It's youth versus the young this week

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
5/18/2004 12:00:00 AM
Coming up is a crucial Friday, with Mani Ratnam versus the Rajshris. 

The tersely titled "Yuva" by Ratnam will be released on the same day as the long-winded "Uuf Kya Jaadoo Mohabbat Hai!" of the Rajshris.

Most movie titles this summer are small and to the point: "Yuva", "Deewaar", "Hum Tum", "Dev", "Lakshya". But the Rajshris seem to have full faith in their film.

While "Yuva" boasts of super-marquee names both on and off camera, the Rajshris film features two debutants. It's been a while since a fresh team gave us a really watchable love story to sink our teeth into.

Though the teenaged romance's playing time is barely two hours, there're as many as eight love ballads in "Uuf Kya Jaadoo..." This makes it more eligible to be a musical love story than any other film in recent times.

However, it's an uphill task for this sweet, tender film to combat the might of Mani Ratnam's "Yuva".

Ratnam's first Hindi film "Dil Se" five years ago was both a critical and commercial non-success. In fact it ranks as a rare non-starter in recent times in the mighty Shah Rukh Khan's oeuvre.

Seen as part of Ratnam's terrorist trilogy ("Roja", "Kannathil Muttimital"), "Dil Se" seems to have come a little ahead of its times.

"Yuva" seems more in step with contemporary times. Its crisscrossing theme takes us through the lives of three ideologically segregated men played by Ajay Devgan, Abhishek Bachchan and Vivek Obereoi.

The three-tiered storytelling in itself would seem like a huge novelty, almost a liability in the smaller, less cosmopolitan movie-going centres.

But Ratnam has made "Yuva" exactly the way he wanted to and with almost exactly the stars that he wanted....almost because Bobby Deol was the original choice for Ajay Devgan's role and Hrithik Roshan had also been approached for another role.

Among the girls there was a bit of reshuffling, with Kareena Kapoor and Rani Mukherjee swapping roles at the last minute. Also, Esha Deol stepped into Simran's shoes opposite "Devgan".

How compatible would the 20-something Deol look with the 35-plus Devgan? That's a question that Mani Ratnam isn't bothered with.

In fact, one suspects that reaching out to a Hindi-speaking audience isn't one of his burning ambitions as a master-creator. If "Yuva" fails to reach a crescendo of success, as it's expected to, then he has "Yuva's" Tamil version "Ayutha Ezhuthu" to fall back on.

The Tamil version of "Yuva" is being released on the same day as the Hindi - a unique experiment on celluloid, and one that would hopefully trigger off a small movement towards bringing regional cinema closer to its national counterpart.

Ironically, more than Mani Ratnam's formidable reputation as a filmmaker it's the awesome cast that is expected to draw in the audiences to see "Yuva".

The sextet of stars in combinations affording colliding conflicts is the "Yuva's" USP among moviegoers. Interestingly, Abhishek Bachchan who had a solo-hero release last week returns with "Yuva" this Friday.

According to his colleagues Vivek Oberoi and Kareena Kapoor, Abhishek has the best role and has given a knock-out performance as Lallan Singh, a hired assassin who triggers off the film's dramatic momentum.

In whichever way we perceive popular cinema - entertainment or a vehicle for a social message - "Yuva" has a unique edge over all the other epic releases lined up this summer, excluding Govind Nihalani's "Dev", which goes into a similar territory.

Just how far audiences accept the thesis of a tri-plot within one film would depend on Mani Ratnam's magic as a storyteller.

He has his usual music composer A.R. Rahman with him in this endeavour as well, though the songs haven't caught on yet.

The music of Rajshris' film too hasn't made much impact. But as 'D' Day approaches, the film's young untried team is trying to shed its awe and fear of the "Yuva" factor.

On a national promotional tour, the film's debutant hero Sammir Dattani said: "So far we've been hoping and praying. But now the moment of reckoning has arrived. And we can only brace ourselves for the blow. I'm sure I can take it!"