Yuvvraaj (2008): A fine family drama

"He's an Indian brother. He loves me (more than you think)." It's when Deven Yuvvraaj (Salman Khan) utters these words for his brother Gyanesh (Anil Kapoor) that the intentions of an often misunderstood (sound familiar in context of the speaker?) character shine through. Not surprisingly, I think the biggest strength of the film is that the majority of the criticism aimed at it is that it is 'too Indian', in which case I think the film accomplished its mission. Yuvvraaj has a lot of what we enjoy in 'Indian' film. And it relies tremendously on the charisma and acting skills of Salman and Anil, a good movie because both pitch in with their finest performances of the year in what I think is among the top three family entertainers of 2008, true to expectations of a Subhash Ghai film, and a return to form for his brand of cinema.

The film, as we knew from the soundtrack to the musical, is about three estranged brothers involved in a struggle for inheritance. Each is remarkably different. Deven (Salman Khan) struggles because he's disowned by his father, but does enjoy unconditional support of his lovely girlfriend Anushka (Katrina Kaif), whose father Dr. Banton (Boman Irani) opposes their relationship because of Deven's relatively low position on the social scale. Danny (Zayed Khan) is a spoiled brat who people refer to as 'prince' (that is what the word 'yuvraj' means). The innocent Gyanesh (Anil Kapoor) is autistic (or is he?). He remains consumed in his love for music, and all he wants is some attention and love. Their father's (Javed Sheikh) will puts Deven and Danny in a spot. They hate each other to begin with. And they'll only be partners and not brothers, they say, as they embark on a joint mission to claim what they think is theirs.

Who will win the prize and take over from Daddy Yuvvraaj? Will Salman get the girl? What impact will [PG] seductresses have on the brothers? Check out the musical extravaganza to discover. It's fascinating with a fresh take on the familiar theme of family versus money and a noteworthy lesson that is the subject of the climax.

First the positives, because there are many. Not that seasoned performers Anil and Salman have anything left to prove, but their roles in Yuvvraaj aren't the easiest to pull off, and they both deliver with flying colors. Anil is fantastic, and I hope I can refer to this comment if he wins Best Supporting Actor at the Filmfare Awards next year. He would certainly have deserved it. Salman brings his charisma to a character that could have been so much less without it (only minor complaint is Salman's hair!). But waah Anil! And waah Salman! They are fairly well complemented by Zayed Khan, whose effectiveness is unevenly distributed. But there are moments in which he makes up for the unevenness, especially given the scope of his character. Boman Irani is delightful as Anushka's father, and his scenes with Salman are amazingly well done. The film has surprisingly more comedy than one expects, and it almost always involves Boman, Anil or Salman.


Katrina Kaif leads the ladies (including Amrit Maghera as Shazia and Aparna Kumar as Sukamna, the stunning seductress in a saree!), and she is all we expect her to be. Of course, she looks ethereal. Her casting is intelligent -- Anushka has more than likely spent most of her life away from India (we aren't explicitly told this, but there's every segue for accurate assumption), which works to Kaif's advantage. She and Salman look absolutely in love. Why they are probably the most likable celebrity couple in Bollywood is evident. There's even a very clear dig at her Hindi speaking skills by Salman ;)


Among the biggest strengths of the film are the superb art direction, background score, and soundtrack. Austria, the Czech Republic, and England are brilliantly captured. The sets (Omung Kumar) offer a visual treat that is second only to Jodhaa Akbar this year, and the background score (A. R. Rahman) is expectedly effective.

Any musical rides on the strengths of its tunes, and the tagline that accompanies the film, 'Music Binds Love', is appropriate, because as the film progresses, so do roles of the characters in and around music. The amazing soundtrack by Rahman is even better in the film, and the choreography (Shiamak Davar) is top notch. Not all songs are used in their entirety, and at least one (Shano Shano) has a major lyrical surprise to offer (it's not the same as the one accompanying the soundtrack). The most popular song, which is one of the film's best, Tu Hi Toh Meri Dost Hai (translated here), sadly could have been better integrated.

Mastam Mastam is used at a very interesting juncture. I had one of the most fun experiences translating it here, and the theme was spot on. The Faarsi (Persian) lines were not translated in the film, and I think that's a loss to the poem, because Rustam and especially his qualities are so central to understanding the bravery implied, albeit mockingly. This cast...


