As soon as you put Mani Ratnam’s name on a film, the expectations associated with it blow out of the proportions. I and my whole family, my mom, dad and elder brother were sort of high on expectations and the film opened to terrible reception all round, still we all knew that it is a Mani Ratnam film and there would be ascertained substance, it would not be a hollow film.
Like every other Mani Ratnam film, Yuva too set against a socio-political backdrop, is a film about relations and drama amongst them at its core. His craftsmanship is clearly evident in multiple scenes, which come and go, stories moving across parallel timelines. Yuva, is all about how youth deal with today. Those who are illiterate yet ambitious, studious and have multiple opportunities but are adamant on improving situation here and those who have everything yet they still are not sure what they really want.
The film starts with zig-zagging through the scenes and core action, introducing the primary characters, then jumping into the story of the first character and then coming back to the scene, then moving on the next character and then coming back and then the third character.
Mani Ratnam’s elegance lies in crafting out raw and original and extremely simple characters, the way they really are. While it is a well known fact, Abhishek Bachchan stood amongst all, but the rest of the two are also who are actually the way they should be. Perhaps the simplest characters where logic of their actions are calculated in subconscious, are actually those characters that are highly nuanced. All of them, in this film, fall in that category, whether it is the passionately cruel Abhishek Bachchan’s Lallan, Ajay Devgan’s witty Michael, Vivek Oberoi’s clueless-about-social-brutality and confused about his aspirations Arjun, Rani Mukherji’s painstakingly loving Shashi, Esha Deol’s confident Radhika (though she wasn’t as good as the rest), and Kareena’s bubbly Mira, each character is given appropriate space to dwell, interact, develop and affect.
There are several moments where you feel absolute honesty in emotions, scenes where Esha Deol brings her bag and baggage and adjusts in Ajay Devgan’s room and tells him how she had an argument with her uncle and what farce she had played, and then they just look at each other and smirk, or let it be the sheer stupid way in which Vivek Oberoi tries to console Kareena Kapoor on the Bridge that he loves her and she replies with a simple To mai kya karu (“Then what do I do?”) smiling and showing that she doesn’t really care, carries on walking away and he hops up the bridge railings and continues his stupidity, or a scene when Abhishek Bachchan kills, very coldly, his brother, then starts weeping on the ferry and then goes back and tells Om Puri, what he wants.
Perhaps those are the most original Mani Ratnam shots, any film where you see characters talking to each other, they are crafted with real sense of drama and a master film maker who knows very well how people talk, still not even a single smirk, a single wink, a single moment of aggression or passion goes out of place or it is over the top.
And of course, the technique, in Yuva, the camera is consistently dynamic, and editing is razor sharp, a second extra and the scene could be long, a second short and the audience stay clueless, and that of course never happens. Every action scene is designed with patience, and you do notice punches floating in the air without actually hitting the villain and the bad guy going down automatically as instructed here and there, still, when Ajay Devgan’s story begins, there is a fight in a cafeteria, that is a brilliantly choreographed action scene, and certainly the last scene that takes place on the Kolkata bridge, overwhelming.
Now consider all this carefully coupled with adequate music. Yuva, proves that AR Rahman can produce any kind of soundtrack, any genre. Just ask him to make a youthful track, he will do it, ask him to make a song inspired by folklore, he will do it, ask him to underscore action pieces, he does and how. Never it happens that AR Rahman disappoints whenever he produces music for Mani Ratnam, perhaps this, is another feather in his cap.
The usage of colors, in A Mani Ratnam Film, is like a master painter playing with colors and directly affecting the subconscious of the audience. Giving, reddish tone to AB Jr’s story, Bluish to Vivek’s haphazard youth and greenish tinge to Ajay Devgan’s Michael allows audience to directly absorb the mindset of the character instead of going in with unnecessary details.
Yet Yuva was indeed slightly pulled down by doses of preachy-overblown-social improvement texts, the heart being in right place and mostly dwelling in its characters talking and loving and hating each other, trying to understand each other, trying to feel for each other and sometimes trying to protect each other makes up for the short coming. In that love for characters and energy of the youth confounded by reality, acting on impulse and impatience, shot with fluid craftsmanship and real dramatic sense of a film maker who knows very well how people in this world talk amongst themselves, lies its success.
