Producer-sons have it tough. Every time producers give their sons a big film simply because they can, critics take their knives out as well… because they can. A non-actor is a sitting duck waiting to be cooked.
And this is Jackyy Bhagnani we are talking about — one who has been mostly unwatchable in all his films till date. The one who made even Nadodigal look bad in Hindi.
Which is why credit must be given where it’s due. Jackyy Bhagnani, who has mostly played safe, with remakes — both official and unofficial — has finally, after five years in the business, learnt a thing or two about acting. Yes, he is certainly the weakest link in this otherwise ambitious and progressive political fantasy, but the boy manages to not mess up an author-backed role.
Director Syed Ahmad Afzal channels his limited actor’s range into restraint that most of the time, the underplaying actually helps the film. Mostly because the premise seems hardly plausible. Especially, in a country where politics is a lot more complex than this idealistic film portrays.
Yet, there’s a lot to like in Youngistaan in spite of its cheesy cola-tagline inspired title.
First, the fact that the makers chose to treat the progressive angle of the young prime minister having a live-in girlfriend like it’s no big deal. In spite of the paparazzi leaking videos and pressure brewing all around him, the protagonist here simply refuses to explain himself — certainly not to his partymen. He instead focusses on things that need attention. He does later tell the youth (when he is asked to inaugurate a hockey championship) that he has been to college too but has never booed at anyone’s personal life. He later addresses the issue briefly during his election campaign and lets the people in on his personal choices. Second, Farooque Shaikh. He is so good here that you want to applaud. He lends so much credibility to situations that require heavy-duty suspension of disbelief. It’s a great swan song. We will miss him.
Third, it is a tough balancing act to make a romantic comedy while exploring the drama of a young leader finding his place in politics and the director manages not to lose focus. Youngistaan is as much about his love life as his political career. There’s a lot of detailing about protocol that’s used to generate humour here and given that we have no reference to judge, it’s best to buy into the possibility to enjoy what’s being attempted. There’s so much that could’ve gone wrong and doesn’t.
Fourth, the restraint and understatement in storytelling, compared to the loudness of a Prakash Jha film. The leads maybe weak but the support cast is solid and it helps that the film is devoid of any assassination subplot or violent conspiracies just to raise the stakes.
Of course, you can’t take any of the issues here too seriously. This is a safe idealistic film but hey, stranger things have happened… a common man became the Chief Minister recently. In an ideal world, a young leader will be able to take on an obnoxious TV host who says “The nation wants to know” … and make him shut up!
Fantasy. Wish fulfillment, Bollywood style. But considerably low key. It can be debated if this is a film that warranted songs and choreography but the fact that it showed THIS much restraint itself is reason to give it a shot.
Director: Syed Ahmad Afzal
Cast: Jackyy Bhagnani, Neha Sharma, Farooque Shaikh, Kayoze Irani
Storyline: A young prime minister must learn the ropes, take charge of affairs and also make the nation deal with the fact that he has a live-in girlfriend
Bottomline: Not bad at all given the almost implausible premise and the lead