Following on our trend of being super timely!
Now, don't get too excited. The sublime moments in Subhash Ghai's latest film, Yuvvraaj, come few and far between. In fact, we can count them all on two fingers. And they both involve Anil Kapoor, who was SO FREAKING AMAZING OUR DIL PRACTICALLY EXPLODED WITH LOVE. But more on that later.
Yuvvraaj follows the trials and tribulations of three alienated brothers as they fall out of and back into brotherly love. Eldest is the autistic Gyanesh (Anil Kapoor), a musical mastermind described as suffering from "genius disorder" (AKA Williams syndrome?). OK, we'll buy that for a dollar - but only because Anil is so good. Next in line is the proud, turbulent-with-a-heart-of-gold Deven (Salman Khan) - he is ostensibly our hero. Third and last is the spoiled, cruel Danny (Zayed Khan). When the three brothers' ultra-billionaire father passes away, there is a scrambling within the family to see who has inherited all the wealth. Unsurprisingly, the father has left everything to Gyanesh, and filled his will with caveats that it's basically Gyanesh's or charity's. To ensure that no foul play occurs, the will entrusts Gyanesh's safety to two men whom we will call Evil Uncle (argh, we don't know his name, but he was Meena's uncle in Mississippi Masala and SRK's dad in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa and he was fabulous) and Good Uncle (Mithun Chakraborty).
At first, there is indeed a lot of foul play. Danny, motivated by pure evil, tries various methods of getting the money out of Gyanesh - manipulating, harassing, slapping. Deven is likewise trying to pry that cash free, though his motives are marginally more acceptable: he's in love with the serene cellist, Anushka (Katrina Kaif), but he can't marry her until he proves to her father (Boman Irani) that he has the means to support her rich-girl lifestyle. Deven hatches a great scheme: get close to Gyanesh, butter him up with affection and convince him to hand over the cash willingly. Predictably, the three brothers are on the road for some masala-style dil-squishing reconciliations. We get the usual satisfyingly juicy melodrama and sweeping shots of European country roads (this time, near Prague!) on our road to a very Aa Gale Lag Jaa-esque ending.
The sets were totally stolen from Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black.
So our thoughts? Well: it is a horrible, poorly-made film with wonderful music. The finale was terrible, yaar, and we cried a little too. Hence the trash/transcendental problem. It was bad. Terrible. And yet, for a few brief moments, it all came together perfectly and moved us tremendously. But no! No! Our intellect couldn't handle the badness. And Subhash Ghai is supposed to be one of the best?
Because the problem, as far as we could tell, was really the direction. The pacing was all wrong. The emotional tone of many scenes was mishandled or jumbled up. It felt Sanjay Leela Bhansali-esque: ridiculous and falsely over-the-top emotionalness, bordering on the farcical. (Indeed, we spent most of the first act thinking this film suffered from the SLB Devdas effect: that is, a series of amazing and poignant song picturizations linked by cringe-worthy scenes.)
And yet, some things were so well-done that they lifted us momentarily out of the trash: in particular, A.R. Rahman's divine music and Anil Kapoor's performance. Just earlier today, we were speculating with optimistic curiosity about Anil's role over at Filmi Girl's. Well, Filmi Girl, get thee to the cinema! And Rum, you too - tum bhi jao! Because Anil delivers, and how. Where do we sign up for the fan club?
Indeed, it's the combination of Rahman's music with Anil's performance which brings us to sublime moment #1: the picturization of the song, Manmohini Morey. As soon as this gets up on YouTube, we're adding this to our Moments of Transcendental Aesthetics series. Because this scene was so good it made our guts churn (as Suketu Mehta described good Bollywood... or was it Anupama Chopra?). We're not kidding. We haven't felt so moved, in such a raw way, in a very long time. And it was the memory of this scene which made us cry when poor, poor Anil suffered all that emotional violence later in the film. And what's even crazier - this same scene is played for laughs in the trailer we saw last week! Ah, but it was so freaking good. We won't tell you much, since that'll spoil things, but suffice to say that it was perfect - the awe of Prague's music scene, his piercing joy which visibly frightens him, his growing crush on Anushka.
OMG, Anil, don't cry, we'll protect you forever.
Yeah. He did it. Anil Kapoor delivered the equivalent of a Raj Kapoor in Awaara type of performance. The type of performance which not only forgives past sins but all future ones too. And he did it in a terrible film, too! While everyone else floundered amid the crazy direction and odd cuts - Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Boman Irani, even Mississippi Masala Uncle! - Anil knocked it out of the park. Just amazing.