Student power in Hindi films
At a time when college campuses are being used in Hindi films only for romance and fights, it is interesting to see youth power being harnessed into a constructive
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
compendium in Mani Ratnam's "Yuva".
In the film, Ajay Devgan's character -- reportedly inspired by a real-life character -- plays a student leader who joins hands with his friends to vanquish the aging and corrupt emblem of festering politics, played by Om Puri.
"Yuva" is not the first Hindi film to bring forward the cinematic protagonist as the saviour of society.
So many young protagonists in the past have come forward to make their presence felt within the stagnant social order.
In 1957, in B.R. Chopra's "Naya Daur", Dilip Kumar was the harbinger of a new social order. In the same year, there was Guru Dutt pining for an end to corruption in "Pyaasa".
In 1971, in Pramod Chakravarty's "Naya Zamana", Dharmendra was the idealist who brought social reform into vogue. And in Hrishikesh Mukherjee's "Satyakam" in 1969, the idealistic Dharmendra looks his friends and foes straight into the eye before his death and says, "I've lived...have you?"
In this era of uncontrollable corruption and cynicism, the idealistic hero has become progressively anachronistic. Except for Aamir Khan in "Lagaan", the archetypal heroes who come forward to make their presence felt are either smirking Casanovas or unprincipled do-gooders.
A hero with a ramrod-straight socio-political ideology, like Om Puri in Govind Nihalani's "Ardh Satya" or Manoj Bajpai in E. Niwas' "Shool", is hard to come by.
In Shankar's "Nayak", Anil Kapoor played an ordinary man who becomes the prime minister for one day and makes an effort to reform and reverse as much of the bureaucratic and political tangle as possible."Nayak" bombed badly. Kapoor went back to doing social dramas.
The successful heroes of recent times are either self absorbed lover-boys ("Devdas", "Kaho Na...Pyar Hai") or subverted icons ("Munnabhai MBBS", "Main Hoon Na") with as little to do with political reality as possible.
Devgan in "Yuva" is the first conventional idealist hero to make an impact in a long time. He played a socially conscious crime-buster in "Gangaajal". But "Yuva" is by far Devgan's most idealistic role and
Hindi cinema's most principled protagonist in recent times.
Fellow-filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansli is deeply impressed by the theme of "Yuva". "It's about time we filmmakers showed the link between youth power and politics," he said.
It was the dream of one our greatest politicians, Jayapraksah Narayan, to see young energy
harnessed into politics. Adds Bhansali: "In 'Yuva', when Ajay and his colleagues march into parliament at the end, it's as though Jayaprakash Narayan's dream has come true."
But would the audience take to the idealistic dream? Or are we as a nation too far gone into cynicism to believe Congress president Sonia Gandhi turned down the prime ministership on ideological grounds?
Many moviegoers see the politics of "Yuva" as India's future. For that, if for no other reason, the film must be taken very seriously.