Painted in the colors of life, Yuva is the hard-edged epic of interconnected lives in a mean urban backdrop. These interconnected lives are unfurled vividly for all to see, then, quickly merged back into their picturesque miseries. A stylish trick of story telling that only masterful craftsmen like Mani Ratnam is capable of conjuring up.
Mani Ratnam used a rather trendy technique of boomerang narration in Sakhi with good effect. You takeoff at a point, get slung to a distance covering the prelude of events, then comeback to the point where it all started.
Yuva uses this boomerang and blends it with another technique of juxtaposing narratives. The end result is a gripping tale of courage and malevolence.
The movie begins with a scurrying hit and run scene that introduces us to all the key characters. Samba (Madhavan) - the ruthless assassin, who, while discussing the frailties of the fairer sex, unfeelingly puts a round of bullets into Michael. Michael (Surya) - the unsuspecting victim on the bike, and, Arjun (Sidhartha) - an unwilling witness to the ghastly episode.
From here the story unweaves the web of characters, one by one.
Samba is a middle-level ruffian who carries out assignments for his brother, a mobster. His life is a hot serving of black coffee - bitter, stimulating, addictive and with an occasional dose of sweetness in the form of his wife, Meera. Their romance is an epitome of the 'with or without you' principle.
In order to fulfill Samba's power fetish, he joins hands with the area minister. And as the wheel spins, Samba is given his first assassination assignment - to wipe out Michael, a student leader, who's a constant thorn in the minister's sore posterior.
So the whole hit and run scenario where Samba puts a few bullets into Michael. But this time everything has changed - the camera angles and consequently the background. Now the screen pans onto to Michael.
Michael (Surya) is a gutsy student leader who pumps patriotic blood violently into the veins of college students. His brilliance is not only evident while delivering motivational speeches, but also while teaching equations in prison cells whenever his followers get arrested. Michael's only ambition is to get into politics and clean the system from within, rather than crib about it like the rest of the pseudo-flaky learned folk.
Doing this, he rubs off the minister in all the wrong places. The encounters between him and the minister and him and Samba are shot with the humor of a dark mobster movie - ultra cool. Michael's love with Esha Deol pans out on subtle yet modern note.
It is just after he proposes her that he's shot by Samba. As he bounces off the railing into the water, the camera pauses on the shocked Arjun, who witnesses this incident.
Arjun (Sidhartha) is this newfangled urban boy with aspirations of making it to the Big Apple and eat it too. His flirtatious romance with Trisha comes to a jarring halt when he witnesses Michael being shot.
After the shooting incident, the movie more or less becomes a student versus wicked minister tug-o-war. Completely unpredictable, you are surprised at the happy ending.
After the racy first half, Arjun's character doesn't really come across that entertaining. It's more like an after thought. Even the dubbing gets a bit tedious in this half. On the whole, however, Mani Ratnam has used editing techniques and great camera work to keep up the pace full-throttled.
Mani has also mercilessly swanked off his status as the Messiah of mush in this movie - three different forms of romances, all equally endearing and sweet, shown in a delightfully tender way. Nobody can ever do that except Mani. He has also shown the malevolence of the underworld through the character of Samba.
The movie uses flat, functional speeches to move the plot further. Performances by all the actors are brilliant. Characterization and casting are perfect. And the music is the best around including a cool background score. So is the climax sequence shot entirely for adrenaline junkies.
Overall, Yuva is meant for people with a weakness for witnessing a story being narrated stylishly. And that's what moviemaking is all about.