After the charmingly wonderful Kannathil Muthamittal when one would have normally expected any other filmmaker to come up with next with a ‘safe film’, the filmmaker in question instead opted to make a hyperlink film with a political background. And not just that; the project was meant to be a bi-lingual (in Tamil and Hindi) and why weren’t we really surprised? Because when it’s a filmmaker like Mani Ratnam who had always shown his willingness to push the envelope but still manage to stay within commercial boundaries, we know we can expect a lot from him. So along with Yuva the Tamil version Aayutha Ezhuthu also released simultaneously on the same day. The title stands for the last alphabet in Tamil language, represented as ? with the 3 dots corresponding to the film’s three different principal characters belonging to completely different strata of society.
So instead of Michael Mukherjee ( Ajay Devgan ) from Yuva you have Michael Vasanth ( Suriya ), in place of Lallan ( Abhishek Bachchan ) you have Inbasekaran ( R.Madhavan ) and in place of Arjun Balachandran ( Vivek Oberoi ) you have Arjun Balakrishnan ( Siddharth ). While in principle the plot and the characters more or less remain the same it’s been a painstaking effort from Mani Sir to ensure that both the films do not emerge as mere carbon copies of each other. The difference is not just restricted to looks of the characters alone. If that were the case then one look at Abhishek Bachchan’s Lallan and R.Madhavan’s Inba in itself would make things clear by itself. But Mani Ratnam goes beyond all that over here.
He definitely ensured that the casting is apt & brings out the necessary punch to the film. If Suriya is near perfect as a student union leader then Madhavan is rock solid as the temperamental Inba who has big dreams for himself and his wife. Siddharth at that point of time was still fairly new (just fresh from Boys) and exuded the right amount of innocence that the character demanded. But probably the biggest surprise element about the whole cast was Bharathiraja as the corrupt minister, Selvanayagam. A veteran filmmaker himself, Bharathiraja had earlier done a couple of cameos in his career but this was to be his 1st full length role and he definitely was effective indeed.
Eesha Deol in her 1st and only Tamil film so far was surprisingly effective enough though I must admit I did have some reservations as to whether she would be able to pull off the character of Geeta (and Radhika in Yuva) convincingly enough. Trisha as Meera and Meera Jasmine as Sashi were certainly well suited for the characters they portrayed. While I will not mention anything separately about the music or the cinematography since its been discussed earlier for Yuva already I must say that both A.R.Rahman and Ravi K.Chandran have left no stone unturned in ensuring that they deliver the same kind of output for both the films, something that might sound easy, but not so easy actually to deliver.
While comparisons are inevitable between Yuva and Aayutha Ezhuthu I would say that both the films stand out by themselves in their own ways. Of course Suriya for one looks a lot more convincing as a college student when compared to Ajay Devgan. Also Madhavan definitely seems to have got a bit more into the skin of the character than Abhishek Bachchan (for whom Yuva is widely considered as a landmark film) but there’s not much to choose between the two films beyond such minor points of discussion. I must also admit that replicating the streets of Kolkata in Chennai (for Yuva ) was certainly no easy job and Sabu Cyril’s mastery over his craft deserves full credit for the same.
On a parting note there’s one segment in Aayutha Ezhuthu which for some strange reason doesn’t feature in Yuva. This is the portion when Inba comes to meet Michael and tries to dissuade him from getting into politics and a sudden fist fight breaks out between the 2 of them.
Check out the scene-
Read more reviews on MANI RATNAM BLOGATHON:
1. Pallavi Anupallavi (Kannada) 2. Unaroo (Malayalam) 3. Pagal Nilavu (Tamil) 4. Idaya Kovil (Tamil) 5. Mouna Ragam (Tamil) 6. Nayagan Tamil) 7. Agni Natchathiram (Tamil) 8. Geethanjali (Telugu) 9. Anjali (Tamil) 10. Take 1 Thalapathi (Tamil) Take 2 Thalapathi (Tamil) 11. Roja (Tamil) 12. Thiruda Thiruda 13. Bombay (Tamil) 14. Iruvar (Tamil) Take 2 Iruvar (Tamil) 15. Dil Se…(Hindi) Take 2 Dil Se…(Hindi) 16. Alaipayuthey (Tamil) 17. Kannathil Muthamittal (Tamil) Take 2 Kannathil Muthamittal(Tamil) 18. Yuva (Hindi) 19. Aayutha Ezhuthu (Tamil) 20. Guru (Hindi) 21. Raavanan(Tamil) 22. Raavan (Hindi)