Thursday 20 November 2008

Yuvvraaj (2008)

It's a little disconcerting how often we've tagged films with both the "trash" and "transcendental aesthetics" labels. But just like Arun Krishnan astutely remarked, Bollywood movies have that strange ability to swing from ridiculous to sublime at the drop of the hat.

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.


Anonymous said...

PPCC, The ‘evil uncle’ was played by Anjan Srivastav

Anonymous said...

The ‘evil uncle’ was played by Anjan Srivastav

Anonymous said...

I am LOVING that he's entering a sublime phase 2 in his career, partly because he's one of the few actors in B'wood who isn't younger than I am (maturity yeah!) and also because he is really giving us so *many* great moments these days! Add me to the Anil Kapoor Zindabad bandwagon!

Filmi Girl said...

I cannot wait! I'm so glad Anil delivers! He's really come into his own in the last few years.

When we make our group outing to Mumbai, let's stop and have chai with Anil Kapoor after baking cookies with Shashi.

Rum said...

Yaaaayyyyyyy my Anil was freakin amazing here! I'm such anil lover that I watched this twice! One show after the other, Subhash Ghai has always been my go to director for Anil movies like Karma + Ram Lakhan!
But ppcc I think I am the only one Anil Kapoor can love because he just loves me! As highlighted in my Anil post ANIL-RUM can't be together but they can dream of it naa?

a ppcc representative said...

Anonymous - Yes, that's it! Thanks. I knew it was an A name.

Memsaab - I am LOVING it, too! So this is a new thing? I've only ever seen his most recent stuff - and I'm freaking impressed.

Filmi Girl - Good call! Fun fact: Anil and Shashinator were in NYC recently for some India Independence Day celebrations; they make an odd couple (in my heart), have they been in any movies together?

Rum - I'll fight you for him.

Rum said...

sorry for my over-love of the ANIL, but I saw him in his mentally ill role in Eeshwar, and he just warmed my dil so much that I had a BARSAAT CRY, Anil always makes me cry, and I absolutely must see this movie!

Anonymous said...

I think it's pretty new...he used to do "hero" roles in the 80s and 90s before he kind of dropped out of sight. I don't like him much as a hero type. But the last couple of years he's just been rocking these off-beat characters and I'm totally on board with the Anil-love now (although I'll let you and Rum fight over him while I bake cookies with Shammi).

Beth Loves Bollywood said...

Wait wait wait. Shashi was in New York and I didn't know? Bah! Cruel world!

PPCC, I think you need to do a post on how you have all this pyaar to go around to all your favorite heroes. E.g. what is the source of the infinite pyaar? How is it nourished? Is it possible for it to diminish? Is there a kryptonite that can ruin it? Etc.

Also, please watch Salaam-e-Ishq and tell me what you think of Anil there.

Anonymous said...

Funny you should mention the SLB hangover in this film because as I watched it, I kept thinking: So THIS is what you get if SLB and SG had a bastard child who inherited all their worst characteristics.

I expected the schmaltz so I wasn't as taken aback by it as I feared but what I really find hard to forgive this movie for is what it did to the music. Rahman's music DEMANDS you pull rabbits from your top hat even if your top hat is completely empty and torn. Heck, One Two Ka Four was a horrible movie with B-grade production values which used recycled Rahman music and it still went the extra mile for his music - considering Rahman put this one together for Ghai right when he was in the middle of one of his busiest periods, the least he deserved was something other than the circus freak show he got.

So mad.

a ppcc representative said...

Rum - Hey, you're the prez! :)

Memsaab - Gasp! After cookies, can I make pizza with Shammi and Shashi then?

Beth - YES! I know, I found it on Google News or something. The infinite pyaar! Perhaps I will nourish. Misogyny is its kryptonite. S-e-I, comin' right up!

Amrita - GASP! I thought the exact same thing during Tu Muskura: "This is such a beautiful song with such a hokey picturization. Someday and hopefully this picturization will be forgotten and only the genius song will remain!" (Don't ask me why my thoughts seemed to have been written by Frank Herbert.) The only picturization which I thought did exactly what it was supposed to do (and hit the exact emotional target SG was prob going for) was, of course, the sublime Manmohini Morey.

Ali said...

Hi, I know how much you guys love Anil Kapoor, so, I think you might love this youtube clip of him bathing in woh 7 din. have you seen that as yet?

anyway, great reading your stuff. it always tickles my funny bone. and no my funny bone is not that one. i'm sorry that was inappropriate.
take care!

Ali said...

I forgot the link.