Vantage point

Friday, May 28, 2004

Gandhi, Nehru and Raja Bhaiyya

It is the story of Mahatma Gandhi and Raja Bhaiyya.

Yes, that is what it is. You know what I am talking about?


I disagree with Ramanand and Sarika when they say that Yuva is not about politics, just the way Dil Se was not about terrorism. Yuva is very much about politics. Yes, it is a story about three youths, and a phase of their lives, but what binds them together is politics.

Yuva is, in my opinion, Mani Ratnam's take on the different genres of Indian politicans.

Michael Mukherjee is Mahatma Gandhi. He is a staunch idealist who cares more about his ideals than about his personal gains. He plays the game honestly, courting arrest after he has threatened his enemies. He accepts the consequences of his actions. Don't link gandhi with ideas of ahimsa and then compare him with Michael. Look at the core and you will realise both are the same.

Lallan, by far the most interesting character in the movie, is like Raja Bhaiyya. The only way he can make a living is by using his fists. His ego is not satisfied at being paid 2000 rupees for physical labour in a factory. He would much rather sell his labour for a higher price. That is where it starts off. But soon he realises that his talents can get him more than just money. They can get him that ultimate addictive, power! The way Lallan's story proceeds, in my way, aptly sums up the story of Indian politics today. The system is such that if a Lallan enters it, and has some brains, he will gain power using power.

Arjun is Nehru. A person who has lived a life of opulence, and is prepared for a similar life. He has at home, a father who has served the country in some measure, as an IAS officer(just like Motilal Nehru). However, he is swayed enough by Michael's ideas to join him. By himself, Nehru would not have become the PM of India. He needed Gandhi's word. Similalrly, Arjun by himself, is nothing, but is an able lieutenant for Michael.

What Ratnam does is throws these 3 people together and hope that "sach ki jeet hogi....truth will prevail". So what we see is a seemingly Utopian end. Four college kids manage to win an election, beating seasoned politicians. Where this turn of the story tastes unpalatable is the assumption that politicians win only by using muscle power. Reality is, in my opinion quite different. There are other factors like caste equations, ideological loyalties and local issues that play a big part.

However, one is tempted to pardon Ratnam this simplification, because of the dialogues of Om Puri in the end.

Om Puri, welcoming Michael and Arjun into the assembly says "Before you too, many have come here to change the world. But they themselves were changed."

It is this profound statement that sums up Indian politics for me. Whenever I hear someone say "Indian politics will improve if honest people get into it", I feel like laughing. Do we also think that the film industry is full of adulterers because only promiscuous peoploe enter the industry?

It would be interesting if, ten years down the line, Mani makes a sequel of Yuva. I would say that by then, Michael would have been assassinated. Lallan will be as powerful as ever. And Arjun will survive, with noble intentions, but lacking the erudition to be a good politican.

Basically, honesty is not the only thing that ensures a good politician, as Nehru's life showed us.

anyway, this review might seem a bit hurried, but i have some work pending, and so will have to end it here. I have tried only to say things which no one else has said so far. Technically, and performance-wise, I concur with other reviewers. But centrally, I maintain that it is Mani Ratnam's part-realistic-part-Utopian take on Indian politics.