Movie review: Youngistaan

March 28, 2014

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Syed Ahmad Afzal’s “Youngistaan” is supposed to be a funny and clever look at the reign of a carefree young man who finds himself sworn in as the prime minister of India.

Abhimanyu Kaul (Jackky Bhagnani), the son of the incumbent premier, is partying one minute and sitting by his dying fathers bedside the next. Our young hero is oblivious to his parent dying of cancer and knows nothing about the vagaries of politics in India, but is still trusted with the highest office in the country.

Abhimanyu’s wardrobe undergoes a transformation — from grungy tees to crisp, linen shirts. He makes rousing speeches at the United Nations and pushes for youth reform. What does not change though, is his whiny girlfriend and her whims and fancies, which the young prime minister insists on fulfilling, even when they are unreasonable and childish.

Anwita (Neha Sharma) hates politics, so she insists they move into a private home instead of the official residence, wants to visit the Taj Mahal when her boyfriend is on a work trip to Agra, and feels offended by media scrutiny into the life of the prime minister.

Unfortunately, director Afzal concentrates on Abhimanyu and Anwita’s insipid and rather dull love story rather than the intricacies of how a young man adapts to hardcore politics. The manipulations and machinations in the corridors of power are introduced as an afterthought, and the focus is more on dreamy song sequences between the lead pair.

There is something salvageable though. In his role as Akbar uncle, Abhimanyus right-hand man, the late Farooq Shaikh is charming, and his role is reminiscent of his lead role in the popular “Ji Mantriji” (Yes Minister) TV series. Afzal and his co-writers don’t veer towards the predictable all the time, and that’s commendable.

Abhimanyu and Neha, who are firm about being in a live-in relationship and marrying only when the time is right, do not give into pressure to tie the knot, with Abhimanyu even winning an election in spite of public protests over his “living in sin.”

“Youngistaan” simplifies things to a large extent, and never seems to be able to decide whether it is a romance or a political thriller. As a result, it ends up being neither. Neha Sharma comes across as whiny and petulant like her character is expected to be, but Bhagnani demonstrates a semblance of screen presence in some scenes.

If you want to watch a real political thriller, then rent a DVD of “House of Cards“. This one is just pretending.

(Follow Shilpa on Twitter at @shilpajay. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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