Koimoi Recommends Yuva: It doesn’t take anything to talk about revolution, but it takes a village to be the revolution. One should not be a genius to realise how aware and alert Mani Ratnam has been of his times, that each of his work till date stands to be a relevant commentary on the society we all have lived in. Today as I revisit the work of the man known for making visually stunning and poetic cinema, I talk about Yuva. A film that makes more sense today than ever and in my opinion deserves way more than it got.
Director: Mani Ratnam
Available on: Netflix
Yuva that translates to Youth in Hindi, is a story about 6 young people from different strata of society and what power means and does to them. When their lines cross each other, the dirty game of politics lays its wrath on them; sparks are created. There is love, drama, emotions and on the top of that, a sharp social commentary.
2004 was a time when the Bollywood audience was too happy with its bubbly masala potboiler stock. Shifting their gaze to anything else was a monumental task. Mani Ratnam being the master he is, decided to add messaging to a saga that promised entertainment too. Yuva had not only a social commentary but also the elements that comprised the mainstream cinema. This was the year of Dhoom, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi and Khakee, so you know where I am coming from.
In my opinion, Ratnam, who staged his 3 leads against the backdrop of politics in Kolkata, tried to show the youth’s relationship with the government/politics. To elaborate it further, his three men were types of youth that the society comprises. One, Lallan (Abhishek Bachchan), you can call him a victim of dirty politics. Belonging to lower strata, a man completely blinded by the men in power and made to do things that make him a monster. This is the miss guided youth that suffers.
Two, Michael (Ajay Devgn), a rebel from the middle class who is out to change the world in his way. He isn’t a Gandhi prodigy; he gets violent when needed. But the fire to change the world and make it equal is burning big time in him. Third, Arjun (Vivek Oberoi), a man who has nothing to do with the politics but lives life for his own good. Yes, he does venture into the well but not initially (how I wish Oberoi should have followed the same ideology in real).
Mani Ratnam in Yuva respects the youth or the people he is catering. Love never takes a back seat in the film, but Ratman manages to show you what these people are made of through it. When Radhika (Esha Deol) secretly ties a holy thread around Michael’s hand, or when Arjun tells Meera (Kareena Kapoor) that they will arrange their child’s ‘mundan’ in Pittsburgh Balaji Temple, you see how religion subconsciously rules our psych. There is much more of this referencing.
The women in this universe are equally strong. Rani Mukerji as Sashi stands out. There is a unique innocence that she manages to bring, and a monologue about the male privilege adds the much-needed coal to the already burning fire. I wish Esha and Kareena had similar characters with more depth.
How can we not discuss music, when it’s AR Rahman and Mani Ratnam coming together. Be it Dhaka Laga Bukka or Kabhi Neem Neem; our ears are blessed to be witnessing AR’s music. Not just that, there is a depth in the theme too. Here the director-composer duo doesn’t take the Bombay way but gives it a more contemporary vibe.
Ravi K Chandran has the complete control of his camera. He knows when to allow ample light and when to block it. Here he does not strive hard in creating visually soothing shots, instead he goes on to make you uncomfortable adding more to the experience.
Yuva reflects the society till date. It’s been 16 years, but it is still relevant. Mani Ratnam is not taking sides, he is showing you the state in which the youth is, and you need to be unbiased to understand that. No one’s wrong, but vehicles to the ideologies that rule their mind. It is up to their viewers to decide if it will churn out something good. At a time when offence rate has touched the sky, I am happy Yuva released back then.
Fun Fact: The Tamil version of Yuva, Ayitha Ezhuthu was shot parallel to the Hindi version and was released on the same day. The film starred R Madhavan, Siddharth and Suriya. The only cast member to have played the same character in both the films was Esha Deol. Also the dialogues for the Hindi version were by Anurag Kashyap.