Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Mani Ratnam's YUVA

By Dennis D. McDonald

Thoroughly undistinguished music aside, Yuva is an engrossing melodrama that combines politics with brutality, intellectualism, social activism, soap opera, and young love.

The story: three young men meet on a bridge in Calcutta in a blinding flash of violence. One is a thug, one is a social activist, and the third a party boy. The movie then goes through a series of three flashback sequences where we learn about events that lead up to the violence on the bridge.

The young men are interesting, but so are the women who are associated with each man. One is fierce, independent, and ultimately loyal to the thug - but she makes an awful decision based on the evil he represents. Next is the French professor who is secretly in love with the political activist; she too proves to be loyal to him and experiences great stress due to a falling out with her family. The third woman is scheduled for an arranged marriage but comes under the spell of the party boy. They experience a whirlwind romance but their relationship, too, is impacted by the violence on the bridge.

I enjoyed this film because of its gritty realism and I found the characters fascinating. The story line with its social politics was a bit unfamiliar; I probably missed a lot of subtlety and significance because of my lack of familiarity with Indian society and culture. Certain characters were immediately familiar, though; for example, a senior political sleazebag is a senior political sleazebag no matter what culture you’re coming from.

It was interesting to hear the repeated negative references about young Indians going to the USA to study and work, the context being that they would be working for the enemy. Contrast that with the handwringing about Indian outsourcers taking over US white collar jobs.

I was sorely disappointed with the lack of originality and creativity in the music and the musical numbers. I get the impression that Ratnam’s heart was not in the music. I’ve grown accustomed to periodic song and dance numbers in Indian movies and find this usually does not detract from even the most dramatic siuations.

Copyright (c) 2005 by Dennis D. McDonald