Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

November 21, 2008

Sibling revelry

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:51 pm

November 21, 2008

Cast: Salman Khan, Anil Kapoor, Zayed Khan, Katrina Kaif, Boman Irani

Direction: Subhash Ghai

In the end credits sequence of Yuvvraaj, the film’s writer-director Subhash Ghai makes a short appearance on screen, scribbling away on a writing pad. There’s a good chance he might be finishing the script of the film, which having watched Yuvvraaj you can clearly tell was still incomplete and underdeveloped when Ghai shot the film.

Once again flogging his favourite formula of sparring siblings, Ghai borrows the premise of Rain Man for his latest, but packages it with his own brand of 80s melodrama and emotional overdose. The problem here, as you may have guessed, is that both the formula and the treatment no longer work. There’s a desperate need for reinvention.

Salman Khan stars as a chorus singer in a Prague orchestra who heads to London to claim his share of his vast family fortune after the death of his billionaire father who he was estranged from. Also expecting a monster chunk of the money to support his decadent lifestyle is his spoilt younger brother, played by Zayed Khan. Add to this mix an assortment of 80s-style supporting characters like the conniving wheelchair bound uncle, the cliche-spewing aunt, the good-for-nothing cousins, and the cleavage-baring, perfume-squirting sister-in-law, all of whom have their eyes only on the dead man’s wealth. As luck would have it however, Dear Departed Daddy has left the bulk of his fortune to the eldest of his three sons, the autistic one, played by Anil Kapoor. Determined to get what they believe they rightfully deserve Salman and Zayed plot to cheat their bhola (innocent) brother out of his inherited wealth, but after spending enough time with him they realise the importance of family and brotherhood.

Yuvvraaj uses scale and grandeur to compensate for the fractured script, but as Ghai’s own films — Kisnaand Yaadein will tell you — no amount of ambition and passion can hide poor writing. The characters are all underdeveloped – from the protagonists who have no layers, no edge whatsoever, to the supporting players who are all silly caricatures.

The dialogue is a mix of clunky lines that make you cringe in embarrassment, and a bunch of unintentionally hilarious gems that will make you laugh every time you think of the film. Like that priceless scene in which Katrina scolds Salman for being an insensitive son to his father: Jo bete ne apne baap ki shakal sapne mein bhi na dekhi ho, woh beta nahin, woh hardcore anti-family man hai.

There was a slim chance the film might not have hurt this bad if the acting was any better, but to think the stars of this film were paid crores of rupees to put up this show makes you realise that indeed life is unfair.Salman Khan does pretty much as he pleases, walking in and out of scenes as if he were at home, never mindful of the fact that he’s playing a character here and that some consistency in performance is expected of him. He just about scrapes through the comedy with a few light moments, but completely fails to touch your heart in the film’s emotional scenes.

Zayed Khan struggles through even basic scenes in the film, unable to alter his expressions in keeping with the film’s needs, yelling when he’s expected to be intense, and looking away in exasperation each time he can’t come up with a more fitting reaction. A crash course in acting at Ghai’s own Whistling Woods Film School might not be such a bad idea for Zayed.

Katrina Kaif looks lovely and makes an earnest attempt in the acting department too — in a film like this, that’s plenty effort. Boman Irani hams it up as Katrina’s doctor dad, and turns in what is sure to be one of his career’s most embarrassing performances.

And then there’s Anil Kapoor whose character I had difficulty understanding – was he autistic, was he blind, did he have arthritis? I never did get it in the end because of the strange mannerisms and quirks Anil brought to his performance. And yet, it’s the only performance in the film where some competence is visible.

Ghai spares no efforts in giving Yuvvraaj a fancy feel, there’s pleasing photography and spunky choreography on display, but AR Rahman’s soundtrack throws up only three good tracks which is a shame considering the film’s designed as a musical.

Yuvvraaj doesn’t quite hit the right note because it’s an archaic drama that feels too tired. Barring a handful of vintage Subhash Ghai moments that still work, the film sadly is far from his best work.

I’m going with one out of five for director Subhash Ghai’s Yuvvraaj, I’d much rather watch Hero or Karma all over again.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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