...reminds me of my study at the Trinity College of Music way back when. I'm the lion with the headgear on. :) Also see this related post with dialogue from the performance.


Sample this promo of Mastam Mastam (a special shout out to the voice of Salman Khan, Sonu Nigam; I really like his setting the record straight on whose voice he really is):


The other songs are well integrated, the pick of the lot being Dil Ka Rishta (translated here), which oozes melodramatic brilliance, and Man Mohini, an excellent, excellent tune:


Among the more noticeable areas for improvement in the film are the screenplay and dialogue. They're not bad. Far from it. I'm not sure whether the slight inconsistencies in the flow are an experiment or more a product of the tried and tested. And there are bits of dialogue that could have made some situations more intense, because the plot certainly provides every opportunity for it. The intensity doesn't suffer as much, though, because the acting shields it somewhat. When it doesn't (as in the case of some Zayed Khan scenes), it can make proceedings slightly less exciting. Perhaps I factor this less in the overall perspective, because the narrative arc is really quite engaging, and the movie more than good enough to hold viewers' attention throughout. What with instances such as this, it was bound to!


I really liked Yuvvraaj, and am looking forward to its DVD release. It might not be the best film of the year, but it offers some exciting performances, brilliant music, awfully good looking people (read: Katrina, although Salman and Zayed got the most audible gasps from the crowd I was in; I guess guys were just too dazed by Kats) and sets, and yes, a very strong dose of the Subhash Ghai masala and melodrama potion, which I think is a return to form for him.

Sure, the subject matter is familiar, but its treatment works. The film strikes a good balance between modernity and traditionalism (I am a big proponent of the combination). It is a fine family drama which means one must be willing to suspend disbelief and have an appetite for the cliche that accompanies the genre. If you can do that and like the genre, you wouldn't want to miss it. Close to four stars for a film that walks the talk, and is definitely worth checking out. It has heart, and that might just be the key unquantifiable ingredient.


Of course, it helps and shows when they're having fun filming!



Movie rating: 3.75/5 (Very good!)
A better Zayed would have taken this to an easy four; it might still work at the box office.

Music rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent, best of the year!)
The film is quite the musical extravaganza.

My classification: PG
Of all the Hindi films I've seen at the theaters this year, this was most interactive with the crowd -- from elders to their grandchildren. I was surprised at the applause it drew from everyone at the end.

Official website (and picture source): Yuvvraaj.com

And finally: How about those references to Chaalbaaz (1989), Khiladi (1992) and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)?

28 comments:

Ravi said...

Saw this on Friday, and in total mila ke, I agree! Thoroughly enjoyed it man. Sallu totally rocks.

Filmi Girl said...

Your take was quite different from mine! I enjoyed it, as well, but Salman's performance left me quite cold until near the end. I didn't feel anything pulling him and Katrina together, which was supposed to be the narrative push for the first part of the film.

Still, the music and Anil's performance make Yuvvraaj worth another watch! :)

bollywoodfoodclub said...

Adab nawab theBollywoodFan!
I saw Yuvvraag last night on the big screen. Great post here and also thanks for the other related song translation posts which are very useful. Loved your lion picture, VERY close to the film’s Mastam Mastam production number. Prophetic really.:) I agree about Salmaan’s hair, I too found it a negative in the film, as I do in all his films of late. That scene where suddenly he had about 6 large blond highlighted streaks really threw me off. I could only think about the hair. Did I miss a scene? DId he go to a salon to have that done or did he do it at home? Is it for another movie he's doing and they just didn't bother to change it? I wish he’d just shave it close to his head or somehow accept the natural state of his hair. Mithun’s wig was a mess too as was Boman ka wig. I laughed until I cried at several parts of the film. To list a couple examples: 1. When Katrina’s Anushka is arguing with Salmaan’s Dev and calls him something like “Total anti family hai!” Or maybe it was "complete anti family hai!" Loved how that sounded. 2. When the gay male nurse explained how no qualified Dr. was around in the last part of the movie. Why did his character have to sound so inept. I don’t know, but it made me laugh until I cried. I also loved all the gora and gori extras, since they give me hope for a career in Bollywood as an extra! The music was great, of course, and the saturated exaggerated colors made it a visual treat. All the best!
Sita-ji

The Bollywood Lover said...

I liked the movie and really enjoyed the music (with ur lyrics, of course...). All the four are my favorites so is the movie.

Did you know that Katrina learnt to play that instrument (maybe violen), which is difficult?

