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)?