You have to make a choice. Either you take the disclaimer at the beginning of the film Youngistaan — that it bears no resemblance to any person living or dead — and see it as a fictional love story, or you watch it as a potboiler based on Indian politics.
Abhimanyu Kaul (Jackky Bhagnani) and his girlfriend Anwita Chauhan (Neha Sharma) is a happy couple living in Japan where he develops computer games and she walks dogs (she also paints, but you get to know that later in the film). Boman Irani’s son Kayoze plays Abhimanyu’s best friend and game tester Zafar. Their three years of living together in Japan are encapsulated in one night’s song.
A hungover Abhimanyu is called to the bedside of his father Dashrath Kaul (Boman Irani), who is dying of cancer in US. Dashrath is also the prime minister of India. Before his death, he hands over the reins of the world’s largest democracy to his 28-year-old geeky son — who incidentally has no political knowledge and has promised his girlfriend to stay away from it — eliciting a promise from him to “change the country”.
If you go expecting a political thriller, keep in mind that no leader is as clean as Abhimanyu. Even the greatest of them came with a few skeletons in their cupboard. History is witness to it. When you’ve grown on thrillers such as Godfather, JFK, All The President’s Men or, for that matter, Bollywood’s Kalyug, Page 3, Rajneeti — to name a few — it’s hard to digest the fact that ‘Good Boy’ Abhimanyu can manage a country with a few simple “tricks” and little support. In fact, it’s quite ambitious of him to think that the youth will support his modern thinking (child before marriage with a live-in girlfriend?) in a still conservative country.
I agree when Akbar (played by late Farooque Shaikh) says that youth is one section of society that hardly votes and if he’s banking on them, he should think again.
If you look at Youngistaan as a love story, you can just about bear the two-and-half hours of Syed Ahmad Afzal’s directorial debut.
During the interview, Sharma had mentioned that Anwita was Abhimanyu’s “support system”. When you expect somebody to be a supportive, you don’t expect a “character in supporting role”, which is what Anwita’s character has been reduced to. You don’t expect an “independent woman” — as Abhimanyu refers to her in the beginning of the film — to just smile, sing songs and accept things without providing solace to Abhimanyu. Instead, most of the time, we see Abhimanyu comforting her. Anwita could have proven to be a good character if it had been fleshed out a bit more.
It would have been nice to see a few sparks fly in an otherwise insipid relationship — one where Anwita learns “the pressures of being a prime minister’s girlfriend”, as per Sharma.
Shaikh as Akbar is Abhimanyu’s true support system, advising and encouraging him with the right words.
A few scenes do induce some laughter. It’s commendable of director Afzal to have chosen such a bold topic for his debut and manage to extract decent performances from his lead actors, even though they have a long way to go before they are called “good actors”.
Also, it was endearing to see a tribute clip to Shaikh on the sets of the film.
Youngistaan is a utopian story, at least in today’s context. But if you aren’t really busy this weekend, you can consider heading to this Utopia.
Starring: Jackky Bhagnani, Neha Sharma, Farooque Shaikh
Rating: 2 stars