Spirit of Yuva

Himalayan News Service


Abhishek Bachchan received a standing ovation at the IIFA awards at Singapore though his film ‘Yuva’ got a mixed response. Everyone agreed in one voice that the young Bachchan’s performance as the small-time gangster from Bihar in Kolkata was simply stunning. Thus, when Abhishek walked back from the front of the theatre with his parents after the screening, audiences stood up and gave him a standing ovation. Looking on proudly were director Mani Ratnam and his ‘Yuva’ crew. ‘Ayutha Ezhuthu’, the Tamil version of ‘Yuva’ was screened Friday evening. According to those who have seen both versions, the Tamil one is far more raw, violent and in-your-face.

Whatever the film’s fate, it has done wonders for Abhishek Bachchan, whose villainous star-turn has audiences roaring all over. A star has been born in Abhishek. ‘Run’ is, well, a run of the mill kind of formula film but ‘Yuva’ could give him a new lease as a serious actor. Abhishek Bachchan manages to be excited about both his releases: What makes ‘Yuva’ such a special film for you? Mani Ratnam. The genius that he is, has the knack of making everything seem just right. And when I say everything I mean eve-rything from the dialogue to the costumes, set design, music, acting... To me everything felt right. How did ‘Yuva’ come your way?

I don’t know. My luck I guess. I remember Shaad Ali who worked with Mani Ratham and who was a very good friend of mine told me Mani Sir wanted to meet me. I thought he wanted to get in touch with Dad through me. I went and met him. He offered me a film. When he narrated the script I was struck by how simply he narrated a rather complex plot. Later, I was to realise that’s how he worked. After he told me the story and my character he said, “I forgot to mention the most important thing. Would you like to work with me?” I just laughed and told him what an honour it would be to work with him.

I’m thankful I got ‘Yuva’ at a time when I really needed it. It boosted my confidence as an actor. I’ve evolved with Mani. When Maddy (Madhavan) who has wo-rked extensively with Mani came to wish us on the first day he told me I was heading for big trouble. Why?

According to Maddy, Mani spoils his actors. It’s hard to come out of his spell. Now I know what Maddy meant. What I really love about Mani is that he’s a very keen observer of life and people. He gives reference points for every scene. He’s always watching even when the camera isn’t on. That’s scary. Even when you aren’t working you feel you’re being watched. He’ll suddenly say, “You remember what you did last evening at dinner? I want you to do that.” An actor has to work with Mani to understand what he’s all about. The confidence he’s given me is immense. I’ve never played a character like Lallan before. He’s by far the most complex character I’ve played. He’s so hard to classify. One thing that Mani and I decided about Lallan is that he isn’t ambiguous. Lallan is very clear about what he wants in life.

This is the darkest character you’ve ever played?

I don’t think Lallan is dark. Through the process of playing him I actually got to understand and like him. When I see the film, I feel a strange empathy for him. That’s weird, because at times he’s anything but likeable. But he isn’t a villain or a grey character. Your co-stars say you role and performance in ‘Yuva’ is the best. They’re very kind. To be honest, all my co-stars — Ajay, Vivek, Rani — have been very supportive. My performance has little to do with my abilities. If it’s effective it’s because of the way Mani wrote the character. He encouraged me to play Lallan the way you see the character. And I got a lot of help from my co-stars, especially Rani who plays my wife. A character can flourish if it has the ambience and space conducive to growth.

Since ‘Yuva’ is a film about male bonding did you feel closer to the guys than the girls?

Quite frankly, I didn’t work much with any of the girls except Rani who’s my co-star. We guys did spend a lot of time together. It was great fun. It may sound clichéd to say we were one big happy family. Two Abhishek Bachchan starrers in two weeks! And what is wrong with that? Approximately one billion people watch Hindi films. I’m sure there’re enough people to watch ‘Run’ and ‘Yuva’. I’ve no control over my films’ release. My job is to act. The rest I leave to those who know about marketing. But I must say ‘Yuva’ is a very special film because of Mani Ratnam and because of Lallan Singh who is the most special character I’ve ever played. I’m very keen to see how audiences react to it.