Darshit said...

Now i know, why some movies do well outside India. Its the 'indian' thing that touches NRI hearts. Somewher u guys wanna feel that feeling. I liked ur perception quite. You had seen this at a different angle. Nice words.
Katrina, as i mentioned in my review too, was ravishing and was acting fine. But i din't find any chemistry between the two.
That 'saree' seductress was excellent. Can u get her name?


Manmohini was wow.
So was last portion of 'tu muskura'. Thats ANIL who carry off it easily. How about his birthday music piece?
Ref.to kuch kuch and khiladi were fun. But wher was Chaalbaaz?

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi all, and thanks for your comments!


Ravi: Glad you enjoyed it! I thought you were going to say, "total milaa ke...

...I *am* a bad guy", LOL.

I think we expect this kind of performance of Style bhai ever since he reinvented himself (I think it was in Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya (1998)?). Even his more serious roles like those in Tere Naam (2003) and Kyun Ki (2005) were rather loud. He's obviously chosen how he wants to act (his more serious stuff from the early 1990s was pretty darn good 'hero' stuff), and I don't think I'd hold that against him as long as he is entertaining, which I thought he was here.


Filmi Girl: Anil Kapoor was the best actor in the film, undoubtedly. He's a legend to many of us, and for good reason. I loved his acting here, really worked for a critical character.

I would watch Yuvvraaj again too, no second thoughts. I thought Salman-Katrina were great, but maybe because I'm very used to seeing them on TV shows (?). Their characters went through conflict, but as soon as the film began, we already knew they loved each other -- convincing Katrina's father seemed to be the bigger focus. Now, maybe an emphasis on a love story would have been more useful to the film (probably right there). But then the Boman Irani deal might have been diminished, and the climax perhaps not as effective?

As for Salman, please read comment to Ravi above. Also refer to your comment #3 here, which I agree with completely. I just expect him to be loud but entertaining no matter what, versatility be damned (kinda like Shah Rukh and Akshay -- not comparing their acting with Salman of today, but the approach -- in his own way).

theBollywoodFan said...

Adab Sita-ji! Glad you got to catch it on the big screen. I really enjoyed Mastam Mastam, those costumes were classy! Without the music, it would've been a very different film.

The hair styles were distracting, yes. Agree on Mithun, and I thought Irani's hair only made his character more funny. But really, it's a Subhash Ghai film, taking off the thinking caps was always going to be a major requirement. I almost want to say that that's a masala film attribute, but some films do a better job of these things.

Katrina saying those words was hilarious, I think it was, "hardcore anti-family man hai". Haaye Allah! You know, I was thinking about that when the gori 'supporting dancers' showed! And you'd do a lot more and better than a supporting performer, I'm sure (read: that Yaarana song I've mentioned before :P).


Saurabh: Thanks man! Glad you enjoyed the movie. I did not know Katrina learned to play the instruments (I think she was rotating between violins and cellos?). That's great. She was really quite good, I liked her a *lot* more here than in Singh is Kinng. Come to think of it, I liked Yuvvraaj a *lot* more than Singh is Kinng. Now *that* was a movie in which we had to take off our thinking caps and everything else.


Darshit: I think you're on to something there, bro. We like our Indian movies to be 'Indian'! Not exclusively masala family dramas, of course. But it's good once in a while. It is hardly my favorite genre, and I cannot stand a lot of pure masala films; they turned me away from Bollywood before Lagaan brought me back. But the more I see some of the older films, the more I appreciate what it means to our cinema.

I guess I am an ideal audience for filmmakers, easily manipulated. Then there are some films that just make me try a lot harder to find positives, those I dislike by a lot (e.g. Tashan, Drona).

Chaalbaaz was contained in the same sentence as Khiladi, if I recall correctly. And I don't know the name of that villainous actress, but she'll surely be back. Shall be heading over to your blog soon!


Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Has it ever occurred to you that Salman Khan's comedy might be more suited to Indian audience's tastes? I saw this in a packed house on Saturday night, and everyone was laughing when I couldn't understand why. Salman hasn't delivered a blockbuster in so long, and I don't understand how he's remained so popular for all these years. I guess I'm missing something because I'm not Indian, because almost every Indian seems to love him.

Raima said...

Hi. I visit your blog regularly, this is my first comment. After reading your review, I took my parents to the theater today, and we all really enjoyed the movie! It was very entertaining. And Salman and Anil were just great. Overall, very satisfying. Just wanted to say thank you! :)

theBollywoodFan said...

