esha opened her mouth, I was PLEASANTLY surprised.
Esha is sweet in the time she has onscreen – she comes across as very young and innocent, making her character's propensity for telling outrageous lies all the more shocking (and she was very convincing). Plus in her short screen time she manages to convey mastery of a decent range - which is more than I can say for some of the actors working today. My verdict: Esha’s not that bad, based on this one film, anyway. More investigation is, perhaps necessary.