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Youngistaan

Movie:
Youngistaan
Director:
Syed Ahmad Afzal
Cast:
Jackky Bhagnani, Neha Sharma, Farooq Sheikh, Boman Irani, Mita Vashisht, Shraddha Kapoor, Shah Rukh Khan
Avg user rating:

The 28-year-old lad's just become the Prime Minister of India (let's not get into the how). He goes around meeting the third world within this third world in sassy clothes and a wide smile.

This new PM Abhimanyu (Jackky Bhagnani)) promises a better life for farmers interacts with villagers and does everything right ahead of the upcoming elections.

At home, he's busy tending to his girlfriend (Neha Sharma) who has the mannerisms of a 6-year-old. Saying things like "protocols, my ass", she thinks nothing of pulling him from an important meeting to throw another tantrum; or insists he say 'I love you' over the phone when he's at the office with his team.

I guess the idea was to show a person completely unaffected and unmoved by her boyfriend's sudden VVIP status. The result is an incomprehensible character. Without a life, aim, ambition or agenda of her own, this character is there to serve as the Love Interest. She complains of being tied to the huge home 24 hours a day, and then takes out the PM for 'matka kulfi' at 4 am (his security person's nightmare).

Save a few moments that could appeal to the viewer, incredulously, this angle gets as much screen-time as the film's central narrative.

Over time, the young PM rubs several people the wrong way. Older hands, hurting that he beat them to the chair, plot over evening drinks. Akbar (late Farooq Sheikh) his PA, remains eternally loyal and approving of everything.

Meanwhile, the opposition tries taking advantage of Abhimanyu's unconventional personal life (he's living in with his girlfriend). And that's where the film scores.

Abhimanyu, instead of coaxing his pregnant girlfriend into marriage, talks about his personal choices openly to the public. He and his partner make it clear that they will not bow down to the coercions of his political career, and would rather marry when they feel the time is right.

Now that's quite a progressive thought the film insinuates. Also interesting is the reaction of common people (the 'youngistaan', as it were) who accept his choices.

Other thoughts/issues are thrown around but not properly thrashed. Someone wonders why only a woman should be called 'abla' (helpless). At another time Abhimanyu initiates a Grievance Cell so people can write to him directly. One felt the need for these ideas to be put forth with more context, rather than just scraping the surface.

There are some arresting scenes like the one in the stunning UN building where our 28-year-old PM gives quite a stirring speech.

But apart from that, this is, to borrow a proverb, the 'Idiot's Guide to Indian Politics'. Even if you try accepting this as a fable set within the political framework, it just doesn't work! So an election campaign means going to the villages; larger issues like farmer suicides, inflation and security threats are not even touched upon; and running the country seems easy as pie.

Debut director Syed Ahmad Afzal gives us a bland, simplistic take on what could have been a sharp and entertaining story.

The central cast gives an inconsistent performance. Jackky Bhagnani is spirited and confident, but does not add any nuance (partly also due to the way the character has been fashioned). Neha Sharma, of the effervescent smile, does quite well within the requirements of the role. The supporting cast with names like Farooq Sheikh and Mita Vashisht lend some weight to the drama.

Despite the faults, it's laudable that the film creates a very different Bollywood hero?one who is intelligent, ambitious (not to become an underworld kingpin), does not call his girlfriend "item", and is a regular nice guy. For that, and for being progressive about several issues including live-in relationships, this one just about passes muster.

Rating: 2.5 stars

 

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