Thank you for your comments!


Anonymous: That's a great point, and one that has occurred to me several times. I asked the question in this discussion on Andaz Apna Apna (1994). And I think there's a lot of truth to it. Preity Zinta recently said the same thing (during the promos for Heroes, in which she starred opposite Salman -- cannot find the link now).

To understand Salman's appeal, one must go back to the late 1980s and early-mid 1990s. He was good enough (and I would argue he still is) to be someone who could never be ignored. A lot has to do with his fan base, but a lot with the films he's been involved in. And I think this decade, Tere Naam was a very successful movie.

And while on his popularity, his TV show, 10 Ka Dum, has been the highest rated of any celebrity through the year this year. The list of celebs doing their own shows includes (ahem) Shah Rukh Khan and Akshay Kumar. Tells me he's right up there in his popularity, as you say. In that respect, I think it has to do with how easily he relates to the average Indian. I think all successful actors do, they wouldn't be as successful without that ability. But Salman's likability has stood firm through everything the media have thrown at him through all the years, and love him or hate him, one must appreciate that.

I do believe he's got several works to his credit everyone can enjoy, regardless of ethnic background. Have you seen some of his older works such as Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999), Hum Aap Ke Hain Kaun (1994), Saajan (1991), or Maine Pyaar Kiya (1989)?


Hi Raima: You're very welcome! Thank you for being a regular visitor. I appreciate your comments, and am really glad you and yours enjoyed Yuvvraaj! :)


Cheers!

bollyviewer said...

Ironically, its the dialogue you quote in the first line of your post that has hardened my resolve not to see this one (saw a clipping of the film). It seems to imply that only an "Indian" brother can love deeply and selflessly. I am an Indian, but I do not subscribe to this sort of cultural chauvinism! Guess I am being extra-touchy, but I'm so tired of all my Desi acquaintances telling me how dysfunctional American/Canadian families are and how nothing beats good old Indian culture. As one who sees both good and bad things in both cultures, it annoys me when popular media chooses to propagate such cultural prejudices.

That said, I really liked the music especially Tu muskura and thought Katrina looked lovely. Anyhow, will content myself with listening to the soundtrack and reading all the great reviews this film has spawned! :-)

theBollywoodFan said...

PS Darshit: I've added the names of the other members of the cast in the post. Cheers.

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Bollyviewer: Thanks for stopping by! I didn't think that dialogue in the film suggested the opposite was true. The moment it was used, it was pretty interesting. There were several non-Indian people in the audience I was part of, who said they enjoyed it (because you know I spoke to them afterward ;), to make up for it.

Of course, just because one is Indian doesn't mean one set of values is inherent and good! I agree completely. The inverse holds true too. As you say, popular media everywhere have that issue (prime time television has enough of that in North America!). I don't tend to hold that against a film or show (Indian or not), though. Then again, patriotic films are among my favorite, so I'm probably biased there :)

The music is brilliant, it really does add a lot. We'll be enjoying it for a long time to come.

And finally, as noted above, I wouldn't recommend the film unconditionally. For those who have a hard time playing along, it probably wouldn't do much. I understand, it's what bothers me of most Shah Rukh films :P

Cheers!

bollyviewer said...

I didnt mean to sound like a crusading soul! lol Its just that that particular dialogue got me on the raw as I've been hearing these sort of things from fellow Desis for the past few years and am sick and tired of those sentiments.

And I dont hold that against the film - there are several other things I also hold against it! ;-) One of them is Salman Khan - I am in complete agreement with Filmi Girl when she says that Salman Khan shouldnt be doing any more "hero" roles. Guess the male half of his audience doesnt agree!

theBollywoodFan said...

We're on the same boat, Bollyviewer :) It's never good to typecast one culture as absolutely better than the other, and I too find it way too ethnocentric for comfort. There's a lot of good everywhere, and it's not like brotherhood isn't a universal theme.

Salman is starting to look older for 'hero' roles, yes. As his character in the film said, "it's not like I'm getting any younger", LOL. How fitting, na? :) Perhaps it was intended in a tale of three brothers -- Anil, the oldest, born in the 1950s. Salman in the 1960s. And Zayed, in 1980. So there are three distinct age groups represented, if we assume they're playing their ages (I didn't think the film offered much to refute it).

