Yuva can be summed up in three phrases: Great performances, awesome technicality and terrible screenplay. It goes to show that moviemaking is like preparing a nice meal, not just some tasty side-dishes.
In this Mani Ratnam film, it is Mani who disappoints. The movie starts off in a not so off-the-shelf fashion. Abhishek Bachchan's character (Lallan) is introduced with vigour and splendour, backed by a classy performance which is well on par with his illustrious father Amitabh.
Twenty minutes later, Lallan has been portrayed. By the time the story moves to Michael aka Mickey (Ajay Devgan), there is a lull in the audience. Is Mani going to get through to interval merely with character introductions? But that is precisely what he does.
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Interval on, Vivek Oberoi's character's (Arjun) background hasn't even begun. Halfway through the second half, the story begins. Thirty minutes later, the movie is over.
Mind you, the characterisation is classic Mani Ratnam style. Abhishek is the matchless rowdy. Rani is his straight arrow wife, powerless to do more than condemn his actions behind weeping saris. Ajay -- seasoned actor that he is -- has proved yet again that he can fit into any role. Who knows, one of these days he might play Gandhi and pull it off. Esha is pure charm. Vivek (with a few extra kilos) and Kareena give youthful fire to the film.
Vikram Dharma's stunts are meticulous and pump the adrenaline. A R Rahman's music is beyond comparison. I got to see the film in a theatre that didn't jar the hell out of the rhythm he is famous for -- an added plus. Song picturisation and camera work (Ravi K Chandran) are stupendous. The dialogues render adequate grip.
The movie falls short in its screenplay. The story, a social issue, caters to the educated view of the political arena. That part is vintage Mani. The screenplay, however, defects in that too much time is spent telling the audience who the characters are and too little in telling what the story is.
As most successful directors would put it: "The story is the real hero of a movie." It is for a story that characters are written, not vice versa. And it is the story around which characters must revolve. In Yuva, the story is as important as a beggar outside the Tirupati temple.
Nowadays, good movies are a rarity. That being the case, Yuva is certain to receive critical acclaim. It is definitely a welcome change from the run-of-the-mill flesh-exposing, violence-intense films that the market is saturated with. For that reason alone, Yuva will appeal.
As for Mani's standards, it is certainly a disappointment.
For those who have had the good fortune of seeing, appreciating and devouring classic Mani recipes (Roja, Nayagan, Mouna Raagam, to name a few), Yuva falls short of expectations.
The verdict: Yuva has substance for a great trailer. Not a movie.