I guess we like entertaining films, and a fine entertainer he is. As Sita-ji and I were discussing above, his hair looked pretty bad at times, and I think some of that could have made a difference. He's been looking like this for a bit, though, so it's hardly unexpected.

The expectations (which were met) probably made the film work for me. I hope people weren't expecting one of the all-time greats from the Ghai-Salman duo. We know not to trust them with that any more.

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Will watch it this weekend- thanks for the review! Katrina really looks lovely, and I agree w/ u that they do look so adorably in love- its brilliant!

Anonymous said...

Hi

Dropping in for the first time on your blog. I decided to see this movie yesterday after reading your review.

I enjoyed the movie esp Anil's acting, Rehman's music and the cinematography - lovely locales in Australi, Czech and the UK.

Your posts are good. Keep it up

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Shweta: I hope you enjoy it. It's a pleasant film. I'd be very curious to hear your take on it. I think Salman and Katrina are at a stage where they are (thus can act) mature about their relationship. I think that's what is being missed. Sure, everyone wants a love story, but Yuvvraaj is not a love story at its core.


Hi Anonymous: Thanks for stopping by and for your comment! Glad you enjoyed it! Agree with all you've said. Please do visit again.


Cheers!

B said...

Hi,

Ur blog is really nice

Abt Yuvraaj
In the song Mastam Mastam I thot it was like Ghai decided to have a bit of 'Cats' kind of ethos in it. Katrina looks very beautiful and she is here to stay. I havnt seen this movie yet but out here in Mumbai, ppl say this movie has tanked at the box office. They say that Ghai has not kept with the times and that kinda looks to be true. I hope Salman has not sleepwalked thru this role again-he has a tendency to do that..
Again a good review although u are amongst the select few who have spoken positively abt this movie

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi B: Thank you for visiting and commenting! Trust you are well in Bombay, and many prayers and wishes your way.

I haven't seen 'Cats', but that's an interesting note! I thought Mastam Mastam was very well integrated in the film.

The movie does seem to have not done well at the box office. That hasn't been a deterrent to me, though. There are many good films that don't do well in theaters.

Again, I fail to understand what the expectations were of a film (whether it was by Ghai or not) that never promised anything more than a good ole family drama! The sets and cinematography were every bit as modern as one would expect for a film of its genre.

Please refer to my comments above on Salman. I think this Times of India review says it well too:

But Salman Khan and AR Rahman more than make up for the lapses, carrying you off on a sonata and a song. Watch Yuvvraaj for an in-fashion retro feel.


Cheers!

Bollywood Music Lover said...

Glad I found this wonderful - entertaining but informative blog -
Looking forward to the movies for the holiday season - any recommendations???

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Bollywood Music Lover: Thank you!

The two big films for the holiday season, very likely the two most anticipated films of the year, are Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (starring Shah Rukh Khan), which releases 12/11, and Ghajini (starring Aamir Khan), which releases 12/25.

They're both quite promising, and as an Aamir fan, I'm really looking forward to the latter (here's a list of all posts on Ghajini).

I greatly appreciate your comment. Do visit again.

cheers!

Neeraj said...

I also liked the movie. Music is good apart from one song. before watching the movie, i had got really bad reviews about the movie but i enjoyed the movie overall.

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Neeraj: Thank you for stopping by and for your comment. Glad you liked it. As I said in some comments above, I'm not quite sure what the critics and fans were expecting! :)

Anonymous said...

Guys, did u read this interesting piece of news………The legendary painter, M F Hussain is so impressed by Ghai’s latest offering “Yuvvraaj” that not only has he watched it twice in the theatre but has also offered to make a painting on the movie…………..I think people who have not seen Yuvvraaj so far should take note of this and watch ‘Yuvvraaj’

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Anonymous: Thank you for sharing this info. I found this related news story. You know I agree with M. F. Hussain! :)

Nida said...

Bollywood Fan,

I was hoping this would be a good one! It looks like a real visual treat and I can't wait to hear the music you enjoyed so much. I missed this at the theaters so will have to wait for the DVD release.

I hate Salman's hair, but Katrina looks lovely, doesn't she?

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Nida: I rather enjoyed it, and the visuals are great. It didn't do well at the box office (many are critical of its plot being somewhat old school), but I liked it. I think my glass half-full approach had something to do with it :)

The music is phenomenal, you can listen to all songs at this Saavn link.

And yes, Katrina is fabulous. I think this is one of her films I enjoyed the most for her presence.

Cheers!